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Morehouse President to Freshmen: ‘Look the part. Act the part. Talk the talk and walk the walk’

When 20-year-old Marcus Traylor stepped onto campus last month on the first day of the fall semester, he was struck by something he had never seen before on the Morehouse College campus: a group of 100 or more freshmen walking to class wearing stylishly new maroon sports jackets, complete with Morehouse insignia.

During his first two years, it wasn’t uncommon for Traylor to see fellow students walking across campus wearing pajamas and flip-flops to class.

That won’t happen under the college’s new administration, and Traylor says that’s OK with him. 

“I saw the new sports jackets and wanted one for myself. They are very professional looking, very smooth,” Traylor says. He adds that he’ll have to pay for his own jacket, while every member of this year’s freshmen class was given one by the university. Next year, the cost of the jackets for incoming freshmen will be included in new student orientation fees.

Morehouse could soon join a growing number of university campuses that have instituted dress codes. A handful of public and private campuses, where students once exercised the freedom to dress as they please, have adopted stricter codes of conduct that prohibit sagging jeans, flip-flops and even the wearing of baseball caps inside buildings.

While other college campuses such as Paul Quinn College in Dallas and the business school at Illinois State University recently began regulating student attire this fall, Elise Durham, media relations manager at Morehouse College, points out that the school hasn’t officially changed its policy, but has set forth a set of expectations for students. 

Still, candidates running for Morehouse student government positions are debating the issue, and the school’s new president is also talking about it.

Morehouse’s new president, Dr. Robert Michael Franklin Jr., wants to make being smart cool again and put morality at the forefront of the college’s mission. The jackets are the first step in that direction, according to officials. It’s also part of the school’s new, stricter dress and conduct expectations. 

In two separate speeches to incoming freshmen as well as returning upper-classmen, Franklin emphasized a laundry list of unacceptable behaviors and conduct, which included cursing as well as the kinds of clothing some students wear.

“We are Morehouse, and we will not tolerate sagging pants that gravitate far below your waistline. No do-rags; no baseball caps inside buildings,” Franklin said in his first public address to students last month. “No pajamas in the classroom. You are men of Morehouse. You are better than that. I will be watching and expecting class from you.”

“Look the part. Act the part. Talk the talk and walk the walk,” Franklin emphasized to students who gathered inside Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel to hear his speeches.

Traylor doesn’t mind Franklin’s charge to the Morehouse student body. “They’re getting stricter on the dress code, and that’s fine. It’s a show of pride. I think it’s a good move, a move in the right direction.”

– Tracie Powell

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