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Proposed uniforms for tutors spark debate

News Editor

Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 17:12

A hotly debated Student Government resolution was narrowly passed Tuesday night asking the administration to rethink a new dress code policy for student tutors and residence advisers. 

Under the policy, most student staffers in the Division of Student Affairs would be required to wear khakis or dress pants with a university-provided polo starting at the beginning of next semester.

Joe Ozbolt, senior double majoring in math and physics, brought concerns about the changes to SG Vice President Chris Dykyj on Monday.  

Ozbolt, who has been a tutor in the Learning Enhancement Center for about a year, said all of the tutors and RAs he has spoken with are against the dress code.

 “One of the good things about working at this job is knowing that you don’t have to wear a uniform,” he said. “It lets students feel like they’re coming to someone for help who’s a friend, not just some guy who works for some company.”

The senate passed the resolution 16 to 10 after a 20-minute debate. 

Dean of Students Michele Martinez said senior staff started discussing the idea over the summer. 

She said the student advisory board, a group within Division of Student Affairs that meets with senior staff to discuss ideas and concerns, supported the idea. 

Martinez said students mentioned that sometimes when they try to get help in certain offices, it is unclear who workers are because they do not have clear identification.

Ozbolt said he has never heard of problems relating to what tutors wear. He said students he asked who use the tutoring center said the measure was unnecessary. 

“Students who come in [the center] every day work with the same people,” he said. “They know who to go to.”  

Ozbolt said there is a difference between a desk worker and a tutor. 

“When students are trying to get help with math, they might feel a little bit anxious about that,” he said. “I think in the case of being tutored, they’ll be more comfortable if it’s some guy or some girl rather than some professional. I think that dressing as individuals within modest means reduces the anxieties that  students have.”

One senator said the policy changes reflect the mindset of real-world employers. 

“I’ve worked at a restaurant for three years, and I hate the dress code there too, so just deal with it,” he said.

Senator Ben Lynn said he does not believe students will be turned off by tutors wearing uniforms.

“If students already have enough confidence in themselves to go down and say ‘Hey, I need help,’ I don’t think they’ll be intimidated by somebody who looks professional,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Lynn said although he supports a more relaxed dress code, he voted against the measure because he did not agree with the language of the resolution.

“I believe that following a dress code, whether it’s simple or complex, does not inhibit you to do your job effectively,” Lynn said during the debate. “UT pays for your services, and they should have a right to ask you to dress responsibly and to a certain standard.”

Martinez said she wouldn’t consider the polo shirts a uniform, and that the new dress code was meant to “raise our expectations” and “improve our customer service.”

 “As a division we are challenging ourselves to meet customers’ expectations and to look professional,” she said. 

Marjorie Miskey, a junior majoring in creative writing and a tutor for the writing center, said she liked the idea of a name tag and thought it was a good idea to have a dress code, but she thinks it should be much more relaxed than the proposed plan. 

“We aren’t working with customers, we’re working with students,” she said. “We’re both trying to get by. We’re just like them, therefore we need to be looked at just like them.”

Miskey said she received tutor training at Monroe County Community College.

“One of the things we discussed in that class was how to make the environment comfortable for the student, and I think this uniform policy goes directly against that,” she said.

Dykyj said he thought a good compromise would be to ask workers to wear nametags. 

“The term professional means somebody gets paid to do what they do well, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dress a certain way,” he said.

Dykyj said he was concerned with the policy because he believes not enough students were asked about the changes before they were introduced. 

“I’m not sure how many people who were against [the resolution] were affected by this,” he said. “Maybe if you’ve worked for the university for the last three years and you’ve never had to wear a uniform, and all of a sudden that changes without anyone asking your opinion, this might mean a little bit more to you.”

Martinez said she doesn’t know if the resolution will change the policy.

“We try to listen to students and what their opinion is, so if this passes tonight, I’m sure Dr. Kay [Patten Wallace, vice president for the student experience] would want to take that into consideration,” she said.

LEC director Luanne Momenee, who has worked at the tutoring center for 25 years, she said she will support the administrative dress policy.  

She said there are other centers with required dress for their staff.

However, she said, “I believe students have a voice and as with everyone else they have an opportunity to voice their opinion.”

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9 comments Log in to Comment

Fri Dec 7 2012 14:46
Nice comments. It's heartening that UT students continue to see the Emperor in all his grotesquitude, even if he tells us he's wearing new clothes.

But I wanted to address Mr. Ozbolt's interest in being seen as "not just some guy who works for some company." It's nearly the stated goal of Jacobs and his buddies that UT be seen as just another area company, not an institution of higher education. This isn't too surprising. Mr. Ozbolt, since you're in physics and math, just try to get a good GRE score and go somewhere more legitimate for your next degree.

Thu Dec 6 2012 22:18
That is the problem with the administration at this university. They are penny wise and pound foolish. They are blind to their own arrogance, conceit and stupidity; probably typical for folks from "that" profession. They focus on "little people" and think if they make them jump through enough hoops to their satisfaction then all will be well, and they can give themselves and their cronies more raises, bonuses and pats on the back for making the university "more efficient". Only problem is they are running out of chickencrap stuff to terrorize the little people with and now people increasingly see that the administration IS THE PROBLEM. I say make them get off their lazy and obese behinds and do some real work like teaching or cleaning a toilet and make them wear poloshirts!
Thu Dec 6 2012 21:56
My friend just got a 5-figure settlement from UT for the "experience" the chief experience officer tried to offer.
Thu Dec 6 2012 09:08
I think individuals have to understand that it is not just the idea of a polo shirt and this new get up (slacks/polo/name tag/dress shoes) that is posing an issue to the tutors and other student employees. Many tutorial books taught in tutor settings do provide information about the importance of making the student feel comfortable and less intimidated to provide for a productive and engaging session. As members of the UT staff and administration, student or not, It is pivotal that our main goal is to help provide the knowledge and skills to our students in the most effective way possible. This poses the question to many: does the University care more about the "face" of the institution as opposed to the success of their students?
Wed Dec 5 2012 17:30
Does this mean the RA's will perpetually be sleeping in khakis & a polo?
Wed Dec 5 2012 15:53
Apparently some guy from UTMC has marched in and also made the SU student employees wear a uniform.
We always wore SU shirts and nametags when I worked there, but apparently they had some extra $$ to give this guy to be the 'Chief Experience Officer'
Wed Dec 5 2012 15:48
People working in professional capacities for a University do not wear uniforms, unless they are involved in food service or health care. Students working for the writing center are in a pre-professional position; their employment conditions should simulate the professional environment in as many ways as possible. If they are dressing inappropriately, it is incumbent on their supervisors to teach them about that aspect of the professional world, and hold them to it. In this particular job, a polo shirt signals neither professionalism or seriousness about the enterprise. Money spent on polo shirts would be much better spent on professional development, and on tutor training.
Wed Dec 5 2012 13:08
^^ People do it for the resume not the money dumb-ass. I would be ok with tutoring for free. An extra 28-35$/week is chumpchange. If you think its a lot of money, maybe you should be attending owens instead. You'd save a lot more.
Wed Dec 5 2012 11:52
UT is paying these workers. If they tell them to dress in a polo and khakis, these workers should as hell dress in a polo and a khaki or find another job. I'm sure there are tons more students wanting to be a tutor or RA.

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