Skinny alumna to women’s college: I’ll give you $1M if you stop being fat

This was on the “most emailed articles” list in the Chronicle of Higher Ed daily update today:

Donor Pledges Dollars if Stephens College Workers Lose Weight

Basically, there’s an 87-year-old Stephens alumna whose biggest accomplishment in life is apparently that she can still fit into her prom dress, and she doesn’t like it that there are fatties on the staph of her alma mater.  So she is dangling a cool million in front of the college if the president loses 25 pounds and the rest of the staff loses a collective 250, all by January.

Both the college and the potential donor claim this is all about getting healthy.  But the article notes that the staff are all planning to “start their diets this weekend.”  I guess somebody didn’t get the memo that diets are unhealthy and not an effective long-term strategy for weight loss.

I get that workplace weight loss programs are all the rage right now, misguided and ineffective though they may be.  And from some types of industries I wouldn’t expect much.  But from a college I expected better.  College and universities are in the business of thinking.  They’re where the knowledge is supposed to be coming from.  Research is done, new information is generated, new ideas are introduced, and old ideas are tested and, when found wanting, modified or discarded.  Shades of grey are explored and simplistic black-and-white arguments just aren’t good enough.  Students are taught to think critically and support their ideas and arguments with facts.  At least that’s what’s SUPPOSED to be happening.  So when a college jumps uncritically on the “all fatness is bad and all weight loss is good” bandwagon, it bugs me.  When it makes overly simplistic judgments based on stuff “everybody knows” rather than considering what the research tells us, it bugs me.  Because of an institution of higher learning can’t get the hell over all that, I have no confidence that any organization can.

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