Congratulations, Illinois State University. You’ve turned your MBA program into a phys-ed class.
About two weeks ago, Illinois State University made the higher education newsrounds by requiring that students in the College of Business adhere to a dress code on campus. College Freedom expressed concerns about the restrictions and so did I [to date, I still haven't gotten a response from the College of Business regarding my prospective student status].
InsideHigherEd.com reports this week that ISU has decided to uphold the dress code – but they’ve tweaked the policy to allow for up to 10% of one’s grade to be determined by “professionalism.”
You know, the same way a K-12 student is punished for not having gym clothes.
Proper attire in a physical education setting is a safety issue. To date, I’m not aware of anyone in an MBA program bringing injury upon themselves or others for wearing jeans in a lecture.
While the original policy offered guidelines ranging from color choices (“solidâ€ for women) to upkeep (“pressed and never wrinkled”) to skirt length (“no shorter than four inches above the knee”), the revision â€” which goes into effect as soon as professors can announce it to their students â€” states simply that affected classes â€œwill operate under standards of professional behavior that parallel those applied in the business world,â€ including â€œbeing dressed in appropriate business casual attire for class meetings, unless business professional attire is required.â€
ISU thinks its students are apparently too dumb to recognize themselves that jeans and an Iron Maiden t-shirt aren’t appropriate attire for a client meeting. Out of state tuition at ISU’s College of Business is ~$28,000/year. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to have listened to your mother and, if that didn’t take, hire a part-time nanny to dress you before work?
The main difference is an additional emphasis on â€œother professional behaviors deemed appropriate for class by the professor,â€ such as arriving on time and not interrupting the lecture (although those guidelines are already covered under the collegeâ€™s Standards of Professional Behavior and Ethical Conduct). Under the previous policy, students who failed to dress business casual could be thrown out of class â€” meaning a potential loss of credit for assignments completed that day. Now, they could theoretically arrive in jeans without fear of getting kicked out, but up to 10 percent of their final grades could be docked instead.
A common sign of backpedaling – especially backpedaling when one’s proverbial pants are already at one’s ankles – is overlapping a criticized policy with an existing policy. Codified standards of conduct are important and necessary to ensure a civil academic environment; unfortunately for the proponents of the dress code plan, they’re justifying the new draft by citing support for a code that already covers most of the regulations. It isn’t a strong case.
David Horstein, the student body president, said the idea is that 10 percent of an overall course grade can go toward â€œprofessionalism,â€ including a studentâ€™s dress appearance and also other factors of professionalism, with the â€œhope that a professor cannot abuseâ€ the dress requirement.
â€œThe way that I hope this works,â€ Horstein said, is that it â€œgives the professors a lot of discretion with policies like that.â€ (Tim Longfellow, the chairman, said he understood the policy as meaning that â€œweâ€™ll look across the boardâ€ in evaluating professionalism.)
… and this is the real tragedy.
Horstein and a largely-complacent student body are comfortable with having 10% of their evaluation come from non-academic criteria – including in graduate programs such as the MBA track.
I’ll steal a one-line description of the MBA curriculum from Wikipedia:
“MBA programs expose students to a variety of subjects, including economics, organizational behavior, marketing, accounting, finance, strategy, operations management, international business, information technology management, supply chain management, project management and government policy.”
An MBA program is singularly demanding; it’s difficult enough to justify candidates [generally] needing to work for a few years before starting the degree. The context that work experience brings to the intellectual rigor of the MBA curriculum produces a graduate who is well-prepared to lead in the business world and tackle the ever-evolving problems inherent in the field.
And now 10% of one’s readiness for that world is determined by one’s fashion sense and commitment to ironing clothes before stepping foot on campus. 10% of that MBA is now vocational.
Unsurprisingly, ISU’s leaders are as patronizing and condescending toward Holstein and other student leaders as they are toward the student body as a whole:
[Marketing Dept. Chair Tim] Longfellow praised the student leaders in a press release, saying, â€œI truly believe that shared governance, a strong and valued tradition on this campus, has prevailed. The Department of Marketing is pleased and believes that the compromised wording for the business casual dress standard allows the department to accomplish its initial purpose for establishing the dress standard, to provide an opportunity to enhance the overall professionalism of our students and to hopefully provide them with an additional advantage as they begin their career search.â€
They’re adults, Chairman Longfellow. You’ll notice their “overall professionalism” enhance itself when you start treating them as adults.
I’m not sure if Horstein and the student body are done with this issue, but it sounds that way:
Horstein began receiving complaints from students soon after the policy was announced two weeks prior to the start of classes this semester. â€œAt first, I was afraid to even take on the issue,â€ he said, worrying that administrators would â€œmake us look like a lazy student bodyâ€ for protesting the dress code. Then he learned that the policy apparently ran afoul of the universityâ€™s Student Bill of Rights, which has an explicit prohibition against mandatory dress codes.
Yet they still appear to have given up.
Tim Longfellow’s lack of logic had to have hurt his GMAT scores a great deal:
In an interview, Longfellow said he has not received any direct complaints about the policy to date, and that concerns about accumulating appropriate attire to attend class were mostly exaggerated at a business school where most students have recently completed or will soon complete internships.
Most of your students “have recently completed or will soon complete internships” and your graduate students come in with work experience, yet the College of Business needs to mandate their dress to teach them about professionalism in the real world? I have to ask – weren’t those internships and jobs undertaken at real, functioning business in that real world?
The summary? Poor, offensive judgment, condescending treatment of its students, bizarre backpedaling and a total lack of logic.
Again, ISU: Congratulations on your new vocational business program that is, as Longfellow and your other leaders have demonstrated, 10% gym class.
5 Responses to “From MBA to Gym Class: The College of Business at Illinois State University”
- Considering a Career in Auditing or Accounting at Accounting-2guide.info - [...] From MBA to Gym Class: The College of Business at Illinois State UniversityCongratulations, Illinois State University . Youve turned ...