Colleges dropping 'Fat Studies' courses in 2018

The recent proliferation of “fat studies” courses appears to be running out of steam, with many colleges nixing the classes from their curricula after media backlash.  

Within the last two years, Oregon State University (OSU), Tufts University, Dickinson College, Willamette College, the University of Maryland-College Park, and Portland State University have all offered at least one fat studies course.  

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The courses, typically taught in women’s studies or sociology departments, teach students about issues such as “weight justice,” “fat liberation,” and “fatness as a social construct.”

But in the wake of widespread criticism of such courses, Campus Reform has discovered that only two of those colleges continue to teach fat studies—Dickinson and OSU.

OSU professor Patti Lou Watkins continues to teach her annual spring “Fat Studies” class examining “weight-based oppression as a social justice issue,” which has only three students currently enrolled.

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Meanwhile, the description of the spring 2018 “Fat Studies” class taught by Dickinson College Professor Amy Farrell states that students “will examine the development of fat stigma and the ways it intersects with gendered, racial, ethnic, and class constructions.”

Farrell, who is the author of the 2011 book Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture, also plans to teach students to “become familiar with the wide range of activists whose work has challenged fat stigma,” the course description notes.

Meanwhile, the other colleges that previously offered fat studies courses no longer appear to be doing so, though academic theories related to fat studies continue to gain traction, bolstered by ongoing media attention and the journal Fat Studies.

Edited by San Diego State University Professor Esther Rothblum, the journal has provided a platform for dozens of like-minded professors to share their research with colleagues.

[RELATED: TA calls for more ‘size acceptance’ on campus]

Fat Studies recently published an article claiming that small desks cause a “hostile” environment to fat students, another article on how “fat pedagogy” can fight sizeist microaggressions, and still another on how professors should tell students to “reject healthism.”

Its current issue, “Fat Pedagogy: Improving Teaching and Learning for EveryBODY,” aims to help professors of all disciplines promote “discourse around body weight, shape, and size, and challenge the social hierarchies and structures of dominance that perpetuate weight bias in educational contexts.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen