BY CALEB BAMWESIGA
Emily Natukunda was a fresh student when she was implicated in a dress code violation on her first day at Uganda Christian University (UCU).
“A security guard at the main gate told me that my dress was very short and that I should go back to my hostel and change,” Natukunda recalls. “I felt embarrassed and being new to the university this was already stressful time.”
Just like Natukunda, a female graduad who appeared in a revealing skirt on the Graduation Day annoyed the vice-chancellor. Whereas she was allowed to attend the event to the end, she was not given her certificates until she made a public apology to the university community.
The graduate returned during one of the community worship hours and asked for forgiveness. That is how strict UCU takes the dress code. Many students have fallen victim of the dress code policy, which the university is implementing without fear or favour.
Last month, the university’s management took the policy even a notch higher by putting up signs around the different entry points to the university to emphasise the dress code.
The signs have pictures of students both male and female dressed decently and are intended to influence students and staff.
The Standard learnt that the signs are the initiative of the office of the Director of Students Affairs (DOSA), Bridget Mugume Mugasira, who told The Standard that her office is using the university’s professional niche and character to promote the dress code policy.
“If a student is dressed indecently, you ask them if they are aware that their dress code violates the university dress code policy,” she said. “Then inform them that the employment world outside relies on our students because of the positive professional impression.”
Monica Ntege, the university librarian and one of the opinion leaders in the university, says the dress code policy should be looked at in positively for its benefits.
“Students must adhere to the dress code because we are training them to dress for the professional world and beyond. Employers take dressing very seriously, and we also believe appearance is an important component our students and graduates should have as a package for a complete person for a complete education,” she said.
She noted that students clothes can be distracting if they are too ostentatious, suggestive and revealing.
Mugasira suggested that it should be a collective responsibility between staff and students to enforce the policy. One of the faculties which have done their best in promoting the dress code is the Law Faculty where the law society enforces a strict dress code for the students.
Many law students dress in suits and they are usually distinct on the compound. Mrs Roselyne Karugongo Segawa, the dean of law, told The standard that they encourage law students to keep the professional dress code, specifically the black, grey and navy-blue colours.
“Law students’ events require a dress code, whether it is at a moot, a career’s fair or a panel. It’s by law that a lawyer has to dress that way when representing his clients in court and the judge can’t allow him to proceed without appearing dressed professionally,” said Karugongo.
Karugongo noted that on some days like Mondays and Tuesdays, every law student has to be dressed in a suit and tie to give students a ‘feel’ that they belong to a law college and are upcoming lawyers. This encourages students to project a consistent image.
The Standard has learnt that the deans of student from other faculties were recently tasked to emulate law and come up with a dress code for their students, which many are trying to design and enforce.
But enforcing the dress code has not been easy for staff particularly the security guards at the gates who interact with those who don’t comply.
Charles Nahamya, the chief security officer, told The Standard that their biggest challenge is the definition of indecent dressing.
“Sometimes our perception of indecency is misconstrued for being harsh, and lack of customer care for the university’s visitors,” he said. “We are isolated and perceived as the bad group.”
Nahamya added that his desire would be that all stakeholders play their role.
Suzan Aguti, a fourth-year law student and former guild vice-president, told The Standard that UCU’s dress code policy is a good thing which needs emphasis. “The university should do enough sensitisation besides orientation about the dress code,” she said.
“Students are not very sure about the dress code and that is why someone comes to class dressed anyhow,” she said.
The Guild President, Mr Timothy Kadaga, promised to meet the security department to discuss the issue of implementation of the dress code.
“My government is ready to work with the security department where need be to make sure we achieve the intention of the dress code,” said Kadaga.
In one of his recent articles in The standard, the Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, said, “For the fashions of the world are in a state of unending flux. For members of the sisterhood club, the offer of new fashions is big industry. Furthermore, appearances are our perennial preoccupation; it matters how we step out into the public arena.”
Because of the emphasis on the dress code, students in other universities criticise their colleagues at UCU that they are in high school. However, the employers out there appear to have fallen for decent UCU graduates.