UT removes ‘sexist’ dress code signs prohibiting ‘short skirts,’ 'short shorts' after feminists complain
The University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s School of Nursing removed “poorly worded” dress code signs Wednesday that discouraged students from wearing “revealing” and “distracting” clothing.
Following backlash on social media, especially from prominent feminist groups, UT officials removed four signs, all posted in elevators on campus on Tuesday. The signs prohibited midriff-baring shirts, short shorts, short skirts, low-rise pants and low-cut shirts that reveal cleavage.
“It’s important to have high professional standards for the medical profession.”
“The signs (which have been taken down) were not meant to be sexist, only to remind nursing students about the School’s dress code,” Kathryn Wiley, a spokesperson for UT’s School of Nursing told Campus Reform. “The School of Nursing is educating both men and women to go into professional clinical environments where they will be required to dress professionally.”
J.B. Bird, director of media outreach for UT, told Campus Reform in an interview that the nursing school has about 1,000 students enrolled and about 10 percent of those students are men. He said the school is always interested in increasing that number.
“If the issue is that clothing ‘distracts,’ perhaps what the UT nursing program needs to do instead of shaming or policing the clothing of female students is to instruct those who are ‘distracted’ by such clothing to stop being distracted,” Jessica Luther, a UT alumna and Austin-based activist told the San Antonio Express-News.
But Wiley and Bird emphasize that while the signs were poorly worded, they were not meant to be sexist in any way.
“It’s important to have high professional standards for the medical profession,” Bird said.
While UT does not actively implement a dress code, it’s not unusual for various professional schools within the university to find ways to help prepare students to dress in the workplace, though none of the other schools have specific dress codes, Bird said. The School of Nursing does have a dress code, and as Bird pointed out, that's no different than the majority of nursing schools across the country.
“The School of Nursing is a professional school and we often have members of the public visiting our facility; therefore, we require students to dress in a professional manner at all times,” the dress code states in a copy of the student handbook provided to Campus Reform. “There is a very specific School of Nursing uniform policy for clinical settings and within the School of Nursing building we can be a bit more relaxed; however general rules of dress still apply.”
The dress code goes on to explicitly forbid visible body piercings other than ears and the revealing clothing mentioned on the controversial signs.
“Please remember that you are representing the School of Nursing and the nursing profession,” the policy says. “As such you are expected to maintain an appropriate level of professionalism at all times.”
Despite the clear dress code policy, the school has apologized for the signs and admitted they were a “mistake.” According to Bird, the signs were taken down as they appeared to only apply to women.
“The signs we have taken down were not an accurate reflection of our policy,” the school’s official statement says. “We’re not in the business of measuring skirt lengths. We are in the business of educating a new generation of nurses.”
Bird and Wiley said the school is in the process of reviewing the dress code policy with both students and faculty weighing in on the issue.
“We want to make sure it’s presented in a way that helps communicate standards clearly,” Bird said, reiterating that the main message of the dress code — an emphasis on professionalism — will remain.
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