On Monday, Aug. 19, students experienced their first opportunity to wear shorts and caps in classes and chapel on Harding’s campus. The first day of classes marked exactly one month since students received an email from President Bruce McLarty on July 19 detailing changes to the dress code policy in the Harding University Student Handbook.
With the new dress code policies, students are now permitted to wear mid-thigh shorts in classes and chapel. The rule restricting caps in classes and chapel was also removed. However, men are still required to remove their caps for chapel, as specified in Section 2 under “Chapel Etiquette.”
Zach Neal, assistant vice president and dean of students, said the decision to change the dress code was made after much thought and consideration.
“The handbook is read cover to cover each year giving consideration to the wording of the expectations,” Neal said. “The recent changes have been part of an ongoing discussion for years.”
Although the overarching restriction of shorts and caps during class was removed from the handbook, guidelines may still be in place for specific cases. The handbook states, “Certain academic or extracurricular programs might have additional standards of dress.” With this, some students have received notice that at times, shorts and caps will not be acceptable, such as during presentations.
For some students, particularly older ones, the adjustment to a new dress code has been surprisingly strange, though not necessarily unwelcome.
Senior Rayna DeYoung said she was initially excited about the new dress code policies, though wary of the possibility that the new rules may lead to other changes in the dress code she is less comfortable with. After witnessing the new rule put into effect, however, she said she has been pleased with the change overall.
“Personally, it is liberating to have the option to wear either shorts or pants,” DeYoung said. “As a woman with long legs, I don’t have many options for appropriate-length shorts that are still cute, but what I do own, I love having the option to wear. Ultimately, I think it was a step in the right direction for Harding to make this rule.”
While the new rules may have come as a surprising announcement to some, senior Michael Krupka, Student Association president, said he was not shocked that updates to the dress code were made this summer.
“Going into this summer, I knew that the administration would be evaluating our current rules and looking for any adjustments that may need to be made,” Krupka said. “Dress code was a big topic of discussion at the end of this last school year, so I wasn’t surprised that everyone agreed this was the best move forward.”
Since 1924, numerous revisions have been made to Harding’s dress code. In 1972, women were first allowed to wear pants on campus outside of class. In 1981, they were allowed to wear pants, rather than skirts, to all classes and chapel. Students in shorts made the first appearance on Harding’s campus in 1990, but only on weekends and after 6 p.m.
While the allowance of mid-thigh shorts in classes and chapel is the latest in a long list of dress code revisions throughout Harding’s history, students are still required to follow guidelines of modesty and appropriateness.
“I feel the student body appreciated the willingness of the University to make reasonable adjustments to the expectations in the Student Handbook,” Neal said. “Overall, students have maintained high standards of modesty and remained mindful of the given regulations within the changes. However … I remind all students to be aware of the handbook and hold themselves to the standards therein as opposed to waiting to see if anyone says anything.”