HigherEdMorning.comNo hats or mini-skirts: 1 college's dress code

No hats or mini-skirts: 1 college’s dress code

September 16, 2010 by Geneva Reid
Posted in: In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views, Student Life

It’s not a formal code, but one southern school is sending out a warning to students: No mini-skirts, midriff tops, short-shorts, hats, pajamas or do-rags. At North Carolina Central University, the word is out: Students had better pay careful attention to how they’re dressing.

“Suggestive, revealing clothing, by men or women, should not be worn in a classroom,” Chancellor Charlie Nelms told the Kansas City Star. “And you shouldn’t be wearing pajamas to class!”

The question raised by students’ clothing isn’t a new one: Does appropriate dress lead to more respectful and appropriate behavior?

At least at N.C. Central, the answer is “yes.”

In one of the school’s business courses, professor Shirrell McNeill spelled out what students are expected to wear to class:

  • Men are expected to wear suits and ties in conservative colors (no earrings, please).
  • Women should wear professional looking business suits with low-heeled shoes and a skirt that comes only one inch above the knee when sitting.

N.C. Central isn’t the first college to take issue with how its students dress.

A year ago, Morehouse College banned hats, hoods, do-rags, etc. in class. Also, students were told they couldn’t wear sunglasses or offensive clothing in class, specifically: “decorative orthodontic appliances,” sagging pants, pajamas and bare feet.

And since the college’s students are male, clothing associated with women’s garb has also been banned — raising questions of anti-gay sentiments.

Do you think the way students dress has an impact on campus behavior? Let us know in the comments section below.

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  • colleen schiefer

    Good idea. Suits for college classes is over the top but if the kids want to flaunt, they should do it outside of class.

  • Anya

    Yes, any girl wearing 4 inch stilleto heals to school looks like a hooker. I like the idea of a dress code otherwise kids just don’t get it that they look like fools.

  • http://chittuma@atc.edu Amanda

    I agree with the banning of the items listed but I don’t agree with making students wear “professional” attire as discussed in the article.

  • Jama

    I work on a large mid-west campus. I believe that human rights and the rights of our “employers” should be highly respected. With that said, I have become increasing aware of the lack of respect between the respective classes of our institution. I started here twenty two years ago; I am in my mid forties; and have two teens myself. I understand the need to express one’s self. But the lack of what I perceive as mutual respect has drastically changed with the changing of attire. I thoroughly believe that if an institution takes on the responsibility of imposing a dress code, they should in turn impose an even more stringent code for the faculty and staff. There are many times that I cannot tell the difference between a faculty/staff member and a student. We must always remember that we are here for the students and with that responsibility we need to be aware that the students must be totally involved in any decisions such as this one. I have much respect for the Student Senate and believe that they should be involved in every aspect of this discussion and/or imposed dress code.

  • http://www.morehouse.edu Melvin

    Absolutely, at Morehouse, proper attire is essential to conveying the right message about a Morehouse Man. The old saying states, you can always tell a Morehouse Man, you just can’t tell him much.

    If we spent less time trying to act like the thug culture and more time looking and being the talented 10th, we would yeild better results.

  • Terry C. Maxwell

    Frankly, as each year passes I am more amazed. The depth of cleavage now commonplace in my classes is astounding. Sometimes I think I’m at the beach. Is it true or not, that it’s basically middle-aged and older men (I’m 65) that are distracted by this view. It just seems that the undergrad men take it in casual stride. And I have already asked a couple of young men in biology lab to pull their pants up, but I think I’m fighting a losing battle. I actually saw a young man working in a public restaurant with his pants rear pulled down revealing his underwear. Good grief.

  • FrederickDouglass1852

    The college classroom should be a place where students learn how to conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner. How you dress may possibly contribute to that environment. While I somewhat disagree with North Carolina Central’s “conservative” dress code, it does send a greater message that more discussion needs to take place regarding this issue. Perhaps this new awareness (or the extremes) can bring about dialogue and possibly a compromise that is both beneficial to the administration and faculty and to the students.

