Fashion Police

Students at U. of Oklahoma discover that many pharmacy colleges care about what you wear.
August 31, 2005

Flip-flops might fly for the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse players at the White House, but the University of Oklahoma’s College of Pharmacy will have none of it.

The college e-mailed a new dress code to all 511 of its students last week, and flip-flops are a no-no. A few students said the new code is a sudden inconvenience, but Jane E. Wilson, assistant dean, said the code had been in the works for a while.

"About four years ago alumni and future employers who were visiting were commenting on how students were dressed," Wilson said. Then, a year ago, a committee was formed by student leaders, who developed a new dress code --  with input from students and faculty members, all of whom must sign and abide by it.

The new code asks students to keep midriffs covered, and to leave items like tank tops, hats, athletic shorts, and tops with spaghetti straps in the closet when they come to class.

"In a professional environment, and with professional education, we’re not only concentrating on facts and didactic material, but professional behavior and appearance,” Wilson said. She added that, so far, she has not seen anyone in the halls in open defiance of the new code.

Wilson also noted that many pharmacy colleges have dress codes. The Oklahoma code requires a collared shirt in the “experiential setting,” which consists of all internships and jobs in the pharmaceutical industry. The Medical University of South Carolina, meanwhile, requires a tie of men, and tells students that finger nails must be "clean, short, and neatly trimmed," and devoid of “extreme nail polish colors.”

What student resistance there has been, according to Wilson, was mostly over the code for the classroom setting. "We always had a dress code for the professional setting,” said Cyril Makil. “But it seems overly strict for the classroom, considering we have no contact with patients.” Makil added that some pharmacists wear tennis shoes to work. “Personally, I go to class to learn, and what somebody is wearing isn’t going to change that.”

Even there, though, Oklahoma students' couture is not as regulated as other colleges of pharmacy. The dress code at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Pharmacy in Florida requires a tie at all times. “Students inappropriately dressed or groomed may be requested to leave the campus,” the code reads.

Oklahoma recently had a speaker who told students that is not the grades, nor the manners, nor the clothes that make the professional, but rather that “all of those things together make a professional,” Wilson said.

But some students think part of being an adult is getting to make your own decisions. “We’re all in our twenties,” Makil said. “It’s kind of sad we’re being told what to wear. If somebody wears a spaghetti strap shirt, tell that individual.”
Added Aaron Heilaman, a pharmacy graduate student, in an interview with The Oklahoma Daily: “It’s ludicrous. We’re still in college. College students wear flip-flops, shorts and T-shirts.”
Makil said he has been wearing his one pair of black dress shoes all week, and that some students have had to buy new shoes for class. “It’s definitely going to be irritating,” he said.

Wilson said punishments for fashion offenders, however, will not be severe at first, probably consisting of warnings whenever possible, and then bans from college events, and perhaps a letter of reprimand in the student’s file if poor dress continues. 


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