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Female students coming to office hours in overly revealing clothing

Course Queries Syllabus Queries

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( 3 months ago )

[because this is potentially relevant, I'm a 37 y/o male]

Being the end of the semester, I've had a bunch of students come to my office hours to ask questions about things I'm responsible for. Among them, there have been a small number of female undergrads that have shown up wearing the kind of clothing that I think is inappropriate for a meeting with a faculty member. I'm not a prude (I hope), but I feel there is something amiss when a 20 y/o undergrad wants to discuss course validation from a neighboring university and then she goes and sits in front of me wearing booty shorts and a very see-through t-shirt (or a tanktop so skimpy that half her bra shows no matter what, or... take your pick). Before someone says anything to the effect, yes, it's summer, but it is not that warm (we're having a nice 20-25 C average these days).

In short, how can I tell these women, politely, that they should think twice about showing up half naked to meetings with faculty members?

Note that I'm not implying that I'm feeling sexually harassed or anything along those lines. Without getting into details, I'm old enough and happily married enough that I don't find college girls sexually appealing anymore. What I'm looking for is a way of telling them meetings with people higher up in the hierarchy have implicit standards, including some pertinent to what you may and may not wear that doesn't sound like a crude rephrasing of oh please why don't you cover up you filthy [censored].



( 3 months ago )

In short, how can I tell these girls, politely, that they should think twice about showing up half naked to meetings with faculty members?

I can think of 4 situations:

  1. If they are violating a university dress code, you should politely remind them of the policy.

  2. If they are not in violation of a university policy, but their appearance makes you feel sexually harassed, you should follow whatever procedure the university has in place. If the dress code allows for clothing that makes you feel harassed, I would follow the procedure to the letter and not say anything directly to the students. If there is no dress code, you can politely mention that their appearance makes you feel uncomfortable (or you can follow the procedure).

  3. If they are not in violation of a university policy and you do not feel sexually harassed, saying anything is giving them unsolicited advice. While I think it is not out of place for faculty members to give students unsolicited advice, you should do it politely and in a non-judgmental manner.

    Maybe something along the lines of:

    When meeting with someone in a professional setting business causal dress is often preferable, even when not formally required.

  4. Finally, you may want to document the issue with someone in your department. While an extreme case, I had a student who would regularly unbutton her blouse prior to entering my office and button it upon leaving. She would do this immediately outside my door and in my view. This probably qualified as sexual harassment, but I did not care to follow up. I did, however, tell my head of school and director of teaching (as well as making sure my door was always open) so that they were aware of the issue in case she ever raised a complaint.

what's your interest