Oral Roberts University: Stop Grading Students on their Fitbit Activity
Freshmen students are already vulnerable to academic and social pressures, and Oral Roberts University (ORU) is introducing a Fitbit tracking and grading program that is likely to exacerbate those stressors. ORU is requiring freshmen to wear Fitbits that will track their daily aerobic activity, as well as their whereabouts, weight and sleeping habits—and then grading them based on the data they collect.
Tracking and grading students’ physical activity encourages an unhealthy environment that may lead to drawing unfair comparisons between students, creating a one-size- fits-all benchmark for health, encouraging compulsions to over-exercise, adding even more stress to a college student’s life and students perceiving exercise as a burden instead of as a fun everyday activity.
As someone who is recovered from an eating disorder, I can only imagine how this Fitbit requirement would have exacerbated my destructive behaviors. According to the National Eating Disorders Association’s Collegiate Survey Project, a potential 4.4–5.9% of teens enter college with a pre-existing, untreated eating disorder. And NIMH reports that the average age of onset is 19 years old for anorexia, 20 years old for bulimia and 25 years old for binge eating disorder. ORU’s Fitbit requirement has the potential to trigger students who are already struggling.
There are so many other, healthier ways to educate students and encourage physical activity, giving students the freedom to move—on their own terms. Physical activity—like riding a bike, having a snowball fight or taking a dip in the pool—doesn’t have to be regimented. ORU could offer alternative personal development course options, like grade-based volunteer opportunities. Being a volunteer provides many of the same benefits that exercise does, plus students can network, learn new skills and meet new people.
ORU’s attempt to track and grade their students’ aerobic activity may inspire unhealthy competition, unhappiness and stress, and could even trigger disordered thoughts and behaviors. Please sign my petition asking ORU to drop the Fitbit requirement for good.
- Oral Roberts University
Dr. William M. Wilson
Dear Dr. Wilson,
Grading freshmen on their Fitbit activity can trigger destructive, eating disordered behaviors in vulnerable students. There are many healthier ways to educate students and support physical activity. Please drop this harmful requirement and start encouraging students to move on their own terms.
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