Getting Your Stair Masters at Lincoln U: University Requires Fitness Testing and Course as Condition for Graduation

With many of us considering new resolutions on working out after the Thanksgiving feasts, one school is pushing the issue of fitness to a new level. Lincoln University is a historically black university in Pennsylvania that has now required a fitness course and confirmation of every student’s Body Mass Index as a condition for a degree — raising the ire of students. At Lincoln, it is your BMI first, then your BA.

The school is dealing with high rates of obesity and diabetes, prompting the mandatory measure. Students have objected that they come to the school for an education and not a workout.

It presents a novel question for educators. Teaching healthy lifestyle is viewed by many as a bit over controlling and the type of measure often criticized in the “nanny state.” Can the school require good dental care and grooming?

The school is requiring a course entitled “Fitness for Life” that demands three hours a week, involving walking, aerobics, weight training and other physical activities. It also teaches students about nutrition, stress and sleep. It also requires students submit to tests to determine their body mass index.

It would seem a better course to offer free BMI testing and free fitness workouts — as opposed to making the course a requirement for graduation. Universities have an educational mission that should not stray into lifestyles choices. The concern of the school is commendable but this course presents a bit of a slippery slope problem of where such mandatory self-improvement courses would end. There is also privacy concerns over forcing students to submit to such tests as a condition of receiving an education. It is a good thing that Samuel Johnson did not try to register at Lincoln University.

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22 thoughts on “Getting Your Stair Masters at Lincoln U: University Requires Fitness Testing and Course as Condition for Graduation”

  1. Elaine M.,

    Maybe you have not read the One Minute Entrepreneur. There is a page or so about 2/3 of the way that speaks about a college professor giving the Exam the first day of class and the building from there.

    If I had been in that class I would have flunked. Rarely wasted time on the first day. There were too many places to be and co-eds to be seen by. Or maybe I was just getting up it was after all noon.

  2. Chris–

    Regarding the the ketchup/relish issue: As I recall, and I was a teacher at the time, there was a proposed USDA directive that would have reclassified ketchup and relish from condiments to vegetables. There was a great outcry against the proposal so the “condiments” were never reclassified.

    I agree with you about NCLB and all the mandated testing for children. It seems prepping kids for tests today has become the main focus of education.

  3. Years ago I would have been outraged at this mandatory course. Now, with a growing appreciation of just how much universities have become white collar ‘trade schools’, I have a different attitude. Universities are the last, best place to teach people ways to be better people and community leaders, and that means getting them outside of narrow career-track boxes. K-12 is already a lost cause, at least until NCLB dies a well-deserved death and teachers can do more than teach to the test.

    So a mandatory health class, esp. in a community that has a serious problem with morbid obesity? No problem.

    But any test, much less a BMI test, required for graduation? No way. Too many legitimate medical conditions can cause problems and you do NOT want the university to act as arbiter on what’s an acceptable reason and what’s not. Make the test available but not mandatory.

    P.S., the Reagan administration wasn’t saying that ketchup was a vegetable, it was claiming that it was sufficient as a -vegetable serving- under the law for nutritional content of school lunches. I think that says more about the quality of school lunch standards than about the quality of the Reagan administration. shudder.

  4. Mike S.–

    You wrote: “One other thought and that is how many fast food franchises are allowed on campus, in addition to soda and candy machines? What is the food served in the cafeteria and how healthy is it? We live in a country that has franchised school cafeterias out to McDonald’s and Burger King.”

    That’s an excellent point!


    My husband and I usually cook everything we eat from scratch. That’s one good way to know what we’re putting into our bodies. To be sure, cooking a pot of soup and most other foods
    can be time consuming.

    When I read ingredients on prepared foods it gets me to wondering if the stuff in the cans and packages is actually food. In addition to sodium and MSG, high fructose corn syrup and other sugars are often major ingredients in lots of prepared foods. I worry about the health of children who are raised on breakfast cereals–and on convenience foods.

    BTW, are you referring to the old USDA food pyramid–or the revised one that was introduced about four or five years ago?

  5. One other thought and that is how many fast food franchises are allowed on campus, in addition to soda and candy machines? What is the food served in the cafeteria and how healthy is it? We live in a country that has franchised school cafeterias out to McDonald’s and Burger King. Average parents, whose wages have been stagnant or declining since the 80’s are forced to use cheap and fattening food to feed their kids. It costs far more to cook healthy meals at home, than unhealthy ones.

    We also allow our fast food company’s, whose food is literally killing us, free reign to advertise their garbage with no rebuttla. When a McD’s salad has over 700 calories, people are fooled into believing they are eating healthy. Finally, why is it that the inexpensive sit down restaurant chains like Friday’s, Chili’s etc. all have extremely fattening menus, while the higher priced restaurants (with some exceptions)serve healthier food in more reasonable portions?
    We are literally shortening the lifespan of our middle and working classes and that is not primarilly because of their ignorance, but the necessity of affordable food. Ever look at the USDA food pyramid and figure out that following it is a sure way towards being unhealthier.

