Welcome to the university fat club!

See Bryn Mawr Health Center Helpfully Emails Students Weight Loss Tips for the full back story.

In short, the university emailed weight loss tips to those students  with overweight/obese BMI scores. How do the university know who those students were? Each medical visit at campus health services involved a weight in and then data that was mined and used for those purpose.

Some students who were treated at the Health Center for their weight—including those recovering from an eating disorders like anorexia—also received the email.

“The dishes and cups in the dining hall have become smaller every year,”says a pre- law student who received the “Hoot” email writes. “The encouragement by administration to lose weight has increased. And hall leaders are being told to lessen the number of food-related get togethers.”

This story managed to hit two of my hot spots, involving both fat shaming and privacy invading. Wow.

First, how likely is that to be helpful? Not so much

Second, the students are adults. Did they ask for help?

Third, what about privacy rights? I’m teaching a course on Digital Ethics this semester. See our WordPress site here and our Facebook page here, Sometimes it can be hard to get the 18 year olds riled up at privacy. This is the social media generation after all. But one thing that even they hate is information given for one purpose, used in another.

They enjoyed this older video on privacy and pizza from the ACLU.



4 thoughts on “Welcome to the university fat club!

  1. Great post! So relate to your comment ‘they are adults…did they ask for help?’
    The part about reducing food gatherings made me laugh! ha ha, food gatherings are too big a part of every culture (including work cultures here), and lately with ‘foodies’ I have noticed more and more at work. I do enjoy them but have been wondering if I indulge a little too much as the frequency of these gatherings is high…oh well.

  2. That is awful! I’m all for helping people to be healthier, but it’s not at all helpful to single out or shame people for being overweight. I once went to a doctor for chronic pain (from a car accident) and after my visit they sent me a spammy email basically telling me it was time to get off my ass and work out. And of course, I could pay them to help me do this. I was incredibly offended at the assumption that since I have chronic pain, I must be overweight and sedentary. Blaming people and singling them is counterproductive and ridiculous.

  3. This is wrong on so many levels. First, HIPPA, anyone? How dare they mine students’ medical records. Second, using BMI as a gauge of obesity is, to put it bluntly, fucking absurd. Third, did anyone stop to think that maybe their DOCTOR would be having this conversation with them, if it were medically necessary? Why would they think a poorly worded, passive aggressive email would be more effective than the advice of a medical professional, if an overweight student actually did need/want to enroll in a weight loss program? Just really.

  4. I like your comment “the students are adults.” I work with college students too and it’s amazing to me how many of them refuse to act like adults. I wish that both the students and the administration would hold students to that level of responsibility. Do they track and send these emails to their employees?

    This story got me just as annoyed: http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/taking-attendance-class120-app-alerts-parents-when-students-skip-class-n301951

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