Skirting the rules

Thoughts on the slacking dress code

by Elizabeth Kupferschmid staff writer

Students have been largely affected by a change in Moody’s dress code policy that was implemented last summer, but many faculty and students hold greatly varied opinions regarding the change.

Vice President and Dean of Student Life Tim Arens participated with Student Development in creating the new campus attire policy. He explained the change as an attempt to eliminate a formula of do’s and don’ts; instead calling students to a higher standard of holiness.

The desire was also to allow students more ownership of the policy by providing them with more opportunities to address others’ clothing choices. “What we were promoting at the beginning of the year was having courageous conversations with people,” Arens said.

Theology junior Will Lowery said he likes the idea of allowing students more freedom with the dress code changes, but he also believes these administrators have placed more trust in his peers than he is willing to affirm. He referred to the racial tensions that have existed on campus as an example.

“If the past year and half has seemed to prove anything, it’s that most of us don’t know how to call people out well and to have conversation without it just immediately becoming defensive,” Lowery said.

Professor of Communications Dr. Rosalie de Rosset said she is afraid that the administrators in question may be operating from a false, idealistic concept of students’ spiritual maturity.

“The supposition of those who made this decision was that students are old enough to form their own characters and need no boundaries,” she said. “That is naive and it’s irresponsible. And it is naive and irresponsible because we are in the business of helping to form character. This dress code change is a surrender to youth culture. In a time when the culture affects them more, we’re helping them less.”

Although  de Rosset said she is confident the motives of the administrators responsible for the change are sincere, she said, “I do not think that they are showing enough concern and authority.”

A concern of some students is that the vague terminology of the attire policy may be interpreted in widely ranging, and possibly inappropriate, ways. Educational ministries freshman Marissa Folz said she is concerned about the less-specific regulations because students are interpreting it from such different cultures and backgrounds.

Communications senior Hannah Lechmann said she also understands there are uncomfortable aspects that come with this increase in individuals’ freedom. “It’s almost like in the book of Romans,” she said, “when Paul is telling people, ‘Be fully convinced in your own minds.’ But at the same time, different things can be different stumbling blocks to other people, so that definitely represents its own set of challenges.”

For several faculty members, however, the more vague terminology is a positive aspect of the new campus attire policy. Professor of Communications Jill White said she does not believe there can be one absolute standard. “Everybody’s body type is different,” she said, “so I don’t think it’s easy to come up with specific standards that are appropriate across the board.”

Arens said at a point in Moody’s distant history, Moody students’ dress was monitored with a measuring stick. “At that point, what is it about?” asked Arens. It is these sort of exacting regulations that Arens said he is trying to steer away from.

Professor of Theology Dr. Bryan Litfin said he believes it is necessary not to over-regulate the attire policy. He recognized the potential for loose interpretations of the policy, but he said he does not believe the Student Life Guide should be made the final authority regarding modesty. “That is such a complex discussion, you do that in the context of pastoral relationship,” he said. “The SLG should just set general parameters and benchmarks.”

While regulations of the attire policy have been relaxed, several faculty members are adamant that the policy does not promote immodest dress. “The modesty piece has never been out of play,” said Arens. “So when I look at [the policy], is this about us saying people can be immodest? No, I don’t think it is at all. I think it speaks to those things that it always spoke to.”

White said she believes Moody students are very good at dressing modestly, though not always conventionally. “There are some students who dress in very artistic and unusual ways, but that’s different than immodest. That’s something we need to keep in mind.” 

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