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October 17th, 2009
09:21 AM ET

College Dress Code Debate

Morehouse College in Atlanta, a historically African-American school known for some pretty distinguished and notable graduates like Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, civil rights leader Julian Bond and former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. Young men took pride in how they looked and carried themselves across the campus. When Doctor King went there men wore neck-ties and jackets. Well, fast-forward to 2009 where some young men are wearing sagging pants, lewd-T-shirts, pajamas or even women's clothes to class. Now Morehouse is taking a stance and implenting a policy for students to wear more appropriate attire. Do you think colleges should have dress codes? We want to hear your thoughts.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. MDA.

    There needs to be dress codes in all schools to teach kids they cant go apply for jobs with there pants falling down or earrings all over there face

    October 17, 2009 at 9:31 am |
  2. Elaine

    Kudos for morehouse. It's about time we take control of shaping our youth. We need more people/institutions who are willing to stand up to the plate and show our youth that dressing like slobs will only get them treated like slobs.

    October 17, 2009 at 9:32 am |
  3. Mike

    In the real world there are dress codes. If colleges prepare you for the real world, then there should be dress codes.

    October 17, 2009 at 10:23 am |
  4. Jarvis

    When I was in college, I saw students in there pajamas and crazy other clothes. Some of the girls look like they woke up and walked straight out the door. Hair not done. One lady came to class with her rollers in her head. Jarvis from Anderson-SC

    October 17, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  5. Marcus

    The Morehouse story is discriminatory, and yeah the school has history. I went to a school that had a lot of history, but you are trying to tell adults that pay to go to the school that they can not express themselves. That is a violation of free speech, and I do not agree with you TJ and Betty. I went to school with men who wore women’s clothing and women that wore men’s clothing, but they did not do that in interviews for jobs. You are not getting paid to go to college it is the other way around.

    October 17, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  6. Vic in Canada

    I have to ask...what is a grill?
    Geesh..I must be old.

    October 17, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  7. Doud


    I've often looked at people with these "grills" in their mouths or the saggy pants and wondered what they're thinking. It's not just blacks doing it, it's whites, asians and hispanics too. I'm here to tell you that it looks nothing short of ridiculous. I don't look on those people that wish to dress like that as "expressing themselves". I look at them as imitating the comic book lifestyle and looks of major hip-hop artists. By the way, I have the same dim view of those that try to look like Marilyn Manson and dress gothic. It's a shame!

    October 17, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  8. Amy

    I am a teacher and totally agree with this story. Students need to be aware that they are representatives of their community and family. Oftentimes, kids do not have the structure they need at home and we, the educators, are often the ones to have to administer values and social structure. If you watched Steve Perry's discussion with TJ, it's not just about freedom of speech nor holding onto a long held legacy, it's about showing and demonstrating respect for oneself and others.

    October 17, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  9. Vic in Canada

    @ Amy....well said

    October 17, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  10. David Royall

    Dress codes in schools should start well before kids reach college.

    October 17, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  11. Ron

    We are NOT talking about "kids" we are talking about ADULTS that are PAYING (some with their own money) to go to school. I went to one of the most liberal and prestigous colleges in the country. Our peer institutions were Vasser, Brandeis and Swathmore and we wore......WHATEVER THE HELL WE LIKED!!!! I say that with such angst because it's ridiculous to ask these kids to follow a dress code because your assuming they don't know NOT to show up looking a mess to interviews. I think that it happens sometimes but those cases DON'T outweigh the majority who suit up and look presentable. College is a time to find who you are.....You may become vegan for a month or two, try the goth thing for a while, do the hippie thing for a while but at the end of it all you discover who you truly are and treasure those times of experimental adventure away from home......The ONLY pass I give Morehouse is that it is a PRIVATE college and because of that it can impose whatever rules and regulations it wants but I think it's kind of unfair to the men who attend. Hold them accountable for their dress don't impose a dress code.......

    October 17, 2009 at 11:32 am |
  12. Jes

    I totally agree. I work for a University and lately have noticed a total degredation of any kind of effort toward personal appearance, more so with women than with men. I'm not all that old, only a 27 year-old grad student myself but when I see people just roll out of bed with mess hair, sweats and those horrible UGGs I wonder "do these people take where they are seriously?" Lounge wear is for lounging, for that time when you are in your house. When you leave your house you should be presentable to the wide array of people you meet and MAY meet. I shouldn't feel dressed up walking around campus with Jeans on, but I do. And I know these kids aren't up so late studying that they can't put themselves together in the morning. There are studies correlating personal appearance to conduct and motivation in classrooms and outside.

    October 17, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  13. Kurt S.

    When presenting the issue of a Dress Code at Morehouse College, TJ Holmes made a casual statement about uniforms in schools reducing school violence. His statement reflects one of the most common myths of the school "uniformer" movement. According to all the research I have found on this issue, uniforms have not been shown to be effective by themselves at reducing school violence. I invite anyone else interested in this issue to investigate further for themselves and to better understand what is happening to parental rights and the rights of our children in this country. School Uniforms and Standardized Dress is a major national issue.

    October 17, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  14. roz

    I hear a lot of blacks complain about not being treated equally, but those baggy pants and some other "accessories" are from prison culture (if it can even be called culture)! So if you don't want to be treated like criminal – don't dress like one! I always enjoy seeing a man dressed to impress, weather black or white or any other color. There are many more ways to express yourself without looking like idiot. How do their mothers let them out of the house like that?

    October 17, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  15. La Donna

    There's nothing wrong with setting standards. When men sign up to go to this prominent school, they should know what the standards are supposed to be. It isn't just about paying more to earn the prestigious title of "Morehouse Man". They can always go to a public institution and do as they please. No one is forcing them to attend. There should be no qualms about the school setting standards on paper – they were always assumed and have been taken for granted. You don't see stories like this about Princeton or Cambridge. Way to go, Morehouse!