  • Beatrice Muhammad

    How wonderful to implement this dress code. Other schools should do the same. I do believe that dress has a psychological effect on ones behavior and helps to keep the focus on learning. In addition, it is teaching them how to dress for success in the profession in which they are studying.

  • http://www.reynolds.edu cp

    The way students dress can have an impact on campus behavior. Think of the 60s when campuses went from v-neck sweaters and button-down oxfords to bell bottoms and tie-dyes within a semester or two. Dress can intensify behavior and behavior prompts mode of dress. But in a free society how far can an institution go in prescribing adult students’ mode of dress? I think dealing with such questions can be a productive part of the students’ educational process. Finally the question of dress codes has been around recently enough and long enough that I have to think these colleges are within their legal authority to prescribe and prohibit certain forms of dress.

  • James Sinacore

    It’s about time we see institutions of higher learning regaining a sense of propriety. People have lost the idea that education is an act of edification. As such, our activities in the classroom, including the way we dress, should remind us that we are engaged in something that is meant to mature us. I teach in a major midwestern university. If it were up to me I would have everyone, professors and students alike, all be in uniform dress. Quite frankly, I wish we would go back to wearing gowns.

  • Mark

    This might work in private or exclusive public colleges, but it would be hard to enforce, with some exceptions at most state colleges and community colleges. Certain classes, like business, public safety, welding/automotive would have career specific reasons for limiting clothing for safety or functional reasons.

    I do think though that the idea behind it is correct; the wearing of appropriate attire does seem to foster better behavior between people and frankly, it is geared toward young people who usually have little understanding what appropriate attire is in a work environment.

  • D Carter

    Of course it does. Some students recognize that and utilize it by dressing up for exams to get a psychological edge.

  • Sheryl

    I work at a college. No I don’t think clothing has a bearing on one’s ability to do their work and make the grade. I do think some clothing can be offensive but anything can be used to offend if that is the intention. I don’t think it has an affect on behavior, but it does have an affect on how you perceive yourself. Following rules whatever rules there are is a part of life. Breaking the rules is part of seeing how far you will be allowed to go. Accepting rules or standing up against certain rules it part of growing up.

  • sandra

    Oh, come on, my colleagues. It is not our place to legislate dress codes, much less morality. What we do is teach, and class consciousness (Why do the students at Harvard not dress suggestively?), objectification of women (How do high heels and miniskirts limit free movement?), race politics (What does dressing like gangster rappers imply?), as well as the consequences of tattoos and cleavage in the workplace are our province.

    Informality is here to stay, and who is to say that techies in jeans or shorts do not perform well in the workplace? Or that the dress code at my university, in a freezing climate, helped me respect the field of studio art by wearing a dress? But students do need to know the class and sexual coding of dressing. A viewing of “People Like Us,” with a discussion in first-year orientation might accomplish more than a dress code, with the resultant rebellion.

  • Ashley Bevington

    I do not believe dress codes would go over well in a college atmosphere. I am a college art student and attire is a very important aspect of student’s individuality. I do agree that student’s shouldn’t dress in suggestive or revealing clothing, but then again i feel that the general public should avoid dressing this way, not just students. College students are adults, and should be treated that way by allowing them to make their own decisions. If someone wants to look unprofessional, like a tramp, or wear saggy pants they must suffer the consequences of how they will be perceived.

  • http://mighellworks.webs.com Leah

    I believe that haveing certain guidelines that depict what is and is not acceptable for students to wear to class is a good thing. On the other hand, going overboard and having a required dress such as suits to class is a bit much. I’m a college student myself, and sometimes in the last minute rush for class, you have to grab whatever you can find to wear, or even go in your pjs after pulling an al nighter.

  • CMoyo

    I think this is a good idea. The way that you dress says something about where you are going and how you feel about the person you are going to meet with while you are dressed that way. One does not have to wear a suit to class but the least one can do is look presentable and not offensive because they are not the ones that have to spend the whole day looking at their “outfit,” the people around them do. Some clothing is also suggestive can be interpreted wrongly as well.

