5050 Ave Maria Blvd, Ave Maria, FL
AVE MARIA — Skirts will soon be mandatory for female staff and faculty at Ave Maria University.
A new dress code bans pants suits and slacks for female employees during work hours, unless they’re traveling. Male staff members are required to wear suits, and male faculty are required to wear at least a jacket and tie, with suits preferred.
The new rules take effect on Aug. 30, 2010, the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. The university notified faculty and staff of the changes last week by e-mail.
“We realize it is contrary to the very casual dress policies that are being adopted by many other universities and corporate America,” the university said in a prepared statement. “... We believe this new policy will help visually set us apart in a positive way from other institutions of higher learning.”
Florida Gulf Coast University does not have a dress code for faculty or staff, said Susan Evans, the university’s spokeswoman.
Business attire in Naples trends casual, said Brenda O’Connor, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce senior vice president.
It wouldn’t hurt business folk in Naples to dress up a little more, because first impressions are very important, O’Connor said. However, she doesn’t see a difference between pants suits and skirt suits for women, she added.
“I think pants suits are every bit as professional,” O’Connor said. “It’s the year 2010. If it’s got a jacket with it and it’s a coordinated look, then it absolutely qualifies as a suit.”
Leon Podles, a part-time Naples resident who has published books on Catholic topics, posted the dress code e-mail sent out by the university’s human resources department to his blog at www.podles.org.
“I do think, as people have noticed, that Tom (Monaghan) has control issues,” Podles said, referring to the university’s founder and chancellor. “... This is unwise. Of all the things he’s done, this will probably create the most fuss. Trying to dictate what women wear is a dangerous thing for men to do.”
Podles has donated money to the school, he said. He received the e-mail from a professor at the university, but declined to name that person.
Ave Maria freshman Sarah Pakaluk, 19, hadn’t heard about the new dress code, and was a little surprised when she did. She said she’s never seen a professor dress sloppily.
“The matter of pants vs. skirts, is kind of personal opinion,” she said. “I don’t see the sense in it. I guess it’s kind of the convention that skirts are more dignified for women, but I don’t know if that really holds anymore.”
Professional dress is important, though, because it helps students take professors seriously and projects an image of seriousness about classes, she said.
Freshman Helen Ohmes, 18, had already heard about the new dress code, she said, sitting at The Bean of Ave Maria eating lunch.
“The teacher who explained it to us, she always wears skirts so for her it’s not a big deal, but I do have teachers who wear pantsuits,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll address it with the dean if they want to.”
Ohmes said that professors are always dressed up anyway, so it won’t change much, other than the switch from pantsuits to skirts for female professors.
Sue Ellen Nolan, who lives in Golden Gate Estates, sat at The Bean using her laptop after dropping her 8-year-old daughter off for school at the Donahue Academy.
“It kind of sets apart Ave because other universities may not have this kind of dress code,” she said. “But we are happy to be set apart, because being set apart is also a definition for holiness and that is basically what Ave Maria is about — the spiritual life and educational life of everybody there.”
Nolan used to work in the university’s pastoral theology department and, at that time, women were encouraged to wear dresses or skirts but pants suits were allowed.
If she still worked there, she wouldn’t have minded the change — though she would have had to go shopping for more skirts, she said.
In the e-mail, the university said that senior management plans to work with local retailers to provide skirts and skirt-suits at discounted prices. The university has asked employees to express comments and suggestions about the new policy to its human resources department.