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November 20, 2009 6:43 PM Too Fat to Graduate?

By Daniel Luzer

Freshman16.jpg

The fitness examination for college graduation is nothing new but historically this was a sort of token test. Many colleges require students to swim the length of the pool or something to graduate. Well no longer. More than 25 seniors at Lincoln University might not graduate in the spring because they:

Had body mass index (BMI) scores above 30 when they arrived on campus in the fall of 2006, but none have taken college-sanctioned steps to show they’ve lost weight or at least tried. They’re in the historically black university’s first graduating class required to either have a BMI below 30 or to take “Fitness for Life,” a one semester class that mixes exercise, nutritional instruction and discussion of the risks of obesity.

This specific concern about obesity is a new thing. While the science behind obesity is somewhat inexact it is an increasingly popular health measure on which to focus. (See this recent piece in the New York Times blog about insurance companies charging high premiums for people with unhealthy lifestyles.)

Some students at Lincoln question whether their school should really concern itself with students’ BMI—and whether or not the policy is even legal. James L. DeBoy, the chairman of Lincoln’s health, physical education and recreation department defended the policy: “We want our students to have a sound mind,” he said. “But also a sound body.”

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer