Clayton M. McCleskey: Let’s not be ugly Colonials

“Why-a you gotta be-a such ugly Americans?” With much excited gesturing, my Italian professor commented on student’s classroom demeanor.

I went to class prepared for a lesson on verb forms, but Italian 001 quickly turned into an etiquette and fashion lesson.

My professor expressed frustration that some students dressed as if they just rolled out of bed and others chowed down on Fruit Loops in class. Apparently that doesn’t fly in Italy. Come to think of it, it shouldn’t fly here at GW either.

Over the past several weeks, I have noticed a few style and etiquette issues that should be addressed, lest we become ugly Colonials.

First on the list are leggings, or as we call them back home in Texas, long underwear. For some reason an alarming amount of girls think they can please the fashion gods by forgoing pants in favor of long underwear. Trust me – the gods aren’t happy, and neither are many students. Just check Facebook for groups such as “put on some goddamn pants, GW girls.”

At first, I hesitated to devote column space to the seemingly unimportant issue of leggings. However as I discussed the topic with friends, I was shocked at how badly they wanted someone to speak up on the issue.

Don’t get me wrong, leggings have their place. I have nothing against Nordic ski wear. Girls, do us all a favor and wear something over your underwear. Leggings are simply not a replacement for pants.

Some may argue that leggings are comfortable; however, they are not comfortable on the eyes of your fellow students. Face it folks, they are not flattering, and while they may make great workout pants, they are not appropriate for class. My boxer briefs are quite comfy, but for your sake, I put pants over them when I go to class.

The latest style should not override good judgment, especially at a school like GW. Our school benefits from a diverse and worldly student body that interacts with the neighboring professional community, and we should dress accordingly. My Italian professor reminded us that clothing sends a powerful message, not so much about how “in” you are, but about whether or not you respect yourself and your colleagues. How can professors, administrators and others respect and take us seriously when we are walking around in our underwear?

A friend of mine visiting from Germany actually laughed when he saw girls in pajamas pants and guys in sport pants heading into class. Having studied at a German university, I can understand his reaction. In Europe, students realize that such clothing is not appropriate for class. How you dress at home is one thing, but the lecture hall is not your living room.

Clothing, of course, isn’t the only casual aspect that has worked its way into the classroom. It is not uncommon to see a student sit down to a lecture, unwrap a sandwich and open a bag of Doritos.

I confess that I am sometimes guilty of eating in class – sometimes you just don’t have time to stop and eat between courses. Nevertheless, my professor made me realize just how “ugly” it is to pig out during lecture. Would you walk into a business meeting with fried chicken or a bowl of Fruit Loops? Probably not.

Keeping busy schedules in mind, my Italian professor explained, “In-a-Italy, if-a-we don’t ‘ave time to eat, then-a-we-a-wait until the next meal.”

Good advice. I doubt any of us will die waiting an extra hour or two. I recommend that we take a page out of the Italian playbook and keep food out of the classroom.

I know finding time for breakfast can be hard, but your 8 a.m. class is not IHOP. Eat breakfast in the dorm or at Starbucks. Sitting there scarfing down your breakfast, or any meal for that matter, is not only disrespectful and distracting to the professor, but also to your fellow students. Do you really think people want to smell your greasy Chick-fil-A while they sit in class?

I recently had a seminar professor tell a student to toss his combo meal, claiming fried chicken just doesn’t go well with a discussion of literature. I sympathized with the guy, but now I think the professor was right.

Don’t make the choice to be an ugly Colonial by substituting leggings for pants or by feasting in class. Doing so can be more than an eyesore in some cases, and we should try to respect our peers while earning the respect of our elders.

-The writer is a sophomore

majoring in international affairs.

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