Bryn Mawr College is under fire for an email sent by the school’s Health Center encouraging students with “elevated BMIs” to join a weight-loss program.
Rudrani Sarma, a junior at the small, all-female liberal arts school, expressed her disappointment with the email blast by posting an open letter to the school on Facebook.
“Sending your students a message ‘inviting’ them to take a weight loss class because they’re on a ‘list of students with elevated BMI’s’ is not ethical. It’s problematic, it’s hurtful, and it’s just plain stupid,” she wrote.
After commenting on the original email, Sarma received a response explaining that she had accidently received it because a nurse had entered her height incorrectly in the Health Center’s database, qualifying her for the free program – which has been offered in the past.
The Fitness Onward to Weight Loss Success, or Fitness OWLS Program, “is designed to develop strategies for students to improve their overall health and fitness, and focus on developing a healthy lifestyle through nutrition, exercise, overall well-being and weight loss,” reads the course description.
“My first reaction to this was obviously horror. I felt awful to be targeted like that,” Sarma told the Swarthmore Phoenix. “I felt like it was an incredibly impersonal email and just incredibly unethical to receive something like this. I just thought of all of the other students that might have a problem with weight who received this email and how horrible they must feel.”
In response to the controversy, Bryn Mawr’s Health Center director Kay C. Kerr issued an apology.
“On behalf of everyone involved with this program, I sincerely apologize to anyone who has been upset or offended by our communications, and I want to reassure the community that we will rethink our approaches and our assumptions moving forward,” she said.