“Pants on the ground, pants on the ground. Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.”
The lyrics to a song offered up by an American Idol hopeful, available for viewing on YouTube.com, has prompted much amusement, but these words reflect the thoughts of many of those involved in creating and implementing dress codes.
Most students attending college have to worry about many pressing issues such as money for tuition, books and keeping their grades up. Now administrators at some schools, including Dillard, are trying to add one more thing to that list: clothing.
In late 2009, Morehouse College, a historically black all-male institution, received national attention for implementing a dress code that restricts “grillz,” sagging pants, “do- rags” and the wearing of female attire, among other things.
Now, at Dillard, a “dress code enforcement initiative” is under way. Dr. Marvalene Hughes, president, has asked faculty to enforce a dress code officially placed into effect last September. A Feb. 22 memo from Dr. Toya Barnes-Teamer, vice president of Student Success, said students, particularly resident students, were made aware of the policy through residential hall meetings and signs have been posted. Her office plans Town Hall meetings for each residence hall, among other actions.
The Dillard dress code says students may be denied entrance to various functions, including classrooms and the dining hall, if their manner of dress is deemed inappropriate. But of all the things listed above, how many are really detrimental to the learning environment?
Well, maybe, Chris could be distracted by what Ann is wearing three rows up. But is it because Ann’s dress is inappropriate, or does the teacher need a more invigorating lesson plan?
Dress codes are implemented to eliminate distractions in the classroom. But who is the one being distracted? If you’re a professor and a hat can distract you from your lesson plan, there is a much bigger issue at hand.
We assume that by the time a person turns 18, he or she is able to make their own decisions. The decisions may not always be the best, but students can probably handle deciding what they want to wear to school.
What people consider appropriate varies widely, but it is highly unlikely a student will show up in, say, a bikini top.
Yes, we understand that even the workplace has a dress code, but college is a time where many people feel free, and it’s is the time when people are finding out who they really are. Limiting something as simple as style of dress can have a lasting impact. Clothing is a form of self-expression and unnecessarily restricting this expression is like putting a piece of tape over someone’s mouth.
We don’t hear of an insistence on dress code enforcement at large predominantly white institutions; the emphasis there would appear attendance, not attire. What kind of subliminal message is this sending to African-American college students? That in order to “be accepted,” we must conform? Haven’t we had enough years of our thoughts, words and beliefs being stifled? For us to be doing this to ourselves is absurd.
People pay to go to college to acquire knowledge, not to be told how to dress by the administration.