Hair Code Part of Strict Dress Doctrine for Hampton University Business Students
Afros are okay but cornrows and flowing dreadlocks are not for business administration students at Hampton University.
The hair code is part of a strict academic and dress doctrine for combined business administration students at the private, historically Black university. The program allows students to receive a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in business administration in five years.
In addition to the hair rules, students must maintain a B average after their sophomore year, heed a conservative dress code, complete two internships and meet regularly with business leaders.
“We don’t have problems with Afros,” business Dean Sid Credle said last week. “A nicely tapered Afro — that’s fine.”
Credle said the dress, grooming and behavior rules are intended to prepare students for the starched business world.
“When we look at the top 75 African-Americans in corporate America, we don’t see any of them with extreme hairdos,” he said.
With the requirements, “they’ll get very comfortable wearing a suit over a five-year period. When they get into corporate America, the transition will be easier,” Credle said.
Aaron Wells, a junior from Fairfax, Va., put away his earrings when he enrolled. He’s got no complaints.
“It really gives us a very good model of what we should be doing in corporate America,” said Wells, who hopes to pursue a career in finance. “We need to look the part as professionals.”
Credle said only one or two students per year have not complied.
Jack L. Ezzell Jr., the president of Zel Technologies, a defense contractor in Hampton, said different businesses have different standards.
Distinctive dress and hairstyles “might be acceptable in, say, advertising or some other medium that’s a bit more informal and creative,” he said. “But clearly, if you were targeting banking or maybe the military or someplace that’s a lot more rigid, you’ve got to be really cautious in doing that.”
At his company, standards also vary for technicians and people in marketing.
“Where I have someone who is going to potentially meet with the customer,” Ezzell said, “I expect them to look more like the customer would. “I’ve seen dreads and earrings that look good. If they are exceptionally bright, I would not turn them off automatically. But I know many of my business associates would.”
At Norfolk Southern Corp., hair and dress matter less than ability, spokeswoman Susan Terpay said. “When we hire new employees,” she said, “we focus on their education, their skills and the unique abilities they can bring.”
— Associated Press
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