    I am on a low salt diet due to my health. It is almost impossible to buy food without significant amounts of salt in it. Even canned potatoes come loaded with salt. It forces me to buy produce and to spend more for the food I buy, even though I’m on a fixed income. The same is true, but less bleak for low fat foods. I love soups, but must take the time to make my own, since there are no soups on the market, even “low sodium” ones that are not awash in salt. I can make a chicken
    soup, without salt that rivals anyones, but it takes hours. This is not a complaint, since being retired I have the time to do it, but it is with plaintive empathy that I view those without the time, who nevertheless want to eat healthily.

  6. to “lottakatz”: Good point about insurers being able to claim that someone didn’t fully disclose medical info. And thanks for the perfect video for this thread. I especially like the hammers…

  7. Your medical records don’t have to be sold to get you in trouble- prospective employers want school transcripts and health insurers might have cause to claim you withheld part of your medical history if they found something in your school’s record you didn’t disclose.

    Hey, teachers, leave the kid’s alone, I’m talking to you Lincon, hey, you listenin’? Yo, leave the kid’s alone…


  8. Because we hate fat in this culture we are confused about what it means to be healthy. One can be fat and health and thin and unhealthy. Health is a combination of genetics, exposure to environmental toxins, diet and exercise. To single out someone based on being fat shows a complete lack of medical understanding of health and fitness. It is also completely obtrusive. The hatred of fat is dangerous to people who are very thin and at risk for a whole other set of medical issues. I know too many young women who are anorexic/bulimic, whose very dangerous health problem is ignored because they fit what is considered a standard of beauty in the culture. 15% suicide rate isn’t really healthy and these diseases have life long consequences to their organs. But, that’s O.K. because they aren’t fat.

    A voluntary program, based on sound medical science (which wouldn’t include BMI) would be a nice thing for a school to offer. Too bad that’s not what this program is about.

  9. When time for my BA graduation came in the 60’s I went to a school that required you to pass a swimming test for your degree.
    I’m only a halfway decent swimmer and even now I find treading water difficult. The graduation swimming test required that you tread water for two minutes to pass. With trepidation I never took the test and lo and behold I still got my diploma. I can only hope the same for this school. Getting a degree should be about the academics and not about someone’s idea of physical fitness. While we all need to exercise and watch our diets, this
    requirement as with my swimming test does not make sense on any level other than that of the pseudo-moralists trying to impose their values on others.

  10. pardon me? & anon nurse–

    I was an elementary school teacher for more than three decades. I was amazed at some of the lunches kids brought to school–lots of store-bought prepared foods high in sodium and/or sugars…and with ingredients that could probably be used by dry cleaners. I also have to mention one of the elementary school lunches served in my school system: taco chips with that horrible liquid-orange-plastic cheese. (My husband says he thinks that cheese product is probably made from old polyester leisure suits.)

    Does anyone remember when some officials in the Reagan adminstration tried to claim that ketchup and relish were vegetables???

  11. “It is a good thing that Samuel Johnson did not try to register at Lincoln University.”

    Ol’ Sammy J. would not have passed the initial dress code or acceptable hairstyle admission requirements that must come before those subservient SAT scores and the like.

  12. As a nurse, I’m must weigh in (no pun intended) and say that I largely agree with “pardon me”. Any collection of data would be optional and it wouldn’t be sold to fusion centers (or anyone, for that matter).

  13. Heck with this BMI nonsense, I want the gubbermit’ to force submittal of all the US college graduates’ DNA a’fore they get their diplomas.

    What! you say? If they have nothing to hide, why not freely give US their DNA and show that they really are true patriotic ‘merkans.

    With DNA, GO officials can pigeon-hole commrades in jobs for which they are most ‘fit’ and get shed of them that do not *conform* to gubbmit standards.

  14. imho, Health studies, nutrition and fitness, ought to begin at the elementary level if not before, and shouldn’t be sponsored by pork, beef, sugar, and dairy producers.

  15. And Dredd just supplied my second laugh of the day! (BIL’s clever comment “mathi-ness” was the first.) Elaine, thank you for “PETA PETA, Pumpkin eata…”, yesterday (and others).

    Such a clever and civil group.

  16. Yes, a slippery slope, indeed. As we know, the BMI isn’t a perfect indicator of obesity, so let’s also collect one’s body-fat percentage, until we realize that those who are thin may also have Type 2 diabetes. Then we can collect other data (the more the better) and finally sell it all to fusion centers… “Follow the money”, as it’s often said.

  17. Quoting from the article you linked to: PHILADELPHIA (AP) – “A Pennsylvania university’s requirement that overweight undergraduates take a fitness course to receive their degrees has raised the hackles of students and the eyebrows of health and legal experts.”


    Couldn’t this policy be considered a form of discrimination since only overweight students are required to take the fitness course? Isn’t there a possibilty that some overweight students could be just as physically fit as students who don’t carry any extra pounds? Is thinness proof of fitness? Are anorexics healthy?

    BTW, is this course paid for with the students’ tuition money–or does Lincoln University provide the course free of charge?

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