NUST: What’s so bad about a dress-code?

Published: September 27, 2013
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Jeans and tights do not necessarily scream formal business attire, which the students at Nust Business School (NBS) are expected to conform to. PHOTO: MYRANDOMSTUTTERS (http://bit.ly/16v3aT1)

Since the concept of morality is fraught with subjectivity, any public discourse over it is always going to stir up a few emotions. Add to that a society, which has no qualms in projecting ostentatious displays of disposition or for that matter their disinclination towards religion; it can then stir up more than a few emotions.

By now you have probably already heard, read, tweeted or shared the infamous news story regarding the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), that it imposed fines on some of its students for a dress code violation. Even though that was really the extent of it, many a people were seen crying hoarse on the pretext of the alleged “Talabinisation” and the forceful imposition of a specific brand of morality at Nust.

Being a graduate of one of the most distinguished campuses of Nust- College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (CEME) – let me start of by stating unequivocally that nothing could be farther from the truth.

Since Nust comprises 18 constituent colleges, each having a unique culture of their own and spread out all over Pakistan, it goes without saying that the student body at Nust is not a monolith. Nust celebrates diversity and individualism by accepting students from not only the twin cities, Lahore and Karachi, but from all across Pakistan, the lesser known parts of the country in interior Sindh to the inherently volatile regions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) such as Waziristan.

Hence, the insinuation that Nust is predisposed towards subjugating such a diverse brand of students through regimentation and uniformity is not only impractical but misleading.

The thorn in the side in the present controversy: the much maligned dress code is not an anomaly to Nust alone. From Eton College, which has incidentally educated nineteen British prime ministers, to Harvard, all the students are expected to comply with a certain degree of decorum which adequately reflects both tradition and propriety.

The Harvard Business School explicitly states on its website that its dress code is business casual attire during the school year for most of their departments.”Bring this into context with Nust, jeans and tights do not necessarily scream formal business attire, which the students at Nust Business School (NBS) are expected to conform to.

While the students who were handed out the fines were in fact from NBS, the hue and cry over the lack of finesse in administering the fines is indeed understandable. But the subsequent linkage to stifling the creative and intellectual freedom of the students at Nust is not.

Are we to believe that a university which currently employs 1100 faculty and staff, 485 PhDs, has collaborations with centres of excellence in over 26 countries, houses more than ten start-ups in its incubation centre and regularly participates in the Shell Eco Marathon, Robocon, [email protected] ICT awards, Olympiads, Model United Nations while at the same time being consistently ranked among the top 400 universities in the world failed to provide sufficient academic stimulation to the students, just because the university takes its dress code seriously?

I do not doubt the earnest effort of the author in the article: At NUST: Fined for ‘wearing tight’ or no ‘dopatta’ in pinpointing the flaws of our education system but in his haste of doing so he has let go of his objectivity to the matter by subjecting his opinion to confirmation bias. He has unwittingly negated everything good that has come out of Nust thus far. Surely, surely Nust must be doing something of significance on its campuses to warrant international acclaim and repute notwithstanding the occasional claims that profess otherwise?

The author further posits that regimentation, discipline and uniformity do not make one educated. While this may hold true, but as his students of economics would tell, there could be a possible correlation but certainly no empirical causation between regimentation and a lack of intellectual capacity.

While the arguments such as: “If the students are unhappy they can leave” are indeed not savoury, I can claim with certainty that it is not a Nust policy that advocates students leaving if they do not find the campus environment friendly. Contrary to what was presented, Nust frequently holds freshmen friendly seminars to make all new students feel at home.

In an all encompassing gesture of inclusivity, rector Nust immediately addressed the student body after the administrative debacle so that all concerns regarding the issue are allayed. On a side note, since we are all also self-proclaimed purveyors of democratic ideals we must tolerate with a pinch of salt a wide array of opinion-dissenting or otherwise.

The corollary to all the above is that the presumption that the enforcement of a dress code at Nust is in fact papered over as a means to only discipline the youth of the country is sadly regrettable. The misplaced representation of Nust as a misogynistic entity defined only by its dress code is grossly inaccurate. It has and continues to be defined by the numerous laurels that its students and alumni bring to Pakistan every day.

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Raja Omer

Raja Omer

A programming aficionado who had the distinction of getting rejected by Microsoft, Raja has a bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from EME college of NUST. He tweets at @raj_omer (twitter.com/raj_omer)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.