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Lincoln University’s Battle with Obesity

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

In the past couple of weeks, Lincoln University, an HBCU in Pennsylvania, has been in the spotlight for a three year old controversial policy. That policy required students with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and up to take a fitness course before graduating–this would be a way for the University to take a unique stance against obesity. University officials placed more emphasis on enforcing the policy this year and with that came national attention. Lincoln student Tiana Lawson’s editorial in the student’s newspaper brought light to how this requirement discriminated against those in which they intended to help. Click here to read Lawson’s editorial.

In an CNN interview, chairman of the school’s Department of Health and Physical Education, James DeBoy states “We, as educators, must tell students when we believe, in our heart of hearts, when certain factors, certain behaviors, attitudes, whatever, are going to hinder that student from achieving and maximizing their life goals.” Many legal experts called the policy “paternalistic,” and on Dec. 7 the school rescinded that very policy. According to AOL Black Voices, DeBoy says that “after much discussion, we are no longer requiring students to pass the fitness test in order to graduate. People were asking, ‘How can you, as an HBCU, discriminate against anyone? You are testing students and singling them out.’ Stigmatization can have a harming effect.”

The revised policy would not “require” but “recommend” the fitness class for students battling obesity and then it is up to the student to enroll. Of the new policy, DeBoy states that “Let’s be clear, if recommendations are not honored by students, we will be upset. We will come back with a different recommendation. Helping students monitor their health is really important to us.”

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