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Proposed uniforms for tutors spark debate

By Danielle Gamble
On December 5, 2012

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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