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School to Phase Out Mandatory Fitness Requirement

December 7, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

Following a good deal of criticism and complaints from its student population  and across the state, faculty at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania voted Friday to make the school's mandatory "Fitness for Life" course optional instead. The school came under fire and received a large amount of unwanted media attention over the last few weeks for their requirement that any student who entered the school in 2006 or later and had a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater would be enrolled in a fitness course to lose weight before graduation.

The course didn't receive much attention until this fall because it was the first time administrators had to warn seniors that they were in danger of not graduating if they did not meet the school's fitness requirement. Eighty students were sent emails that they were required to either complete the one-credit course or show they had lost enough weight to make a dent in their BMI before being allowed to graduate. Critics since questioned whether the special graduation requirement was legal and unfairly singled out a population of students.

In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, the school's administrators say the requirement will remain in place through the spring semester, and defended the school's initial decision to require a fitness requirement of obese students. Ashley E. Gabb, assistant director of communications at Lincoln University, said in the article that it wasn't the school's intention to have an "adverse effect on students," and that the school remained committed to finding ways to make the student population healthier.

Many schools have programs set up that encourage healthy diets and promoting healthy lifestyles. A number of Massachusetts schools, for example, have been making changes in their dining halls to "sneak" healthy foods past college students. Others also require fitness and physical education requirements. Rollins College, for example, requires three physical education courses of its incoming students, including two terms of elective lifetime recreational activities. (The school offers classes in a wide variety of physical activities, including ballroom dancing, sailing, and weight training.)

A swim requirement is also still popular at many colleges, including Hamilton College, the Washington and Lee University. At many of those schools, students who fail the college's swim test - 10 minutes of continuous swimming, for example, or proof that you can tread water - are required to take a swim class prior to graduation. Most of these schools require some sort of physical education class as part of the general education requirements, so the swim class may count toward that requirement in many cases.

How about your school? What kinds of things is your college doing to make the student population healthier? Do you have  PE requirement? Is this even appropriate to do? Let us know what you think.


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