28 November 2011

De La Salle University Student Government Statement on the Dress Code Issue

The De La Salle University Student Government is an active member organization of the Coalition for Students' Rights and Welfare.

Good evening to the Lasallian population!

In the ongoing Student Handbook Revisions Committee, there have been both victories and small compromises for the student sector in championing pro-student changes and policies in the upcoming student handbook. Several of these victories include revising the left ID policy into a more rational yearly maximum (until you reach your sixth for your entire stay in DLSU), changing the automatic minor offense when leaving a campus pass into a small fine per day unless it is declared as lost, removing the minimum grade of 2.0 for the Latin Honors policy effective already for ID109+ students as of this 3rd term of A.Y. 2011-12, and the inclusion of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Queer) rights and political expression in the Students Charter. These changes are all still for the approval by the Academics Council (Deans, Vice-Chancellors, and Brother President); however, they are achievements in terms of getting the SHB committee to see the students’ point of view and recommend these changes.

The pressing issue at hand now is the Dress Code, and how it always seems to be a never-ending debate between students, administration, faculty, and parents.  The problem with the existing policy is that the implementation is still inconsistent, there are still loopholes, students don’t understand the objective/goal or don’t feel that the rationale of the Dress code is enough, the violation of a student is up to the word and point-of-view of the Student Discipline and Formation Office (SDFO) officer at the time which may or may not be the same as the student’s, and students end up unfairly blaming the SDFO officers when they only implement and did not make the policy. There was a move in the SHB committee by the SDFO to further clarify the existing dress code guidelines so as to explicitly state ALL possible items of clothing which should not be allowed (i.e. halter tops, sleeveless, sando, a-shirts, racerback, etc.) so as to eliminate gray areas and double standards during implementation. On the other hand, there was a proposal by the student sector not to delve into specifics on clothing but on what was truly offensive to the community (i.e. cleavage-baring, too much skin, buttocks showing, etc.). However, due to the administration and faculty’s unwavering view that even the existing guidelines are not clear enough to eliminate the rampant violation of the dress code which leads to problems in implementation, arguments on issuance of minor offense and due process, and overall conflict in the community between the students and SDFO, there was another more radical proposal to implement a standard uniform scheme in the University which will eliminate all possible areas of conflict and confusion. The proposal to have the uniform was supported by the Administration and Faculty representatives for the reasons that there would no longer be an ambiguity as to the implementation and due process of the dress code, and no more issuance of minor offenses. The student sector was against this proposal for the reasons being that it does not treat Lasallians as mature individuals capable of deciding what to wear, does not support internationalization of the University, and would hamper and constrain students’ rights, bordering on oppressing their freedom.

In assessing the Dress Code policy, one must understand and consider what are the goals of the University. By adopting a certain dress code, we recognize that DLSU has certain principles and values which it aims to uphold, such as propriety, conservatism, professionalism and respect for other people’s sensibility. It is for this purpose that we have our existing guidelines which tell us what not to wear so as not to offend other members of the community. From another perspective, the existing Dress Code tells us what NOT to wear but does not say what we should be ENCOURAGED to wear; hence, students do not also understand the end goal. It could be that we need a Dress Code that is stated in a more proactive way, listing the goals that it wants to achieve so that students would be able to appreciate the essence and follow accordingly, still with the freedom to wear what they choose within the objectives.

From this, the SHB committee identified that the goal of the Lasallian community with the dress code was to promote professionalism and practice for the workplace in the future, as well as to uphold the Lasallian values of propriety and conservatism. This is where the Smart Casual scheme arose as a possible solution to the problem. It was supported by the Administration and Faculty because it presents a lofty image of students as looking proper and intelligent not only in the community but outside as well, and might lead them to act more maturely. Also, it would eliminate any possibility of questionably proper articles of clothing (such as sandos, slippers, tube tops, etc.) leading to a generally properly-dressed student population. On the other hand, these are the student sector’s arguments against the smart casual scheme:
  • There is no directly proven correlation between the attire and maturity of an individual, or the attire and learning capacity of a student in the University. Universities in Singapore, such as NUS and SMU, do not adopt dress code attires and yet are two of the top universities in the world.
  • The smart casual attire may not apply to all work environments, which range from the corporate world (business attire) to other non-traditional industries, such as the fashion industry, where a flexible, not necessarily conservative, and evolving attire is the norm.
  • Students prioritize practicality in choosing their everyday attire, considering that majority commute, take public transportation, and are subject to the tropical weather most of the time outside classes and when going to and from school.
  • Not all students would have a smart casual kind of attire in their closets, nor the extra income to purchase such attire.
  • And that currently, there is no direct link /document/teaching that teaches us that to be a Lasallian equates to wearing a smart casual attire.

Given this and many other reasons/arguments stated by students and student leaders, the USG is taking a stand against the Smart Casual scheme and will finalize this through a Legislative Assembly resolution this week laying out all possible arguments against the said policy. On our part as student representatives in the SHB Committee, we will not agree to implementing a Smart Casual attire in the University next A.Y. 2012-2013.

On another note, it is important to understand that the student sector cannot win all battles and that as leaders, we must choose and prioritize which battles to fight. In terms of the SHB policy revisions, we know that we have achieved several very crucial and life-changing policies for students (i.e. Latin honors, ID policy). However, it is our judgment that in this certain issue, we cannot stubbornly fight to eradicate the Dress code policy and expect to win. Realistically, if we as the student sector simply voted against the Dress Code, we would be outvoted by both the Administration and Faculty sector and would not be able to achieve any improvement in the current system. What could be even worse is that we would not have fought for the small compromises in the possible policy, which may still have protected the interests of students.

Thus, our action now as the USG is to take a concrete stand against the Smart Casual scheme and to form a Technical Working Group which will meet to craft a more improved, concrete, and feasible proposal to the SHB committee which would take into account the interests of the other sectors of the community as well as the students. This working group would be composed of the USG Executive Board, College Presidents, Political Party presidents, Debate Society, and other leaders who are interested in contributing to this effort. Our goal is to accomplish a concrete proposal in time to present it to the SHB committee during the next meeting on Dec. 1, 2011.

I would like to ask the Lasallian students in the meantime to offer any constructive input, arguments, opinions and ideas that you might have to both the Legislative Assembly drafting the resolution against the Smart Casual scheme, or to the Technical Working Group crafting revised guidelines on the dress code policy. All of your input will be highly appreciated and helpful, and more than ever, you can all contribute in making the policies that will affect us for the next three years. Please email any input to the usg@dlsu.ph as soon as possible.

I pray that in the next few days to come, all of us students would be more critical yet open-minded at the same time, understanding that we do not just consider our rights as students but also our responsibilities and always in the perspective of what is best for the entire Lasallian community.  Needless to say, students will be represented in this matter and in all future policies and issues.

Let’s all pray for the most optimal result.


Camille Aquino
DLSU USG President

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