Lincoln University has the right idea in encouraging graduation candidates to adopt healthier lifestyles. But it gets failing marks for targeting only overweight students for mandatory exercise classes.
Obesity isn’t the only health problem found on college campuses. Why not an approach that, rather than stigmatizing one category of students, teaches good nutrition and healthy habits to all?
Officials at historically black Lincoln say its policy requiring an exercise class for graduation was adopted in 2006 in response to the growing obesity epidemic. The policy is believed to be unique among U.S. colleges. This year’s seniors are the first who must complete the course.
A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that African Americans have a 51 percent greater likelihood than whites to become obese. Obesity is a factor in heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses prevalent among blacks.
Lincoln’s unconventional graduation requirement calls for students to have an acceptable body-mass index based on height and weight. Roughly 15 percent of the university’s 2,100 students missed the mark for them, with a BMI of 30 or more, and have been deemed obese.
Critics who say the requirement is intrusive make a point. Overweight students aren’t the only ones who need to pay attention to what they put into their bodies, how much they exercise, and how much rest they get.
If it is going to monitor the weight of students, Lincoln should make sure there are nutritious food choices on campus. And all students should be encouraged to take the 15-week “Fitness for Life” class. Everyone could benefit from a course that begins with walking and advances to more rigorous exercise.