Faculty in Tamil Nadu colleges asked to wear overcoat to cover ‘body form’

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Government College Teachers’ Association president T Veeramani said that only the term ‘decent dress code’ is used in the letter.
Image for representational purpose only.
Image for representational purpose only.

COIMBATORE: The Tamil Nadu higher education department has sent a letter to the Directorate of Collegiate Education (DCE) advising it to ensure that all college teachers in Tamil Nadu wear an “overcoat” to cover their “body form” and follow a dress code to differentiate themselves from students.

The October 18 dated letter sent by deputy secretary of higher education department P Dhanasekar to the Directorate of Technical Education (DOTE) and registrars of all state universities points to complaints received by the department over college teachers’ sartorial choices.

A Ponnusamy, president of the association of principals of colleges of Bharathiar University, said, “It is a good decision. Already many self-financing colleges have implemented dress code for their female staff. Women faculty will feel comfortable in classrooms when they wear overcoats. There will also be equality among female staff when they wear overcoat inside institutions.” Ponnusamy also said overcoats may not be necessary for male staff as they usually dress formally with ties and shoes.

K Narayanan, an assistant professor of a private college in Coimbatore, said, “The higher education department should first release guidelines for dress code for teaching staff. Two years ago, I paid a fine of Rs 500 for not wearing a tie. To avoid such incidents, the department should frame dress code norms first.”

Tamil Nadu Government College Teachers’ Association president T Veeramani said, “Only the term ‘decent dress code’ is used in the letter. There are no separate guidelines. When female staff members take classes wearing sarees, they may feel uncomfortable. Some students may tease them. To avoid this, wearing overcoats may be a good idea.”

Coimbatore Government Arts College principal V Kalaiselvi said the higher education department should issue a government order to ensure that dress code is mandatorily followed by all teachers.

‘Dress code insulting to female faculty’

Higher education department deputy secretary P Dhanasekar said, “An individual sent a complaint requesting a dress code in institutions.” Asked about implementing dress code at government colleges, he said directors of respective departments will decide.

However, director of collegiate education (incharge) M Eswaramurthy said he was not aware of the letter.

Swarna Rajagopalan, academic and founder of Prajnya Initiatives for Peace, Justice and Security, said the idea of a dress code for adults infantilises them and presumes they must be protected from each other. “To ask women professors to wear an overcoat to cover their figures (‘body form’) is insulting, treating them as if their presence is merely that of a form to be ogled or ridiculed. Men should find it insulting that the department thinks this is all they are capable of. And if this is indeed the case, one must question the efficacy of schooling and social change curriculum," she asserted.

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