Until last week, the first-floor women’s bathroom nearest the front entrance of the Ross School of Business Executive Residence Building used to house a scale – the balance-beam kind with adjustable weights you find in a doctor’s office, or in the locker room at the Central Campus Recreation Building.

Brian Merlos

The bathroom for Business School men next to the one with the scale did not have a scale.

“There isn’t any campus-wide guideline for installing scales in campus bathrooms and therefore no database to indicate which bathrooms have scales and which don’t,” said Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the University’s facilities and operations, in an e-mail interview. “Honestly, it is the first I’ve heard of a bathroom having them.”

So how did the scale find its way to the bathroom in the first place? Or, more curiously, why would what’s probably the only scale in a public restroom other than a locker room be found in the Business School?

Facilities staff members at the Business School said the scale is likely a relic from the days when the school’s building housed hotel rooms for visiting participants of the executive education program, School of Business spokesman Bernie DeGroat said in an e-mail.

But while the scale had managed to be the only one to maintain a place in the school after the hotel rooms were converted into temporary offices, it was quickly removed once Business School administrators received an e-mail questioning the rationale behind it.

“The scale’s presence in the ladies’ room was not intentional and it has been removed,” DeGroat said in an e-mail. “Our facilities staff apologizes and in no way intended to offend anyone.”

No one can say how the decision to keep one scale for the ladies of the School of Business came about. It might have been an individual who, while helping to switch the furnishings of the hotel rooms-turned-offices, thought that the women might appreciate it and put one aside. He or she might have had the women’s career ambitions at heart in saving the scale – a concern, unfortunately, not without statistical support.

Increases in a woman’s weight lead to reductions in her family’s income and career prestige, according to a 2005 study by New York University researchers. The study also found that the correlation between career accomplishment and body mass is even stronger among young women. On the other side of the gene pool, men experience no such correlation between body mass and economic situation.

The Business School’s women had mixed responses to the existence of the scale and it’s subsequent removal.

Business School sophomore Anoush Haroutunian said she had always found the presence of the scale puzzling. She said she assumed students had asked the school for it because, why else would it be there?

“If you want to look at it in a funny way, it does make sense because people in the business school like to quantify everything,” Haroutunian said. “But I don’t think that’s it.”

The scale’s presence was questionable at best and it’s removal appropriate, if at the least to assure that men and women receive equal facilities, Haroutunian said.

“I think it’s best that they’re removed,” she said. “It’s not a gym and there’s no reason for them to be there. The fact that [the Business School] removed it means they think there’s something wrong with it.”

Other students miss the trusty post-lunch instrument. Scales can be hard to encounter outside the CCRB, and everyone needs to check their weight sometime.

“I really miss that scale,” said Sue, a first-year MBA student who refused to give her last name because she didn’t want to be associated with the subject. “I don’t have one at home,” she reasoned, “and it was really convenient.”

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