Union Dress Codes: Do's and Don'ts

Freedom of expression is a core principle of the university, but the personal dress and appearance of staff and faculty can influence how a university is perceived. As employees, dressing appropriate for the duties of the day is the standard. In most cases staff and faculty are expected to look clean, neat, and professional when working with students and visitors, while dressing comfortably and safely for the season and the weather. 

University-wide dress codes for public institutions are fairly uncommon. Those that do have them contain broad stipulations like dress should not reflect negatively on the university, disrupt the educational process, be in violation of health codes, nor prevent recognition of the individual. Still, there are more refined standards like clothing or tattoos that are derogatory, offensive, or that contain lewd messages or pictures that may be included in a Student Bill of Rights. And some units or individual instructors may set standards within their own regimes, but only while maintaining attention to the standards within the Student Bill of Rights. 

It’s common for unique standards to be set for convocations, commencements, professional organization events, and other formal university events, but generally, meeting the broad, minimum dress standard insures students are attaining a minimum standard of achievement in social, physical, and educational aspects that are essential to propelling students toward successful careers. 

Dress standards for students and faculty alike in some circumstances serve a functional purpose: 

  • Special requirements for health and safety, such as lab coats and lab gloves, hard hats, hairnets, protective eyewear, and other specialized attire. 

  • Footwear appropriate for the work environment, including protective footwear such as steel-toed shoes or boots. 

  • Limitations on perfume and cologne use due to allergies and sensitivities experienced by others. 

  • Limitations on pull strings, zippers, and other attire that might get caught in equipment. 

As employees of a student union, the standard may be higher. From a customer service perspective and being in a position to influence or embellish the image of the campus or university itself, union employees may fall into a group that wears uniforms, name badges, and business or professional attire for special events. Additionally, if employees wear branded clothing away from work, they should recognize that what they say and do while wearing a uniform reflects directly on the university and the student union. 

Common prohibitions for student center employees include clothing with tears, frays, or holes; tank tops or sleeveless, collarless, or cutoff shirts; and shoes that would be inappropriate for the job (e.g., an employee whose job includes the lifting and moving of equipment shouldn’t wear open-toed shoes). 

And then there are leggings, which are not pants. While they may be able to be worn with dresses or long tops that hit at about mid-thigh or lower, leggings, jeggings, and tights (leggings with feet) are not pants. When working at a union, student and professional staffers are in business mode, and a common rule of business dress today is no leggings unless with the long top or dress.  



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