Incoming freshmen at Oral Roberts University will be required to wear a Fitbit that will track their exercise habits, sleep, and weight, then send that information to the school. And it isn’t just about shame and surveillance for their own sakes—students will be graded on their work.
As NBC News points out, ORU has always had a mandatory fitness component. Before, students would manually track their activity themselves, then turn in written logs to the school. Now, the information will come straight from the Fitbit.
Sometimes, when the U.S. government wants to reassure people about dragnet surveillance, it talks about how the data it collects is supposedly anonymized—yes, metadata from your phone calls may be monitored, but unless you’re a terrorist, it will only register as a communication from one string of digits to another, never explicitly connected to you the person. ORU, on the other hand, is grading its students on their individual performances, meaning they won’t even be afforded that meager protection. If Sally Jones only got four hours of sleep on Tuesday night, ORU administrators know that Sally Jones only got four hours of sleep on Tuesday night.
Speaking with the Tulsa World, a school official who helped developed the program touted its ability to monitor students, even when they’re off campus. “Our students can be in Africa for spring break and the system will still be recording data,” Mike Matthews said.
As long as they’re going to be doing this, we might as well consider some fun practical applications. Let’s say a student’s heart rate is suspiciously high after he leaves a party with a mystery companion at the end of the night. Why not text his roommate and tell him to find somewhere else to sleep?