The Renegade Rip

Looks vs. Books?

Seth Nidever

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Walking onto the Bakersfield College campus for the first time, it’s hard not to stare at the cleavage-friendly crop tops, flesh-exposing hip huggers, and brightly colored underwear.

Gawking at the tattoos, body piercings, massive jeans and boxer-clad buttocks, the BC campus looks more like a set on MTV than an institution of higher learning.

But fashion has little connection to academic performance, according to several teachers.

Harlan Hunter, a 47-year-old criminal justice professor who has taught night classes here for 16 years, probably put it best: “There is probably no real correlation at the college level between the way students dress and (the way they) achieve.”

Business professor Bill Demkey, a BC veteran of 23 years, was even more to the point.

“I found out one thing about students: You can’t judge by the way they dress, whether or not they’re going to be a good student or not. I’ve had people that dressed in modern style, where they have a lot of body piercings, tattoos, that wear the clothing. … I’ve had them come in in ties that do excellent and I’ve had them come in in ties that do lousy.”

Liberal studies major Zach Martin, 20, agreed.

“I think you can identify different social groups by the way that they dress, but not necessarily academic (performance),” he said as he sat under a tree at BC on a hot afternoon.

Dance instructor Eve-lyne Thomas, who like Demkey has been teaching here for 23 years, said dress can intefere with her instructional goals.

“It’s a school, it’s not a fashion statement we’re after,” she said when asked about what she expected in her classes. She requires students to wear black leotard tank tops and tights to cover the body, primarily so that she can observe their muscle movements to make sure they are learning correct body position.

When asked about a dress code for the whole campus, she was disapproving.

“I don’t think it’s necessary. I like individuality,” she said. She also said that one of her goals was to teach respect and professionalism.

“You’re a college student, and you’re eventually going to get into a career. … I think it’s time you dressed like a career person,” she added.

Dress codes for college students won’t work, said 38-year-old nursing student Cindy Davis.

“No. We’re adults. Who’s going to play God and make the rules?”

Brenee Bandy, a 17-year-old physical therapy major, also was opposed.

“I think people have freedom of speech. They can wear what they want to wear and dress how they want to dress.”

While those interviewed agreed that fashion styles for women show off the body much more than male styles, most of the men interviewed didn’t think it was a problem. Robert Lewy, who teaches science at East Bakersfield High and a BC geology class at night, suggested that it was a non-issue.

“If it’s that distracting to you, you should be someplace else beside(s) the classroom, I guess,” he said.

Martin admitted that he notices attractive women immediately, but doesn’t get sidetracked.

“If you’re a serious college student, you’re here to learn,” he said.

Demkey suggested that men who were upset by female fashion have some internal problems they need to deal with.

“I think if a guy is upset by women’s dress, he may have some issues he needs to address,” he said.

Nineteen-year-old student Shiloh Leonard was less diplomatic.

“I think guys should just learn to deal with it,” she said matter-of-factly.

Some female students interviewed said some fashion styles are too revealing.

Jessica Alvarez, a 24-year-old with two kids at home, said that “some of them dress like they’re going to parties.”

Sitting at the cafeteria table next to her, Davis was more blunt.

“I do not feel that you should see what color bra or panties somebody is wearing,” she said. “That is personal.”

Davis told the story of a speech professor who had to tell a girl in a miniskirt to sit higher up in the stadium seating because the crotch of her exposed thong was right at his eye level. She mentioned that in the same class “we had a guy bend over and everything fell. I saw more than I wanted to see.”

Others, like 18-year-old student Gloria Vasquez, felt that women showing lots of skin were just adapting to the weather.

“I think its hot and they need to (dress that way),” she offered.

But sometimes revealing outfits present the wrong image, said Bandy.

“A lot of girls dress too outspoken and it makes them seem like they’re not the person they really want to be,” she said. “A lot of guys are people you don’t expect them to be. You think they’re great but they’re not really. They only want to be with you because of your dress style and the way you look.”

Thomas suggested that women might want to reign it in a bit.

“It’s very distracting to the guys in class,” she said. She later added, “If you have a nice figure, you want to show some, not too much, yes, fine.”

Demkey simply advised students to “dress for what you are doing.” He said that he couldn’t remember an incident “where somebody was dressed to where it disrupted the class.”

He suggested that business majors, for example, should get used to wearing the conservative clothing they would don for a job interview. “When you go to apply for a job, the clothes need to look like you’re comfortable in them,” he said.

He added that facial piercings are probably not a good idea in some jobs.

Besides, he said, referring to a student whose eyebrow and nose were skewered, “It just looked like it hurt. A whole lot.”

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Looks vs. Books?