Email Targets Students Deemed Overweight at Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College is under fire for an email intended to promote personal health that ended up offending dozens of students who felt wrongfully targeted for their body type.

The email — titled “Give a HOOT!’ — promoted one of the school’s newer programs, Fitness Onward to Weight Loss Success, or Fitness O.W.L.S.

The controversial email was sent to an undisclosed number of students who had an “eligible” body mass index (BMI). The fitness program is a collaboration effort between the Athletic Department, Dining Services and Health Department at the prestigious Main Line all-girls college, according to an email sent to students in mid-January.

The story of one Bryn Mawr junior, Rundrani Sarma, was shared widely on social media after she told the popular site, Buzzfeed that she was “horrified.”

The English literature major said she had used resources at the student health department to overcome an eating disorder and the email was “triggering.” When she followed up to the email, she said she was informed it was a clerical mistake.

“In a way of explanation (but not excuse) at one time a nurse entered your height incorrectly and you appeared on the list of students who would qualify for the program,” an email published on Buzzfeed said. “This error pointed out to me that our screening processes are inadequate. They will be improved.”

The school calculated students’ BMIs based on information provided to the Health Center, according to a Bryn Mawr College official.

“[Fitness O.W.L.S] is to sort of get a cohort of people who have similar fitness levels,” said Matt Gray, a college spokesman.

The two-credit Fitness O.W.L.S program listed on the college’s site is the only physical education course listed with eligibility requirements for entry.

“The fitness O.W.L program is really for people that are overweight,” said Monika Hawkins, who works in the Health Center at Bryn Mawr College. “We also tell people they can go to a nutritionist.”

Gray added the requirements are meant to address students with injuries who cannot participate in certain activities. But the site does not list the same health assessment standards for sports like advanced rowing, volleyball, kickboxing or other more rigorous courses.

In an apology email to the student body, officials with the school claim to have designed the program to assist students with indicators of “potential health risks.”

“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,” read the apology email sent to students who were “eligible” for the Fitness O.W.L.S

The program has been offered three times in the past, but this is the first time school officials received complaints, Gray said.

The students impacted by the email plan to protest the school for invading their privacy.

The adequacy of body mass index as an indicator of health has long been criticized; compiled a list several years ago pointing out potential problems with using BMI to indicate body fat percentage.

The CDC cites BMI as an accurate way to screen weight categories, but the measurement developed by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet never had interest in measuring obesity. Instead, he attempted to define characteristics of “normal man,” and developed an index that measures the relationship to describe that weight increases as height increases.

Originally published on

Free Snow Removal Service Helps People in Need

Even the smallest snowstorm can be a big problem for people who are unable to shovel snow or remove the ice from their walkways. Luckily, there’s charity service in West Philadelphia that can help.

Free snow removal and shoveling for seniors or disabled residents is just one of the volunteer services provided by Able Body Christian Men.

To utilize the free services, you must register with the group. Following inclement weather, a volunteer will call registered members to find out if their services are required.

All services are provided on a “first come, first serve” basis that relies on availability of volunteers.

ABCMen also offers a food pantry, companionship and other special projects.

Stay Safe on Slippery Sidewalks: Walk Like a Penguin

The trick to balancing on slick sidewalks is to “walk like a penguin.”

At least, that’s the advice coming out of Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Northern Liberties.

Instinct tells us to do the opposite and center our weight mid-stride, which works on dry walkways.

However this tactic forces legs to split your body weight in half and rely on both feet to maintain balance — not the best idea for icy streets.

The local ice cream parlor posted a simple infographic on their blog to remind everyone to think of gravity and mimic penguins. Shifting one’s weight onto the front leg keeps people – and penguins – from slipping.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention backs up the penguin waddle claim, reminding people to also spread feet slightly to fortify the center of gravity.

With sidewalks freezing over Tuesday following the snow event Monday night, remember to stay smart and give yourself extra time to waddle to work.

Keep your hands out of your pockets and wear a puffy coat…so if you do fall, at least you can catch yourself and cushion your buns.

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Special Butterfly Discovered at Philly Museum, Ignites Awe

A magnificent rarity appeared at The Academy of Natural Science’s Butterflies! exhibit.

“I thought: ‘Somebody’s fooling with me. It’s just too perfect,’” said Chris Johnson, a volunteer at the museum. “Then I got goose bumps.”

Johnson found a beautiful specimen with the characteristics of both male and female butterflies. Each wing had different markings, splitting the butterfly in half with different genetic characteristics.

Johnson informed his supervisor, David Schloss, who promptly called a lepidopterist to confirm his suspicions.

Jason Weintraub, who specializes in butterfly collections, knew immediately that the insect needed to be collected and euthanized for research before being potentially injured or killed in the exhibit.

The butterfly had a condition called bilateral gynandromorphy, a genetic condition that primarily affects birds and butterflies.

“It can result from non-disjunction of sex chromosomes, an error that sometimes occurs during the division of chromosomes at a very early stage of development,” Weintraub said.

The “brush-footed” butterfly, Lexias paradalis, does not yet have a colloquial name. It is often found in Southeast Asia, according to museum officials.

The nameless butterfly originated in a farm in Malaysia before it was sent to the local exhibit.

“In most cases, such specimens are ‘discovered’ in museum collections by a researcher who is carefully examining reproductive organs of insects under the microscope and stumbles across a specimen with both male and female characteristics,” Weintraub said.

The miracle butterfly will be displayed at the Academy of Natural Science from Jan. 17 to Feb. 16.

Ex-Phillies Star Jimmy Rollins to Maintain Philadelphia Fresh Food Initiative Despite Trade

Despite being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after 14 years on the Philadelphia Phillies, former MVP Jimmy Rollins will keep his foundation active in the Delaware Valley.

The Rollins Family Foundation, founded by Rollins and his wife, Johari, supports Philadelphia and surrounding communities by providing fresh food to families at risk.

“Fresh food shouldn’t be a luxury. Every family should have access to fruits and vegetables,” Rollins said.

While Rollins moved back to his home state, California, to play for the LA Dodgers, his nonprofit foundation continued to provide families with affordable, fresh food while continuing to empower youth to make healthy choices in the area he called home while becoming a star with the Phillies.

“We made great progress in 2014 and look to continue to build on that momentum,” Rollins said.

Going forward, The Rollins Family Foundation is considering an partnership with projects in Los Angeles while continuing to work with SHARE, the Food Trust and St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children-Farm to Families initiatives, said the foundation.

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