    October 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  16. PR Professor

    I understand clothing fads and I respect a person's right to self-expression. However, when your self-expression is offensive and distracting to others in a public setting, I think you need to re-think how you present yourself. The classroom is a place for learning and I enforce a conservative dress code in all of the classes I teach. It is human nature that when we dress properly, we behave properly. Students want to be respected as young adults, but I find that many of them are not prepared to accept the responsibilities that go with being an adult.

    When female students wear plunging necklines, breasts falling out of their clothes, mini-skirts and hot pants with their rear ends hanging out...when male students wear sagging trousers exposing their underwear, hair ungroomed, caps and hats, etc., it sends a message to me that you are still immature and foolish. You want the world to meet you on your terms without any respect for others who must share a particular space with you.

    I could show up for class dressed in mini-skirts, low-cut tops, exposing my midriff, wearing 5-inch "you-know-what" heels. But I want to be taken seriously in the classroom. I want to be respected. I want my students to focus on learning...not on my appearance. I respect my students too much to present myself in that way, and I expect and earn their respect in return.

    Morehouse needs to institute a dress code immediately,

    October 17, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  17. Ron

    YOU ALL ARE KIDDING ME!! I see a lot of teachers commenting but how many of you are "Professors" because I think it makes a difference when talking about high school and college. Cornel West is one of the MOST respected authors and professors alive today.. He is tenured faculty at Yale (I think or is it Princeton) Anywho, his hair is Don King-like very unkept and all over the place. It obviously doesn't interfer with his image or students learning. Just teach, that is your job get out of the students lives that don't involve the classroom it's none of your business. If it's NOT disrupting your class it shouldn't matter. I don't know what schools you all teach at because although we dressed as we pleased when I was in undergrad when we had "Senior interview days" we transformed into young professionals because we wanted to work. Don't expect adult behavior from the students you teach when you treat them like children and are basically laying out their clothes for them every morning like my mom did when I was young......

    October 17, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  18. K. Antoinette London

    I don't feel that this is discriminatory or violating a persons first amendment right. My interpretation of this report, is that the administration does not want their students misrepresenting what Morehouse College stands for. Think about it, what message are you conveying to the public, if they see a Morehouse student in pajamas, "doo rags", or anything else absolutely ridiculous? First impressions last forever.

    October 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm |
  19. Gerald Jones

    I’m a college senior and personally I don't think it matters what I where to class or in my leisure. This isn't high school. If I have a Differential Equations Class at 7am and I get there I would say 90% of the students wouldn't even notice what I had on because we’re spending our money to get that knowledge. Once that class starts everyone is concentrating on the difficult course material. While I can understand them wanting to change the dress code in the class room but in someone’s own free time... It’s crazy… Is this in the dorms on campus too…The eateries… Can u talk a walk in the morning in your pajamas?

    I worked as a tech rep part-time for a major satellite company in Houston, TX. We were allowed to wear shorts and t-shirts on the weekends and have dress up days during the week because they believed it would increase productivity and lower the employee turnover rate... It is a successful program. We had pajama day… sports day… retro day… (HR appropriate) Wearing pajama bottoms is not the end of the world. Yes this college has a reputation but so do many others that don’t have dress codes as pervasive as this. Rice University or MIT. Let us be comfortable before we’re forced to conform to the monotony of a 40 work week for 40 years… And also stop worrying about all these racial stigmas… Ultimately the school can do whatever it wants and say if u don’t like it go to another school… but seriously…

    October 17, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  20. Paul Jones

    I want to first say, that it is WRONG to discriminate against anyone for any reason. With that said, I attended a college in the Atlanta area and have spent a considerable amount of time on the campus of Morehouse College. I applaud the College for establishing a standard of professionalism and tack. HOWEVER, as I read the actual article posted on CNN's website, the tone of this newly imposed policy was to respond to those gentlemen who live a homosexual lifestyle and feel the need to express themselves by wearing clothing categorized for women. I think it's wrong and close-minded of the institution to restrict one's individuality and sense of self. The last time I checked, Morehouse is not on a mission to send mindless and heartless robots back into society. Morehouse has prided its institution to raise up and nurture LEADERS: men who are not afraid to go against the grain and stand for what they believe in. I do feel that all individuals, especially my fellow black brothers, should have integrity and respect for themselves and their fellow man. However, in that integrity and respect, one must recognize, respect, and tolerate those that may not fit one's norm or status quo in order to work harmoniously to achieve a common goal.

    October 18, 2009 at 1:49 am |
  21. pjeff

    If the "they're paying to be there so they should be able to do whatever they want" is misguided. If that's the case, why have any code of conduct at all? Why require that they even come to class or complete assignments? Why not just take the check and mail the degree? Oh, there are schools like that, but colleges like Morehouse are chosen by students because they set a certain standard. People who are more concerned about "expressing themselves" through their appearance than they are about their education and the image that they portray and represent would best be served by an online degree. That way they can wear whatever the heck they want to "class."

    One last point: Students do pay to go to school, but at most colleges, they also have to apply for admission. That means the school can choose who to accept and who to reject. Anyone who is not willing to follow the rules is free to apply elsewhere, just as the school is free to refuse them admission.

    October 21, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  22. kiki

    I think you all are CRAZY. It is so ridiculous to have dress code in college. Its one thing to tell middle school and high school students what to wear, but these are college students. All they want to do is learn. Who cares what they are wearing. If it isn't bothering anyone or disrupting anyones learning, then let them dress as they please. And I also think that students know that there are times when they need to dress professional and they do. How they dress to learn is what they want. If thats how they want to carry themselves, well so be it.

    November 2, 2009 at 1:39 pm |