The Kenya Methodist University (KeMU) has stood its ground that the dress code rules that have sparked uproar on social media must be adhered to by all students.
On January 5, Dean of students Dr Esther Mbaabu dispatched a memo to the effect that students reporting after holidays should adhere to prescribed dress code.
“The dean of students wishes to encourage all students to adopt a style of dressing and appearance that would be acceptable in the various fields of work and society in general,”Dr Mbaabu wrote.
“All students are required to comply with the university code of dressing and wear appropriate attire during study, at meal times in the dining hall and in all university functions,” she added.
According to the memo, male students are not supposed to have dreadlocks, plaited hair, earrings or walk around with their shirts untucked or exposing their chests.
For female students, they should not wear tops exposing their belly, navel or backs while the skirts must be below the knee.
The skirt slits should be below the knee with the blouse neckline “running down no more than four inches” leaving the cleavage exposed. See-through dresses and body tight trousers are outlawed.
The memo immediately drew criticism among a section of the student population who felt that while some of the prescribed dress code was old fashioned and the rules draconian, there are those that were acceptable in the modern work places including mini-skirts and rastas.
“Today’s world demands that people and institutions respect others’ choices and this being a university where all students are adults we should not be forced to dress in outfits we are not comfortable in,” said a female student who requested anonymity.
But while those who commented on social media thought the rules were new, Dr Mbaabu said the dress code is prescribed in a students’ hand book that has been in existence since the inception of the institution which is sponsored by the Methodist Church in Kenya (MCK).
In an interview with Nation.Africa on Monday, Dr Mbaabu insisted that the management stood by the memo, saying “we are a Christian based institution and there is a dress code we cannot allow. In any case we have rules and regulations that each student who enrolls with KeMU reads and agrees to abide by.”
She revealed that after she sent out the memo, she was shocked that it went viral on social media yet the rules have been in existence and were last reviewed in 2009.
“There are some parents who have called to congratulate us for maintaining good morals in our institution and we are happy that there are people out there who appreciate the importance of a decent code of dressing,” she said.
“In an institution such as this, it is not only the academics that matter. We need to bring up an all-round person who will fit in the society when they graduate,” Dr Mbaabu added.
She however noted that there are some sections of the handbook that will be reviewed to align them to the 2010 Constitution, “although not much will change.”
“There are some dresses young people are wearing today that we will never allow in the precincts of the campus,” she maintained.
Mr Abdi Adow, the KeMU students association chairman said although some students had taken it negatively, most of them were receptive of the rules.
“Most of the students were aware of the code but when the memo went viral in the social media there were some negative comments. The management has also committed to a review of the code where we will be involved,”Mr Adow said.
“We are also encouraging students to embrace the rules because they are for our own good. Besides, we are here for a season and issues to do with dressing code should not be taken out of proportion,” he added.