Jokes about showing up for class in your pajamas have a grain of truth to them for some college students, but schools that actually enforce dress codes have a bit more say in what students can and cannot wear to class. It’s not uncommon for religious schools or graduate programs to have firm dress codes in place, but a dean at one historically black college has recently been in the news for banning a particular hairstyle.
Male students who are enrolled in a five-year undergraduate/MBA program at Hampton University, a historically black college (a school that was specifically established to serve black students, also known as a HBCU) located in Hampton, VA, are not allowed to have dreadlocks or cornrows in class, reports ABC’s WVEC 13 News.
Although the ban has been in place since 2001 and has occasionally caused controversy over the last decade, business school dean Sid Credle is defending the rule once again and standing by his decision.
Credle claims that it’s important to “look the part” when applying for jobs and banning dreadlocks has helped his students successfully gain employment after graduation. “We’ve been very successful. We’ve placed more than 99 percent of the students who have graduated from this school, this program,” he told WVEC.
Hampton University spokesperson Naima Ford agrees with Credle’s decision and has told the media, “These students choose to be in this program and aspire to be leaders in the business world. We model these students after the top African-Americans in the business world.”
A professional appearance may very well help students land jobs, but Credle’s comments “When was it that cornrows and dreadlocks were a part of African American history? I mean Charles Drew didn’t wear, Muhammad Ali didn’t wear it. Martin Luther King didn’t wear it,” have enraged critics and caused plenty of debate.
According to Business Insider, some students are upset and have called dreadlocks and cornrows a professional and natural look.
Daniel Luzer of Washington Monthly argues that the historical figures Credle referenced were successful many years ago, implying that times have changed. Comments following a Huffington Post article on the situation are mixed; some commenters agree with Credle while others feel that dreadlocks can in fact be professional.
Credle stands firm, going as far as saying, “If you’re going to play baseball, you wear baseball uniforms. If you’re going to play tennis, your wear tennis uniform. Well you’re playing that business.”
Dreadlocks and cornrows are not the only things prohibited on the Hampton University campus. According to the school’s dress code, “The continuous demonstration of appropriate manners and dress insures that Hampton University students meet the very minimum standards of quality achievement in the social, physical, moral and educational aspects of their lives – essential areas of development necessary for propelling students toward successful careers.”
Do-rags, stocking caps, skullcaps and bandanas are also prohibited at all times except in students’ private living quarters. Baseball caps, head coverings or hoods are also not allowed unless the headgear is part of religious / cultural dress.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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