(Via Minding the Campus). Paul Quinn is a private college affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and its friends conducted a clothing drive such that no student would lack for the proper garb. The interim president, who wrote the essay, correctly invokes the dignity of segregation-era leaders, whose work accelerated integration of the public universities. Perhaps such steps would not have been required in a world in which the common schools were doing their job, socializing the young into the ways of the middle class.
We are charged with the responsibility of preparing our students to assume a leadership role in business, and we can no longer pretend that their attire isn't one aspect of that preparation. In order for our students to seamlessly transition into the corporate landscape, they require lessons in business etiquette and practices. At Paul Quinn, those lessons are now occurring daily.
However, it was not too long ago that this type of requirement would not have been so newsworthy. Historically, our nation's black colleges and universities required their students to dress appropriately when attending classes or other campus functions. I grew up listening to my mother and other family members talk about Dillard University's "expectations for dress."
A review of yearbooks from the not-too-distant past at Howard University, Spelman College and Hampton University, along with our own at Paul Quinn, shows students attending classes in ties and dresses. They looked like the younger version of the leaders they grew up to become.
Yet, somewhere along the path of evolution, we as college administrators began to acquiesce to shifting societal norms and stopped expecting our students to attend class prepared to conduct the business of learning. Instead, we allowed class to be treated as a brief respite between parties and athletic events. In this respect, we have decided to turn back the hands of time.
No doubt, the use of business standards of appearance as well as the differential tuitions for business degrees will provoke objections from some quarters of the academy.