  • Nadia

    I do not agree with this policy. You cannot judge a book by its cover, so what makes good supporting evidence that kids with more attentive learning skills or better studying habits are accustomed to more appropriate clothing? This dress code issue has been around for so long, and being a student I’ve experienced students’ focus being averted toward their objections to the situation. They worry about getting the right clothes, taking their worries off of schoolwork and spending money on a new wardrobe (which many are not able to even afford, ESPECIALLY in college) rather than on books and supplies required for class. They STILL worry about their appearance and it’s completely ridiculous if board members assume that a change in dress code will effect a young adult’s security about the way they look. This rule simply implies a stereotype that those who have obtained their own sense of style pertaining to what they’re interested in wearing are less stable in the work environment. In addition, we are in college and now expect to be treated as an adult. I understand that in the workplace you must dress professionally, but we are investing money in furthering our education so that we may become professional in a field of our choice. However, this money is being spent on the expansion of responsibility so I would discourage the resemblance of a K-12 dress code. For good money being spent at a school that requires us to now be independent, I do not understand the reason for dictating the style of your students.

  • Chloe

    The idea of a college implemented dress code is somewhat absurd. I do agree that many students dress inappropriately, but colleges are not public institutions. Students pay thousands of dollars per year for a college education, many of them with government aid;l personally do not have the expendable income to purchase business clothing to wear to classes. There are many expenses involved with buying such clothing for class, after all many colleges do not provide free access to laundry rooms, and students can only afford one nice suit for class may even have to arrange for dry-cleaning. Aside from this, college is not high school; our parents are not around to tell us to hike up our pants or cinch up our tops. College is the time for growing up, becoming an adult, learning from our mistakes. It’s time to stop the spoon feeding and let students make their own decisions within reason. Let students learn that the way they dress is a reflection upon themselves through experiences, rather that just telling them to dress a certain way because the higher-ups say so.

  • Lily

    I don’t think a dress code is appropriate for college students, or do all of you who this it is a good idea forget when you were young. What they wear has nothing to do with what they learn. Lets focus on serious issues and not this silly stuff.

  • Kyle W

    It should not matter what college students choose to wear. After all they are in college, it isn’t grade school anymore. People should have the freedom to dress themselves as they please (within standards of what society permits of course). Not to say in some instances dressing up a little more professionally would be a bad thing, but what ever happened to rolling out of bed 10 minutes before class and wearing your sweats. If you think about it we all would love to do that every day. Why put more restriction and raise the standard even higher? Let loose everyone and take a look at the more important things in life.

  • http://jeffockerse.blogspot.com Jeff Ockerse

    First of all regarding the business class mentioned I found the idea that women had to wear skirts to be incredibly sexist and offensive I also find the idea of a suit and tie destructive of detrimental to all creativity so in my opinion it would have a negative effect on the original and inventive output of the students. There is also the idea that anyone can be offended by anything at anytime and we as a society should not become mindless zombies just because some one is slightly taken aback by another ADULTS choice of outfit.

    -jeff ockerse

  • C McClung

    As a student in college I believe that no, dress code has no effect on what the student can produce or any other variables to the academic performance one has. I strongly believe the best a student can provide is when he/she is comfortable. This can be comfortability through clothing, atmosphere, music or even just the other kids/instructors surrounding them. Comfortability is a must. And as Sheryl has posted previously, “accepting rules or standing up against certain rules is a part of growing up.” We need to be comfortable with our limitations before being able to perform well within those rules.

  • Sarah Wong

    I believe dress codes are NEEDED for high school students. There are 15 year olds in high school who still need to have boundaries and still need to have a good example set for them. College students are a completely different story. They are old enough to decide what they feel is appropriate to wear to class. College students are young adults who NEED to make there own decisions. This will prepare them to help make life changing decisions.

