Recently there have been discussions in American University of Kuwait (AUK), which has purported that European style dress code has taken over the institution. Essentially, one student took centre stage during a recent cultural event. She showcased attires, which were not really aligning with what Kuwaiti culture would appreciate and endorse. This instigated a debate on whether the institution should take a more pro-active role in “policing” the type of clothing that students should wear while they are in the institution. Interestingly, a considerable number of students from both Europe and Kuwait did not mind the attires and they passionately appreciated the fashion. It seems that most girls in AUK prefer to dress in a similar manner that girls in Europe would dress. However, this puts the students and the institution at logger heads. Such European fashion is likely to put to test the definitions of dressing decently and in a dignified manner (Clemente 12).
It is common knowledge that the definitions of dressing decently and observing dignity are different in Europe and in Kuwait. Some students may perceive AUK as an extension of western culture while others perceive it as an Arabic institution that adheres to the Arabic culture. The institution has to give guidance on where the boundaries ought to be established in order to ensure that AUK’s dress code is not violated (Clemente 12).
AUK has an adopted student code of conduct, which defines the regulations on student dress. The dress code heavily borrows from the Islamic and Kuwaiti culture and the institution has stated in the student code of conduct that a student’s appearance or attire should draw more attention towards a learning situation instead of an individual. AUK’s code asks students to respect the institution together with its values through dressing decently and appropriately. The institution has a task of ensuing that the students’ follow the dress code to the letter. However, when one looks at how students dress while in AUK’s environs, it is correct to state that the institution is on a go slow while enforcing the dress codes rules (Muborakshoeva 16).
The code demands certain standards such as the length of girls’ skirt to be at a certain minimum and mostly promotes the wearing of business casual and this suits most of the students. Attire such as shorts is preferred to be worn on athletic playing fields during sports and other physical activities. The institution does not prefer clothing that is too tight, too baggy, or revealing as well as bottoms and tops, which do not overlap. Except during special event days, clothing such as caps, hats, scarves and sweatbands are discouraged. Students are also advised to desist from wearing clothes that reveal certain body piercings other than the ears that can be considered extreme. The code also discourages unnaturally coloured hair, which can have distracting colours such as green, blue, purple, red, yellow that disrupt the education process. High platform shoes, girls’ skirt that fall short of reaching mid-thigh or are shorter have been prohibited (Muborakshoeva 17).
A number of students have expressed that AUK should ensure that all students respect social values and Kuwait’s religious tradition. They have also noted that they are not against change or preference in dress code, but the changes and preferences ought to be gradual and sensitive to social values and traditions. As much as other students want to express their freedom through their attires, it should not be at the expense of others who would perceive it as an insult. If foreign fashion is to be implemented in AUK, then appropriate measures should be put in place to ascertain that the change in itself will not be a great violation to an already established dress code. In general, these students want the dress code to remain culturally and ethically sensitive even when other’s choice of dressing is influenced by European fashion (Muborakshoeva 26).
Those supporting strict dress code have the opinion that the institution should undertake great courage and face those students who criticize the institution’s dress code. They have purported that the ideas that guided publishing of the dress code suits the AUK and its immediate community, which is the Kuwaiti people and it should not necessarily suit the European culture. Rather than students emulating uncritically, the students should join the institution and focus on drawing on AUK’s legacy and customs (Muborakshoeva 33).
Those students who dress like they are in Europe purport that AUK’s environment is friendly for such type of dressing. These students have expressed that AUK is a modern and international learning institution, which is capable of adapting to the culture of students from various parts of the world. Limiting or restricting certain ways of dressing will be a backward undertaking for an institution of such calibre. A lot of students learn from their counterparts from various parts of the world not just academically, but also culturally and fashion wise. When students dress diversely, they expose other students to a different form of culture, which probably in the future these native students will find themselves as part and parcel (Clemente 32).
Other students have expressed that dressing diversely is a way of displaying progressive thinking. AUK’s dress code has various limitations that have been guided by religion and culture. Through embracing a different form of culture, students have been able to explore new schools of thought that are not limited with religion and culture. These students also believe that in order for AUK to match other institutions in the international education market then it must embrace diversity and conscience freedom. AUK is also likely to increase its international standards ratings in offering foreign education programmes as more students from the diaspora will opt for a university that observes cultural freedom and diversity. AUK will also experience extensive cooperation and collaboration with other international institutions. Most importantly, it has been observed that the Arabic and Islamic culture cannot be destroyed by just students wearing clothes in a European context (Clemente 44).
Learning institutions from time to time usually conduct thorough upgrade and revisions of their educational models and resources. This is with the objective of ensuring that their students receive the best education that they can offer. With this regard, learning institutions should also review their student code of conduct, especially the dress code in order for it to match the ever changing cultural perspective and preferences of this century. Students should be allowed to wear what suits them and what they wear should not necessarily be defined by religious or traditional practices, more so in an institution such as AUK, which hopes to expand the knowledge of these same students. However, the choice of dressing that a student should wear ought to always observe dignity and decency. A learning institution is a place where knowledge is always in action as academics both tutors and students interact. Knowledge instils creativity and freedom of thinking, and these can be seen when individuals have the capability of expressing themselves freely through what they say and wear. Therefore, as the AUK lets knowledge roam freely within its environs, it should in the same way let students roam within the institutions environs with their own preference of dress code.
- Clemente, Deirdre. Dress Casual: How College Students Redefined American Style, Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014. Print.
- Muborakshoeva, Marodsilton. Islam and Higher Education: Concepts, Challenges and Opportunities, Routledge, 2013. Print.