I am a plump African-American professor at an HBCU and a national expert on media weight discrimination and people of color in the professoriate. I am concerned about some of the statements in Dr. Marybeth Gasman’s response (See “Too Fat To Graduate?” Diverse online, Nov. 30) to Lincoln University of Pennsylvania’s policy that penalizes its students who are “heavy” in body by forcing them to pass an additional “Fitness for Life” course or refusing to graduate them. The policy is certainly unethical, probably illegal and ironically racist, sexist, classist AND counterproductive.
We are constantly facing so much discrimination based on our body size already that it is a scary second (third, fourth…) slap in the face to have an HBCU that has a concentration of African-American women discriminate against us. Students are supposed to be showing intellectual rigor to graduate rather than be punished by an extra course to pass that those who were born with a luckier genetic draw from the deck don’t have to take.
Preventing students, no matter how brilliant, from graduating from college just because they are big is counterproductive.
If Lincoln University really cares about the obesity epidemic in the Black community, it ought to require ALL students, not just the ones with “more bounce to the ounce,” to complete its “Fitness for Life” class as part of freshman orientation or any physical education requirement. The thinner students may be as unhealthy as some of the fatter students or worse.
I hope Lincoln University stops this ugly size discrimination before a big student with deep pockets successfully sues the school and wins a gigantic number of dollars and contributes to the demise of another precious HBCU. At a time when colleges are offering more online degrees, ending physical education and even exit exam requirements, Lincoln University should be ashamed of its nasty fat phobic fitness course. I would implore them that as their namesake “freed the slaves,” may Lincoln University let my chubby people go. Let freedom ring and let my chubby people graduate if they’ve got the grades.
Rev. Dr. E-K. Daufin
Professor of Communication,
Alabama State University
Editor’s Note: Lincoln University has since reversed its policy, making the fitness course voluntary.