Dress codes in colleges have traditionally straddled a fine line between promoting discipline and encroaching on personal freedoms. In a world where individual expression is valued more than ever, the debate on college attire and the boundaries educators should maintain sparked between online users.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Colleges continually grapple with the challenge of maintaining a respectful environment while allowing personal freedom. While some advocate for formal dress codes to prepare students for professional settings, others see it as an infringement on personal freedom.
  • Professors should maintain professional boundaries when interacting with students. Making unsolicited remarks about students’ attire can affect students’ self-esteem and perception of the academic environment.
  • U.S. colleges vary in their dress code implementation. While some prioritize student autonomy, others might set specific dress codes reflecting school values. However, it’s vital that policies are fair, non-discriminatory, and evolve with societal norms.

Dress codes in colleges have always been a topic of debate. While some institutions enforce a formal attire policy to instill discipline and a sense of community, others advocate for a more relaxed approach, believing it fosters individual expression and comfort. Advocates of strict dress codes argue that it prepares students for professional environments, while critics see it as an infringement on personal freedom. In an educational setting, the question arises: should appearance be prioritized, or should the focus solely be on academic performance and character? The balance between maintaining a respectful environment and allowing personal freedom is a challenge colleges continually grapple with.

One of the students, who shared her unfortunate experience on Reddit, has been asked by a professor to not wear skirts in class. The author mentioned that her professor even pulled her aside to ask if she wore shorts underneath the skirt, which OP always does. The professor advised them not to wear skirts anymore, citing reasons such as ‘it makes the professors, especially male ones, uncomfortable’ and ‘it’s like people can see your insides already’, which is absolutely outstanding in the worst way possible.

i also asked her something along the lines of ‘oh who has a problem with it?’ and she said that she knows her colleagues and what they talk about. i then asked her ‘has anyone complained about it?’ she literally said ‘yeah ME’ ?!?! this is my 2nd week of college so i’m confused?

The user shared a photo of a similar outfit to what she was wearing that day.

Professor Scolded a Student For Inappropriate Attire, Although the University Doesn’t Have a Dress Code

Many users flocked to the post, sharing their opinions. Eventually, the original commenter posted a follow-up, explaining that her school permits any attire that conceals the genitals, buttocks, and nipples. They eliminated the dress code to address issues of sexual objectification, discrimination, and shaming. Additionally, the decision to remove it stemmed from its specific targeting of women and its foundation in a sexist and paternalistic perspective. So, was it necessary for the professor to express dress code concerns in such a way?

Was the Professor Right?

Professors hold a position of authority and influence in educational institutions, making it crucial for them to maintain professional boundaries, especially when interacting with students. However, there have been instances where professors have overstepped these boundaries by commenting on their students’ attire. Such unsolicited remarks can not only be deemed inappropriate but can also have detrimental effects on the student’s self-esteem, confidence, and perception of the academic environment. 

Many users took a strong stance against the words of the professor mentioned and considered her comments to be way out of line for an educator.

A tennis skirt with shorts is not inappropriate. Your professor commenting on your clothing and insinuating that male professors have a problem with it is super inappropriate.”

This is WILDLY inappropriate of her to say.”

One Redditor shared their own experience and the position of their university in similar situations. There is an expectation for the faculty, regardless of student attire, to maintain a level of professionalism.

The women at my university wear shorts so short you can’t always tell they’re wearing bottoms under their t-shirt. The faculty are still expected to behave appropriately despite this.”

Furthermore, focusing on a student’s clothing rather than their academic contributions can divert attention from the primary purpose of education. It is essential for educational institutions to address and prevent such behaviors. It can be achieved by maintaining a respectful and inclusive environment where students feel valued for their intellectual capacities rather than their choice of clothing.

Common College Dress Code Norms in the United States

In U.S. colleges and universities, the implementation of dress codes varies widely. Some institutions may have relaxed or minimal guidelines and prioritize the autonomy and freedom of their students. Others might implement more specific dress codes to maintain a certain level of decorum or to reflect the school’s values and traditions. These codes are often in place to foster a focused academic environment or uphold a professional image, especially in settings like medical or law schools where students might interact with the public. 

