Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dress Code for Professors: An Update

One of my colleagues has been able to disinter the actual text of the proposal on dress code (and other similar atrocities) that our administrators with corporate pasts are trying to sneak by us:
32.7 DRESS AND PERSONAL APPEARANCE. All University employees are expected to portray a professional image to students, parents, and the community at large. An employee’s dress and appearance shall be neat and clean. At a minimum, the standard office dress code shall be defined as business casual. Apparel needs to be free of slogans or advertisements. In addition, apparel shall not be of an indecent, suggestive, provocative, obscene, or defamatory nature. If applicable, employees are encouraged to wear their university logo shirts. The University may direct an employee to leave work and/or change clothes if he/she is are found in violation of this provision.
This proposal contains so much that is offensive and purely idiotic that I hardly know where to begin. How is the cleanliness of my attire to be evaluated? Will I be required to bring dry-cleaning receipts to prove that I clean my clothes on a regular basis? Do I need witnesses to testify that I do my laundry often enough to satisfy these losers? And who will teach my classes if I'm ordered to leave for "violating the provision"? The administrators? That, surely, be fun to observe. Maybe now, whenever I'm too lazy to prepare a class, I should just show up dressed "obscenely" and be sent home to rest.

And how about "suggestive" and "provocative" clothes? What can, say, a 60-year-old male professor wear that will be deemed suggestive and provocative? Nothing comes to mind, which makes me suspect that there is not a little sexism that went into this idiotic provision. besides, different people are provoked by different things. How am I to know which part of my wardrobe our control-freak administrator du jour will find upsetting?

As for slogan-free apparel, I just ordered a shirt with a slogan on the importance of responsible journalism. I also have another T-shirt that I often wear to school and it says: "This is what a feminist looks like." Can I not wear them now? Because some idiot who has read less than I have published says so? Really?

So this is what I wrote in response to the dress code discussion that, mind you, was not initiated by the people trying to sneak this barbarity past us:
This dress code reminds me of how things were in the Soviet Union. I don't seem to be able to run fast or far enough to outrun these paternalistic Soviet practices. They always catch up with me.

Welcome to the Soviet Union, my friends!
I still remember my Soviet high school teachers running after me in school hallways and threatening to send me home for not having my hair in a braid or for my skirt being too shirt. Good times. Can't wait to relive my childhood here in an American university.

14 comments:

Lindsay said...

You're right, that *IS* offensive. And you're also right that a ban on "suggestive" or "provocative" clothing is sexist, because it's directed only at women!

(I've also read a lot about how most "professional" dress codes demand a lot more from women than from men --- men need only wear slacks, somewhat dressy shoes and a button-up shirt, and remember to bathe and shave, while women have to do all that *and* style their hair (including coloring it if you're going gray and straightening and relaxing it with seriously nasty chemicals if you're black and have "black" hair) *and* wear makeup *and* walk an invisible tightrope between looking Feminine Enough to Be Acceptable for Public View and not looking Too Feminine (which will cause people not to take you seriously! or blame you for any and all sexual harrassment you face! and possibly send you home to change after measuring your skirt with a ruler and finding it too short --- shades of childhood indeed).

KT said...

Is Democracy, Freedom and Liberty becoming unsustainable? I'm beginning to fear for what the future will look like.

Lindsay said...

Ooh, but I have a suggestion for civil disobedience of this dress code!

You wear clothing that meets every criterion on here, *EXCEPT* that each article --- skirt/pants, jacket, shirt, socks, hose, shoes --- is a different, eye-burningly bright color. You're not in violation of any part of the dress code, but you certainly don't look like they want you to look, either!

Clarissa said...

Those of my colleagues who will be teaching tomorrow are planning to protest by wearing the full regalia to class: mantle, hood, and cap. Someone suggested powdered wigs to avoid our hair being classified as inappropriate.

But your suggestion, Lindsay, is even more fun.

Richard said...

The dress code regulations conjured up by the University sound suspiciously like those used thirty years ago for military and civilian personnel working in the Pentagon. This dictum was rigidly enforced. For example, an officer of my acquaintance was actually ordered home to change because he had worn a work uniform to the office when the Navy uniform of day, every day, was Class A (one step below full dress) while at the Pentagon. The fact that he was engaged in a real time operation trying to protect an endangered Navy reconnaissance platform was less important than the fact that someone from the military or civilian hierarchy might see a Naval officer not wearing Class A’s. If this sort of thing was foolish and ill-conceived for the Pentagon, it is absolutely insane when applied to a learned and mature faculty of a State University

Sungold said...

The timing of this policy change makes me wonder whether the administration is using it as a diversionary tactic: Keep the professoriate busy with idiotic dress-code proposals and perhaps they won't notice that their compensation is being slashed while their workloads balloon. At least, that's how I would interpret such a cockeyed idea, were it to come from my school's administration.

It's also a reflection of the conformist corporate mindset that has infected upper-level university administrators. Ugh. I'm hoping you can squelch this proposal before other universities decide to emulate it!

profacero said...

Who are they targeting? Are there any specific people who really do look downright disreputable and that they are trying to get at by creating a rule?

Or is this one more new corporate policy designed by consultants in preparation for some Orwellian manoevre like getting rid of all faculty reliably professional enough to have normal hygiene at work?

Clarissa said...

"Who are they targeting? Are there any specific people who really do look downright disreputable and that they are trying to get at by creating a rule? "

-We have been trying to figure this out all day today, and nothing comes to mind. It's winter, it's cold, everybody is bundled up in warm clothes. I've been on this campus for 18 months and I am yet to see anybody dressed even remotely strange.

Clarissa said...

"The timing of this policy change makes me wonder whether the administration is using it as a diversionary tactic: Keep the professoriate busy with idiotic dress-code proposals and perhaps they won't notice that their compensation is being slashed while their workloads balloon."

-That is also a strong possibility. As I said, getting the administrators to come out directly and tell us what's going on is not easy.

chavisory said...

It's not that any single provision of the policy is unreasonable (except for the one about no logos or slogans); it's the tone that's just so condescending. Like, they trust you enough to teach, but they don't trust your judgment on how to dress professionally?

Clarissa said...

chavisory: exactly! It's not like anybody really fears that they"ll be sent home for dressing wrong. It's the humiliation of knowing that we are to be policed this way.

eric said...

Given that a great deal of the male professors whom I've known have sported beards, gotees, ponytails, skullets, earrings, and even some with tattoos, I wonder how the admin is going to police those things, given that one would seldom describe a scruffy appearance as being "professional". But I guess that's not the point--it's about testing the limits of what the faculty will tolerate as far as working conditions go, and, I suspect, an attempt to clamp down on perceived campus "radicalism" (by banning t-shirts with slogans, etc.), as an overture to those of a certain political bent who hold the state or federal purse strings.

Pagan Topologist said...

I do remember a senior male colleague several years ago who wore a necktie which had orgy pictures painted on it. I think they were copied from an urn or painting from Pompeii, if I recall correctly. I suppose this would qualify as the answer to your question:

"What can, say, a 60-year-old male professor wear that will be deemed suggestive and provocative? Nothing comes to mind, which makes me suspect that there is not a little sexism that went into this idiotic provision."

Clarissa said...

:-) :-)

I have to take my comment back, then.

Live and learn always proves to be an important maxim.