A for effort, F for execution

November 30th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  11 Comments

Speaking of 40% body fat, one college is attempting — in probably the most ham-fisted way possible, no pun intended — to address the problem of obesity. Not surprisingly, people aren’t very thrilled about it.

I salute the well-meaning nature of this, but it’s just about the worst mode of implementation I’ve ever seen. Are they going to force slutty girls to take birth control pills? Slobby dressers to be attacked by those horrible What Not To Wear harpies? What about the skinny students? Should they have to drink Weight Gainer 2000 until they put on some damn pecs already?

Surely this enlightened college also forces its out-of-shape faculty to exercise, and fills the cafeterias with healthy home-made foods not produced by a large consortium, and has a community garden for university members to grow fresh produce, and provides abundant bike and walking trails, and encourages people to cycle to work by providing showers and bike racks… right? Right?

And PS: aerobics? Come on guys, way to pick the worst training mode for bigger people. At least get people lifting some weights. Now that’s a draconian invasive measure I’d like to see. I, for one, welcome our squatting overlords.


  1. dana says:

    November 30th, 2009at 8:45 pm(#)

    My undergrad institution had required P.E. for freshmen, and I remember that being great. But it wasn’t assigned based on BMI, just as a general fitness requirement, and my impression was that it helped with the transition to college.

    This just seems like a needlessly cruel implementation of a worthwhile idea.

  2. Mistress Krista says:

    November 30th, 2009at 9:06 pm(#)

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my take on it too. I actually like the idea of mandatory PE if I’d get to choose fun stuff. But this is pretty much the shame-based trauma of high school PE times a thousand.

  3. Caly says:

    November 30th, 2009at 10:33 pm(#)

    Based on the lame excuse these asshats gave when asked why only overweight students are required to take PE, I’d say they deserve, at best, a C for effort. I can think of several forms of exercise that cost absolutely nothing.

  4. Jacquie says:

    December 1st, 2009at 1:38 am(#)

    Whats cruel about making young overfat folk exercise 3 hours a week? Didn’t sound like it was going to be a humiliating boot camp style work out in front of others.

  5. Marlena says:

    December 1st, 2009at 9:37 am(#)

    I can’t help but think that this is more about the school draining the pockets of already financially stressed students. I mean how much does a a regular three credit course cost, with all of it’s mandatory fees, for both instate and outof state?

  6. Zsuzsa says:

    December 1st, 2009at 12:14 pm(#)

    In Hungary (and I guess in most of Europe as well) we have to complete two semesters of PE to receive our BA, and one additional semester to get our MA degree. Now, it wouldn’t be such a huge problem, a plethora of classes is offered, but usually the number of places is pretty limited, so I, the CrossFitter, once had to take 10, 90-minute long aerobics classes… And did I mention all this for no extra credit?

  7. Chris says:

    December 1st, 2009at 1:50 pm(#)

    i’m not sure this is anything more than punitive in its execution. Are students with a BMI that is high not allowed to graduate until their BMI falls into an acceptable range or is it merely that they have to take the course? If it’s the former, then I’m guessing that most of them won’t graduate, and if it’s the latter, what will the course actually accomplish?

    If this institution actually cared, it would offer nutrion counselling from day 1 rather than aerobics on day 1000.

  8. dana says:

    December 1st, 2009at 6:50 pm(#)

    Whats cruel about making young overfat folk exercise 3 hours a week?

    It’s not cruel to ask them to exercise; it’s cruel to single them out for this treatment (and the added expense and class conflicts.) There are plenty of people who are out of shape yet fall, due to being 18-21 and metabolically lucky, in what this school would deem to be an acceptable fitness category.

  9. ActionBabe says:

    December 2nd, 2009at 6:10 am(#)

    Wonder what kind of shape the Uni guy interviewed is in?

    I’ve always thought high schools should teach more real-world skills, cooking, banking, how credit cards work, and ACTUALLY how to fit fitness and nutrition into your life. But University? That’s for academia.

    At best the course should be optional, free, available to all students, geared towards first years and focused on how they can incorporate training into their academics, and how it can help them focus and succeed during their time. Give these kids a tour of the weight room and show ‘em how to get strong, don’t force them into a bathing suit to bop around in front of each other – I’d hate that too.

    Oooh I’m gonna be walking around telling everyone about this all day. Thanks Krista!

  10. KAW says:

    December 2nd, 2009at 1:45 pm(#)

    Cornell requires all students to pass a swim test. They’re first tested in orientation week, just like they’re tested to be placed into a foreign language class. Students who fail the test or aren’t confident enough in their swimming to take it have to enroll in a swim class. The bar isn’t all that high: 3 lengths of a 25M pool, one on your back, no time limit.

    Curiously, the requirement was first imposed for women, in 1918; men weren’t required to take the test until much later, 1937. The story I’ve heard is that the swim test was initially required for safety: the university is surrounded by lakes and waterfalls, where students often swim and occasionally die, and the thought was that swimming was a necessary “life skill.” At this point, I think the swim test is an institutional tradition, something that creates a — mild — shared bond across generations of students and is distinctive to Cornell.

    But I’ve often wondered about it from the students’ perspective. Not only are you asking a bunch of 18-year old kids to pass a mild fitness test, but you are asking them to do it in a bathing suit. In front of dorm-mates they’ve just met. In the first week of college, when most of them are scared witless and suffering from impostor’s syndrome to boot. Ugh.

  11. Jean says:

    December 5th, 2009at 5:08 pm(#)

    KAW – I’ve been swimming since I was a toddler, but the scenario outlined in your third paragraph still gives me the anxiety-shakes.

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