However, it’s crucial that these policies are fair, non-discriminatory, and respectful of individual rights, ensuring that they don’t inadvertently target or marginalize specific groups of students. As societal norms and values evolve, many institutions revisit and revise their dress codes to ensure they are in alignment with contemporary standards of inclusivity and fairness.

For example, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has a policy that should be implemented but other schools in the area. According to it, schools need to think carefully when creating dress codes, considering changing views on culture and identity. Dress codes shouldn’t be biased. They should:

  1. Allow clothing and hairstyles related to a person’s identity. This includes religious headwear, disability-related attire, hair accessories, long or short hair, locs, braids, and twists.
  2. Be the same for everyone, regardless of gender. Moreover, boys can wear skirts or jewelry; girls don’t have to wear dresses.
  3. Not ban clothing just because it might distract someone or is linked to one gender, like miniskirts or tank tops.

Instead, schools can ask all students to wear clothes that cover private areas, which is a general norm for any educational institution. 

However, not every college is as inclusive as this. Hampton University, per se, has guidelines that prohibit wearing head coverings “in any building”. If a student wants to wear, let’s say, a headscarf or a hijab, they should issue a formal request through the Office of the Chaplain. Then, the Chaplain will forward the recommendation to the Vice President for Administrative Services for final approval, which many students deem unnecessary and oppressive. 

Colleges should strike a balance when implementing dress codes. While it’s essential to uphold an academic environment by avoiding highly revealing attire, the guidelines must respect diverse religious beliefs and traditions. Garments worn for religious observance should always be permitted. Moreover, dress codes should refrain from enforcing outdated gender stereotypes. For instance, a policy shouldn’t dictate that only women wear skirts or only men wear ties. By blending modesty with inclusivity, colleges can create an environment that respects individuality which is highly important for young adults.

How to File a Complaint Against a College Professor

Addressing concerns about your college professor can be a sensitive issue. However, if you believe that your academic experience is being compromised due to inappropriate behavior, unfair grading practices, or any other professional misconduct, it’s essential to take appropriate steps. Speaking up can not only help you but can also benefit other students and the institution as a whole.

One of the users spoke out in favor of documenting the situation via email and taking it further in case the student feels like it. They added that the author of the original post should be prepared and send her an letter regarding the incident.

I’d send her an email and let her know that her comments about your attire made you uncomfortable and ask her to not make any more comments on your clothes again in the future. Be specific about the comments she made. Sending an email like this serves to document the interaction, and if there are any further incidents you can forward it to a Title IX office (assuming you are in the US). Your professor should not be making comments like this unless your attire was seriously inappropriate, and if your attire was that inappropriate your professor would have emailed you about it to serve as documentation on their end.”

The general advice in most cases is to contact the Office of Student Affairs, or the university’s equivalent, and ask them how they prefer to receive the complaint. However, this isn’t the only thing to remember when filing such a complaint, because it isn’t your regular academic assignment. Here are some tips for writing a complaint about a professor’s behavior, be it about dress code or another issue:

  1. Stay Professional: Always keep your language respectful and objective. Refrain from using personal attacks or overly emotional language.
  2. Be Specific: Clearly outline the issues you’ve encountered. Use specific examples, dates, and any other relevant details to support your claims.
  3. Gather Evidence: If you have any supporting documents, such as emails, graded assignments, or class materials, include them or reference them in your complaint.
  4. Maintain Confidentiality: Avoid discussing your complaint with other students or on social media. This can protect both your privacy and the professor’s.
  5. Follow Procedures: Check your college’s official procedures for filing complaints. Some institutions may have designated forms or channels for this.
  6. Seek Feedback: Before submitting, consider showing your complaint to a trusted person to ensure clarity and objectivity.
  7. Stay Open to Resolution: Be prepared for follow-ups, meetings, or mediations as the college investigates your concerns.

Remember, the goal is to achieve a fair resolution that ensures a conducive learning environment for everyone, not get revenge on the educator in question.


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