Receiving a post-secondary education is a formative experience for most people. You often move away from home, meet lifelong friends, perhaps fall in love, expand your mind, and, unfortunately for some, expand your waistline. The "Freshman 15" is no joke and with global obesity levels on the rise, one American university is taking a pro-active, if not authoritarian, approach to this problem.
Oklahoma's Oral Roberts University has mandated that all incoming students wear a Fitbit tracker so the school can monitor their fitness levels. The University has a "whole person education" philosophy and physical activity has always been a required part of student life. In previous years, students were required to manually record their aerobic activity in a paper notebook which was later transcribed, by instructors of the fitness classes, into the school's grading system. Now that transcription is unnecessary as the information will be automatically uploaded to the "secure Learning Management System." Students are required to reach 10,000 steps per day and will be graded on their participation and on their performance in an end-of-semester field test which usually involves a 1½ mile run.
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Students are required to purchase their own Fitbits which can retail for around $140 which is far more expensive than a paper logbook. Fortunately, the school will not be collecting GSP information. In an interview with ARS, Provost Kathaleen Reid-Martinez explained that participating students will be able to "log into the Fitbit app and grant heart rate and steps tracking permission to an account affiliated with Oral Roberts—and no other tracking is required."
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Students at Oral Roberts University equipped with Fitbits[/caption]
ORU President William M. Wilson sees this new initiative as a selling point for the school. In a press release he said, “ORU offers one of the most unique educational approaches in the world by focusing on the Whole Person—mind, body and spirit. The marriage of new technology with our physical fitness requirements is something that sets ORU apart. In fact, when we began this innovative program in the fall of 2015, we were the first university in the world to offer this unique approach to a fitness program.”
Aside from keeping their student body healthy, ORU also hopes to find a correlation between physical fitness and academic performance.
While only currently required for freshmen, the program is open to the entire student body.
What do you think of this initiative? Is this a great way to promote a fit, healthy lifestyle or is this an invasion of personal liberties and freedoms? We all know that Fitbits, even without the GPS tracking, can reveal a bevvy of personal information. Sex, for example, is something that can be seen in heart rate data and ORU has a strict honor code
that condemns all sex acts outside of the marriage between a man and a woman. See how things might get a little invasive? Is it fair for an academic institution to monitor an individual's personal habits so closely?
Do you think this is a positive step forward in the battle against obesity -- a step more institutions should be taking, or do you think this is coming dangerously close to a destructive, Orwellian existence? Share your thoughts with us in a comment!
, The Daily Beast