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I have been involved in teaching in an university. However, I find the following few behaviors of students (all Undergrads) inside my classroom slightly unpleasant:

  1. In my university, some of the male and female students come to classroom with shorts and informal dress code.
  2. Students drinks tea, coffee, and such stuffs (not water) during class hours.

I don't find the above two behaviors quite formal for academic teaching. I do allow them to use laptops and tablets for learning purpose. This is probably, because, I have never been in such an environment. However, the university has no issues with it. Though few of my colleagues have non-supportive views on this, nobody raises voice or take action.

This disturbs my class as I feel that students are not attentive and I feel demotivated to discuss the topic that I had been lecturing diligently about. Till now, I have never spoken about it with the higher authorities and I don't want to go against such a thing, as they might think of me as foolish and backward.

My questions are:

  • Should I discuss about my self-designed regulations for attending class where these two things is not allowed?
  • Should the students take it positively? What if they complain about me to the administration office?
  • And, once I do it, if someone does not follow it, should I throw him/her out of the classroom?

Any advice on this would be really helpful as the lectures would be starting in few days.

  • 29
    I don't get it. How does drinking something other than water disturb the learning environment? Same for informal clothes? If the university does not have a dress code, I don't think you have much chance of enforcing one without getting into serious trouble. – Tobias Kildetoft Jul 20 '17 at 11:02
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    I don't find the above two behaviors quite rational for academic teaching Why? What is the specific negative effect on the transfer of knowledge? Aren't you the one being a bit irrational? Is there any other reason except your own feelings and you finding it slightly unpleasant. Also: Coffee would probably help me follow the lecture, why forbid that? – problemofficer Jul 20 '17 at 11:07
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    Would the country of your university be relevant to the discussion? – Antonio Vargas Jul 20 '17 at 11:41
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    I have never seen a university where this would be a problem and I cannot eve imagine how you would see it as a problem. Why not wear comfortable cloths to class? Or drink whatever you want? Imo this even improves the quality of the course for the student. – DSVA Jul 20 '17 at 11:46
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    @AntonioVargas probably not just country of the university, but also the country that the OP is from (or studied at). Dress codes/norms no doubt vary amongst universities and countries. – user0721090601 Jul 20 '17 at 11:54
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(You did not provide any argument how informal clothes and the consumption of beverages negatively affect your lecture, so this answer might be speculative. Also this question might be a case of a XY problem.)

I think you are not seeing the real problem

I think the problems you are having with your lecture, but unfortunately not mentioning in your question, are real, but you are looking in the wrong direction. You are misled by your convictions and stereotypical attribution, looking for something to blame that stands out in your eyes.

Assuming your class is loud and unattentive. Actual reasons for this might be:

  • you are not talking loud enough
  • you are presenting material in a boring or very unorganized manner
  • some bad behaving students are disturbing the class and you did not enforce silence or order

Any of these lead to the "good students" giving up on listening and doing something else, like being on Facebook and slurping their coffees. You turn around to the class and see them talking and see them drinking coffee and being in shorts and assume that this is the reason. The confirmation bias in your brain becomes active and you think: "Those coffee drinking, shorts wearing, rowdies again! If only they stopped wearing these clothes, they would immediately become attentive and model students!".

...but you should

  1. Ask yourself what a typical person wearing shorts and drinking coffee is like in your opinion and how it negatively affects your lecture? This might help you identify the actual problems you have been ignoring.
  2. Check if this behavior is really occurring in your lecture, e.g. "students talking loudly during lecture".
  3. If it is: Act on it!
    1. Make rules that prohibit this specific behavior.
    2. Announce them.
    3. Enforce them.
  4. If it is not: Leave it be! Your only concern is to give people the best possible education, not tell them how to dress.
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    Efore you go making any rules about dress code and beverages, check university rules. You don't want to get in trouble by forcing students to obey rules that are not officially university rules. – Chris Cirefice Jul 21 '17 at 5:16
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(You didn't say where you are, so this is assuming you are at a Western university without an established dress code)

This is a really bad idea.

There are so many concerns:

  • Dress codes should be designed at the administration level, with advice of counsel. There are so many possible landmines related to cultural sensitivity, medical conditions, and sexism. Indeed, universities may have policies prohibiting professors from making their own dress codes (or will create such policies when they find out about this).
  • Students may need to eat/drink during class for medical reasons, may overheat easily, or may have cultural/religious reasons for dressing as they do. Putting these students in a position where they need to share these requirements (esp. medical information) with you is unseemly, and opens you up to charges of discrimination (even if unwarranted).
  • How will you enforce this? Are you going to measure pant length or inspect water bottles? Some cases will be clear cut, but for fairness, you would need to punish all offenders.
  • Can you enforce this evenly? For example, if you are only ejecting female students and overlooking male students (even if unintentionally), there will be issues.
  • Students will resent this. Even reasonable, well-established dress codes (e.g., closed-toed shoes in chem lab) lead to friction; students will chaff if you are imposing (as they see it) unnecessary, burdensome, and paternalistic requirements.

Some may be sympathetic to your concerns (e.g., that well-dressed students are more motivating), but policies like this would better be implemented at a higher level rather than ad-hoc according to every professor's personal preference.

  • Good points. I advocate the introduction of uniforms into universities (like Oxford University in UK has uniforms for students & professors). Well, uniforms are mandatory to firemen, police officers, doctors, nurses, pilots, soldiers, etc. So why not make uniforms obligatory to all students and professors in universities? Uniforms have advantages: for example, they eliminate wardrobe worries, disguise class distinctions, exude self-respect for wearers, increase security inside university premises, etc. – Rita Geraghty Dec 12 '18 at 18:20

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