Trust in transparency

Open communication needed in conversation regarding dress expectations

Over+the+past+three+weeks%2C+discussions+of+the+enforcement+of+dress+code+have+spilled+over+to+lunch+tables%2C+taken+over+Instagram+posts+and+generated+polarizing+conversations+in+class.+%0AStudents+argued+that+their+commitment+to+embrace+diversity%2C+love+of+learning+and+obligations+to+foster+kindness+and+integrity%2C+as+stated+in+Harker%E2%80%99s+mission+statement%2C+ought+to+be+the+metric+for+respect%2C+not+apparel.

Michelle Liu

Over the past three weeks, discussions of the enforcement of dress code have spilled over to lunch tables, taken over Instagram posts and generated polarizing conversations in class. Students argued that their commitment to embrace diversity, love of learning and obligations to foster kindness and integrity, as stated in Harker’s mission statement, ought to be the metric for respect, not apparel.

In a survey sent out to members of the Harker Journalism news staff, 38 of the 41 respondees indicated that they agreed with the stance of this editorial. One respondee partially agreed.

Over the past three weeks, discussions of the enforcement of dress code have spilled over to lunch tables, taken over Instagram posts and generated polarizing conversations in class. 

At the school meeting on Aug. 30, Dean of Students Kevin Williamson delivered an announcement informing students of acceptable attire. 

Williamson followed up with emails on Aug. 31 and Sept. 3, asking students to review the guidelines in the Student Handbook and noting that student organizations such as Associated Student Body (ASB), Student Diversity Coalition (SDC) and Honor Council would act as moderators in the process of examining the frustrated sentiments stemming from the strict enforcement of the dress code after Williamson’s initial announcement. 

On behalf of the student community, we noticed that the contention wasn’t caused by the existence of the dress code. It was catalyzed by phrasing the administration used, stating that dress defined respect for our environment. Furthermore, the immediate enforcement of the guidelines after Mr. Williamson’s initial email did not provide students with enough time to obtain appropriate clothing. 

On the other hand, students’ scathing remarks on social media and in conversations with their peers have not worked toward a resolution. Instead, they only fuel the fire. While dress is the topic of contention, the root of the issue lies in the lack of trust between members of our community, stemming from our time apart. Sudden and strict enforcement of vague guidelines for dress does not contribute to a positive learning environment, but neither do charged conversations. Students and administration must work together to create a set of mutually agreed upon rules.

The town hall on Sept. 8, which saw attendance of 70 to 100 students and 27 speakers, was a step in the right direction, as it provided a platform for students to be heard by the administration and express their opinions without fear of retribution, facilitating civilized conversations between students and administrators to settle the issue. Instead of expressing frustrations in private, build trust by communicating with the administration in the following ways: participate in future town hall discussions, contact your student leaders or send your opinions to Harker Aquila so that we can include your voice in our coverage.  

Follow up conversation with transparency. Members of ASB, Honor Council, SDC, Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), and FEM club will represent student interests in an effort to continue conversations with the administration regarding dress code. Updates from these meetings should be distributed to the upper school community.

Even after resolving the contention around the dress code, anticipate that future events will cause the same erosion of trust between students and administration. By rebuilding trust, we also create a blueprint for the future.”

Even after resolving the contention around the dress code, anticipate that future events will cause the same erosion of trust between students and administration. By rebuilding trust, we also create a blueprint for the future.

For more about the history of Harker’s dress code, read Muthu’s commentary and context about this topic on “Twill pants to tank tops: The decade-long evolution of the dress code” on Aquila