  • e carter

    i dont think a dress code is necessary. i mean after all we (college students) do pay to come to college and if you pay as much money as we do, you are bound to pay attention. and if not, you will learn quickly that you are wasting your money and time. i am in college for success, not to see what everyone is wearing

  • http://crowdedheadcozybed.wordpress.com LouFCD

    I am a student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and I do not agree with the dress codes discussed in this article.

    Men these days dress so sloppily that it offends me. Their attire interferes with my education. I’m not sure how, and I have exactly no evidence of any such thing, but it does. Just because I don’t like it. My grandmother wouldn’t like it. Jesus doesn’t like it. The 14th century is appalled by it.

    Women are another story. Women these days dress so seductively that it is distracting. It is totally their fault if I can’t concentrate on my classwork. We poor, stupid men can’t be expected to use our big heads for thinking with women dressing like hussies, can we? We’re just men, after all!

    Clearly, women should be dressed in full-veil burqas, lest they temp men to think about unnatural acts! Like seckshul stuff! That’s totally unnatural!

    And don’t even give me that crap about freedom or human rights or free expression! Just the other day on campus, I saw two students KISSING!!!! OMG!!!!

    It made Baby Jesus cry.

    What is the world coming to, when healthy young primates are displaying for potential mates???? Next thing you know, there will be BABIES!!!!!!!!!

    *This article* offends me. Proscriptions of other people’s attire based on “I don’t like how you dress” offend me. The Victorian, inane, baseless responses to the article thus far offend me. Doesn’t that mean that this page should be wiped from the servers, based on the same (lack of) logic?

    Oddly, I have always had the impression that institutions of higher education were bastions of intellectualism, free thought, free expression, something to be admired. If you want a dress code, try Tehran University.

  • http://www.salemstate.edu Ann

    I also work at a college and often ask myself this question, did they happen look in the mirror this morning or I say to myself, what were they thinking? If you are going to represent yourself out in the world I would think that you would want to put your best effort forward. Sounds like a great idea for a new course, HOW TO DRESS FOR SUCCESS!!!!!

  • Bob

    Personally, I think women wearing clothing like this is great. It makes things more enjoyable for everyone.

  • Adam

    Some folks have already mentioned this sentiment and I agree with it; college student (like me) are adults who need to learn the effect their style of dress has on the impressions of others. I have changed my style of dress since I started my time in college. I used to wear T-shirts with slogans and messages on them, now I wear Khaki short or pants and dress shirts (although I still like to roll up my sleeves). It’s a lesson that needs to be learned and a behavior that needs to be grown out of.

  • mamajana

    I participated in a job fair yesterday and was horrified at the way the job-seekers were dressed, many of whom were college students. One young lady had on dirty pajamas and flip flops and an extremely overweight young woman had on a strapless mini dress!

    I think NC Central and Morehouse have the right idea and my school is currently considering imposing a dress code. As far as the conservative dress is concerned, many business shcools require their students to dress in business attire.

  • Tina

    I think it’s ridiculous to have a dress code in college we are all adults and should be able to make our own decisions especially how we choose to dress. Clothing can impact on college behavior but it’s nothing new, why all of a sudden does there need to be a dress code? A lot of college’s have certain majors that require students to dress professionally anyway. I understand that a dress code would make the college and students seem more professional and look better to society but I think it should be the students decision on what they want to wear. And what specific colleges should have dress codes because I go to art school and not many people including the staff dress very professionally and I like it because it gives it a more laid back fun feel and that’s how school and learning should be.

  • Stan

    College is the purchase of a service from an institution that provides a means to educate not a job where you are providing a service to your employer. Students should be allowed to dress as they wish within legal limits. As a business institution I don’t believe a college would like to experience the loss of potential future students and revenue that could result with a dress code. I believe our dress is about how we see ourself. If a young lady shows cleavage and perceives herself as sexy or a young man wears baggy low cut pants and perceives himself as cool it is healthy. College has been and continues to be an avenue that the limits of expression are pushed. Now in my 60′s it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was pushing the envelope during college days. Our task is to educate these young students what it takes to be sucessful in the job market to include dress that is expected by others who currently are in financial power.

