A picture is worth a thousand words, if the recent outcry over the dress code graphic posted on the Stuyvesant website is anything to go by. The graphic was accompanied by a slight change in the wording of the official dress code—skirts and dresses were now to fall “well past the fingertips with the arms straight at the side,” as opposed to the prior “at or below the fingertips.” The changes, coupled with warm weather and questionable dress code enforcement, all led to collective outrage from the Stuyvesant student body.
Many were dissatisfied with what they felt was a lack of sensitivity from the administration. “Besides the incredibly offensive image, extending the rule to ‘well past’ is completely arbitrary and undermines the idea of having a uniform dress code at all,” freshman Isabella Langbecker said.
Others, however, did not find the image to be inappropriate. “The dress code exists for a reason, and the image was taken too seriously,” sophomore Edward Kwan said.
When asked about the graphic, Principal Stanley Teitel stated that he had not seen it. After being shown the image, he added that he had never approved the addition of “well below” into the official wording. He immediately sent an email to Assistant Principal of Technology Edward Wong, asking that he take down the graphic and delete the phrase “well below” from the statement.
Wong declined to comment on the situation.
Three weeks after the original post, senior Benjamin Koatz organized a student protest titled “Slutty Wednesday,” scheduled for Wednesday, June 6. He had the intention of “pointing out the ridiculousness of the administration’s policies and the way they go about enacting them,” Koatz said. For the Facebook event he created to develop a larger student platform, students were invited to wear clothing that broke the dress code “in a decently normal outfit.”
The New York Times, New York Post and television channel NY1 arrived at the school before the first wave of students entered the building. They interviewed, photographed, and recorded students as they entered the school.
Of the many students breaking the dress code, very few were reprimanded once inside. “It seemed that the administration didn’t know how to respond to the students or to the media,” sophomore Joseph Koyfman said. “With such few days of school left, the administration has no need to react forcefully.”
In the days following the event, media coverage of the protest reached national and international proportions. Featured in The New York Times, New York Post, Huffington Post, United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, News Track India, and others, the event was featured prominently in television, print, and paper media.
Most students were pleased with the media coverage, despite the fact that the movement received some backlash over its provocative name. Some were displeased that the name of the event had garnered such negative outcry.
“I made the Slutty Wednesday page, which is kind of an ironic name because it wasn’t actually meant to be slutty.” Koatz said. “If I had known that we were going to get all this press attention and things like that, I might have changed the name.”
After Wednesday, many students were concerned that the event did not receive accurate coverage from certain news sources. There were numerous complaints that the number of participants had not been correctly reported and that the purpose behind the event–to protest the uneven enforcement of the dress code–was misconstrued.
Despite the coverage, several alumni spoke out in support of the protest, both by disseminating coverage via social media and by defending their former schoolmates in their comments in select articles.
Stuyvesant students had various opinions on how the protest went. An anonymous sophomore said, “People e-mailed the media asking them to come over. They wanted media awareness. While that brings about change, it doesn’t bring about change the right way.”
He cited New York Post’s article, which featured an image of two Stuyvesant freshmen, Lauren Sobota and Lucy Greider, posed under the slogan “Tramping Out,” as an example of negative media attention garnered by the protest. “[The media] purposely picked out quotes… that made the school look worse. After that happened, everyone was saying, ‘why did you call the media?’ They started blaming each other,” the anonymous sophomore said.
“People have the right idea, but I think they’re not going about it the right way. Just because you’re wearing short-shorts and a tank top doesn’t mean Ms. Damesek’s going to be like, ‘Oh my god! Dress code has to be changed!’” Senior Okori McBurney said. “I understand that a lot of girls are getting bothered by the administration and things like that; I think that’s more of the problem than wearing tank tops and short shorts and things like that.”
“I feel that the students here don’t have as much of a problem with the dress code as much as they do with the enforcement of the code,” sophomore Nicole Sanchez said. “Some people get caught. Other people don’t.”
Since the administration has taken no significant punitive action against protesters, it appears that there are no plans to interfere with future protests. There has been no indication that any changes to the dress code can be expected in the school year’s final days.