Editor’s Note: Prioritize student wellness

By Heather Scroering

While some at Columbia believe the college’s artistic nature is too unique to be compared to other institutions, there’s one issue that no college campus can deny—obesity.

Almost 30 percent of American college students are overweight or obese, according to the American College Health Association, so it is no longer enough to live by the old proverb, “Early to bed, early to rise keeps you healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Health consciousness at Columbia is not nonexistent, but more attention should be drawn to it. Spelman College, a women’s liberal arts college in Atlanta, announced Nov. 1 that it would do away with its NCAA Division III athletics program and put its $1 million fund toward a health and fitness initiative that will benefit more students. I think what Spelman is doing with this substantial chunk of change is great, and Columbia should consider doing something similar to ensure healthy students. However, instead of doing away with sports, more funding should be allocated to other health-related resources on campus.

Columbia students’ tuition includes a Student Activity fee that ranges from a measly $45–$85, depending on a student’s enrollment status. That fee is split among many student-related undertakings, including the Fitness Center and all student organizations, including The Renegades. Tuition also includes a mere $25–$45 Health Center fee, split among the clinic and Counseling Services.

As enrollment declines, less funding is coming into these areas. I think it’s time the college includes a separate fee that groups together all health-related measures.

Columbia’s Renegades teams constantly struggle with funding because the organization’s budget is disbursed to teams based on commitment level. But it’s impossible to keep teams alive with no practice spaces. Some in the college say students aren’t serious about sports, but I don’t think the lack of student interest is an issue.

The bottom line is that sports promote healthy students, and the college should embrace them. I feel that Columbia is afraid of athletics because they are common at state schools, but Columbia doesn’t need to be the antithesis of a traditional college to stand out.

Though the college does have fitness equipment in most of the residence halls and the Fitness Center at Plymouth Court, which is open to all students, it could do more to spark interest in fitness and exercise.

Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., has wellness requirements built into its curriculum. Columbia already offers courses, such as yoga and Pilates, that could be ideal for such a policy and would encourage more collaboration with the Dance Department.

Health and fitness are essential to every human being, and should be made a priority on Columbia’s campus by giving more funding to health initiatives.

In the larger picture, obesity is a nationwide issue, and Columbia should more clearly acknowledge that its student body is included in that risk.