  • Jamell Harris

    I disagree with the proposal of a college dress code. Many college students do tend to dress inappropriately, but what we wear shouldn’t matter. Our style of dressing, is a form of our self expression. As young adults the decisions that we make when choosing our apparel whether it’s deemed appropriate or not(within a reasonable spectrum) is on our own accord.

  • Deondra Wilkins

    I personally believe that it is ridiculous to have a dress code in college. Individuality is a huge deal to me and i believe that everyone should be able to express themselves by wearing exactly what they want to wear.

  • Rachel McElvogue

    I believe that uniforms would be a little extreme for a college classroom but attire should be appropriate, such as no midriff tops of short enough skirts/shorts that other people have to see people’s butts. I don’t think that it should necessarily be a huge deal, it just seems like common courtesy to come fully clothed to class.

  • CollegeStaff

    Interesting discussion! I’m with the folks who believe that a dress code at college is not ok–but limits need to be implemented in high schools and earlier! That way, by the time kids get to college, they have a BASIS from which to make their appearance decisions. If, while growing up, they are required to cover up their cleavage and pull up their pants, take off their hats, do-rags, and sunglasses, etc. for school, but can do as they please in their social lives, then they’ve experienced a range of situations and dress and have a broader perspective to pull from. They have a chance to learn what it feels like to dress differently.

    Now, I’m pretty tired of what I see at the college where I work–males with their pants literally under their butts and holding them up by holding their crotches, and females who look like they’re only coming to school to find sex. It’s not just cleavage I see, but breasts that are barely covered. I don’t like it, I think they all look terrible, but–we don’t get to dictate what other adults do or wear within legal limits in this country. Remember too that every generation has pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable dress and behavior. In the 60′s males with long hair upset a lot of folks; these days young folks have to be pretty outrageous to be different from the broader culture.

    This discussion also needs an injection of social class awareness. Class is a strong factor in who’s wearing what and we have to understand that. Clothing choice is affected by finances, role models, the dictates of sub-cultures, and more.

    SANDRA from Sept. 15 says it the best: “students do need to know the class and sexual coding of dressing … class consciousness (Why do the students at Harvard not dress suggestively?), objectification of women (How do high heels and miniskirts limit free movement?), race politics (What does dressing like gangster rappers imply?) …

    Rather than make rules, opening college students’ eyes to these factors would teach them a great deal and allow them to make conscious decisions. Maybe if that guy over there learned that low-hanging pants came from prison culture, he’d look at his options differently.

  • CollegeStaff

    P.S.–I do have to take issue with wearing pajamas to class! I pulled many all-nighters in college, and it’s absolutely possible to do some basic hygiene and put on some regular clothes before you run out. I don’t think I would allow a student to sit in my class in their pajamas. To me that is not so much about my personal likes as it is protocol and bottom-line sense of place. In our culture, we don’t wear bikinis to formal balls or pajamas to participate in public endeavors. Others can disagree, but I’m just sayin’!

  • Bev

    As an admin asst at a local college I dress “business casual” and wear an ID photo tag. There is no dress code. Some younger staff although they serve the public have absolutely no idea what is appropriate and wear revealing, party style clothing to show off tattoos. Others wear jeans every day even though they are visible to the public. Faculty have immense freedom so you may see some who dress in business suits every day, some who look like they have come from working in the yard.
    The people who work at the college have to wear their photo IDs – students do not have to. I see people coming for job interviews dressed very inappropriately. It is a touchy situation if there is no official dress code.

  • sd

    What are all of you talking about? Dress code is teaching people to reject individualism and embrace conformity. What’s more, it mostly just targets women, ” mini-skirts, midriff tops, short-shorts”
    Its disgusting to see that even in the 21st century people are okay with this oppression. What do you mean it causes a distraction? To who? Perverts are looking at a girl’s cleavage, so its the girls problem?Media and society have villanized a women’s bodies, to take away their freedom.


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