(Office of the Head of Department, Dress Code Department. The HOD is seated at his desk, across from ayosogunro, glowering at a sheaf of papers, after a brief silence, he raises his head and speaks.)
HOD: You’re Ayo Sogunro, with matric number 010601253, currently in your 400 level, (he pauses expecting a response and getting none) will you answer me please?
ayosogunro: Oh, I thought you were making a statement and not asking a question, in any case you’re right sir, that’s my name, matric number and level.
HOD: (Frowning) Reports have reached my office that you consistently refuse to comply with the regulation dress code, and this is despite several warnings to you from the officers of this department.
ayosogunro: That’s correct sir.
HOD: And that your attitude has, among other things, led to your being dismissed from several classes by some lecturers thereby disturbing the said classes and distracting the lecturers, and that your conduct has encouraged students in lower levels to wear casual clothing and that, not least of all, you dared to wear non-regulation dress at official functions involving this faculty including a wake service for a former dean of the faculty where your informal dressing disturbed the uniformity of law students present and caused the faculty great embarrassment.
ayosogunro: Why, I didn’t realize I was so notorious.
HOD: Well as you know, this department was created to monitor student compliance with dress code regulations in the faculty, and anybody found wanting will have jeopardised their chances of being admitted to the Law School, or in extreme cases, have their admission terminated. But according to administrative requirements, before we impose disciplinary action, an affected student will be given a hearing before a decision is reached. In the paper before me, you have been charged with insubordination to faculty regulations and gross misconduct, and you have I am empowered to recommend you to face the Panel for Dress Code Enforcement. But I will give you the opportunity of stating to me why my department should not bring you before the panel. You may have your statement taken orally right away in a recorded session, or you may deliver it in writing within 24 hours. Which do you prefer?
ayosogunro: I prefer to have it oral and have it done now.
HOD: Good, let’s get it over and done with. Now, why do you refuse compliance with the dress code requirements, do you have an aversion for formal dressing?
ayosogunro: No, I do not have an aversion for formal dressing, I just don’t like the idea of wearing formal dress almost every day of my student life. But that is not the reason why I do not dress in the white and black dress code. I refuse the regulation dress because the very nature of it is contrary to the study of law and in fact, other disciplines. It is alright for lawyers who choose to practice the law in law courts to dress formally, but to restrict people who study the law to wearing a particular kind of dress on the basis that that restriction will enable them become good lawyers is not only absurd but cruel.
HOD: What, don’t you want to be a good lawyer, is that cruel?
ayosogunro: First, not every body who studies law intends to practice it, some study law for the mere pleasure of it, others study it to be able to teach others, and more others study it with no idea what to do with it. I venture to say that less than half of those who study law eventually practice it, and even then, fewer actually step into the law courts. To impose a dress code on 100% law students because 50% to 20% of those students are going to be using it is clearly absurd. As for cruelty, I’m a believer in liberalism, and in this world, the study of any discipline requires the freedom of the mind, and the unshackling of thought; now freedom of thought and censorship of expression are concepts which do not go hand in hand. Students, mind you sir, I said students not lawyers, whose expression has been curtailed will find it hard to free their minds. The ultimate form of thought is action, and where there is no possibility for action, there will be less need for thought. In fact, you will notice that it is students who comply most with the regulation dress that also comply the most with the lecturers’ words—whether sensible or not, and ultimately, they become the kind of citizens who comply mindlessly with political irresponsibility without challenging them. And this conformity is exactly is what is destroying our country.
HOD: Stop there, young man. Are you so concerned with your unproved theories that you forget practical issues? One of the duties of the university is to turn out morally sound students. Will you have the future leaders of the country go around in leather mini-skirts and spaghetti tops?
ayosogunro: Yes, if they are comfortable dressing in leathers and spaghetti. You cannot force people to have a set pattern of behaviour when their own nature rebels against it. It is said that ‘a person forced against his will is of the same opinion still’. Applying this to university students; if we continue at this trend, at the end of the day what you will produce will be a lot of rogues in gentlemen’s clothing—a factor which explains why despite centuries of decent formal dressing, lawyers are still held in contempt and disregard in the western world.
But if you allow every student to dress according to their hearts’ content, not only will you be allowing the natural freedom of expression, you also will be inevitably separating the wheat from the chaff. Students who are naturally inclined to a sense of decency which the law upholds will be noticed, and those who are not will be noticed as well. It will then be left for society to choose whose fashion sense it prefers to do business with at the end of the day. But where you force everybody to dress the same, you will be ultimately telling a lie to society to the effect that ‘all these students are decent students, see how they dress’ and that will be unfair to the general public.
And anyway, sir, without disrespect, you will notice that you said ‘mini skirts and spaghetti tops’ a statement which clearly shows the direction of this whole dress code idea—that is, it is simply anti-female. I believe it is an embarrassment to us as intellectuals if, after our so-called enlightenment, we still see women as sex objects, because it is only a person who sees a woman as nothing but a sex tool that is drawn to the covering—or uncovering—of her skin. Such a retrogressive defines the character of a woman by her ability to hide her sexual appeal—not whether she is kind, honest or responsible. A cultured person does not judge a woman’s character by the dress she wears, nor is it the first thing he appreciates about her. The big point of promoting a sense of decency basically arises from the fact that some men just can’t keep their hands off the direction of their eyes.
In an all-male school, few lecturers will be uncomfortable if all the students were to turn up in fitted jeans. But let a female student do the same and you will begin to see frowns of ‘non compliance’.
HOD: Are you insulting the lecturers of this faculty, the Law School heads, are you disregarding tradition?
ayosogunro: I am sorry if I’ve said anything wrong, but if I’m right I can’t be sorry. Any reasonable intellectual will see sense in what I have said; after all, the most compliant lecturers do not necessarily make the best teachers. I dare say the less sure of themselves some lecturers are, the more attention they give to the way they look in front of their students.
And anyway, I don’t believe in being traditional, I only believe in being rational, if the tradition is reasonable, then of course I comply. That is not to say I am always rational, I only try to be, sometimes I still practice tradition—like wearing my wristwatch on my left hand. (Laughs)
HOD: Don’t be funny. And anyway, you have not convinced me, I am sorry to say. That means you will have to face the panel, and from what I know, you stand little chance of escaping. By the way, isn’t it easier to just wear the blasted white and black than be in this mess. What does it cost you?
ayosogunro: Thanks for your concern sir, but I only wear white and black when reason dictates I do so, in other words when the regulation of the faculty coincides with my own rationale. I will not surrender my ideas merely because a panel thinks they are wrong. I have to get a sounder argument first and if I have to pay the price for my stubbornness, I will do so. Let me tell you of two great Americans, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. When Thoreau was placed in prison for refusing to pay taxes, he was visited by Emerson, and Emerson said: ‘David, what are you doing in jail?’ and Thoreau replied: ‘Ralph, what are you doing outside, when honest people are in jail for their ideals?’
HOD: In that case, this meeting is over, you can go, and await the letter summoning you before the panel.
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