Baby, it’s cold inside

“We the Students of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, in Order to form a more perfect School, establish Justice, insure domestic coziness, provide for the common comfort, promote the general Warmth, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our numb appendages, do ordain and establish this Plea for jackets in Benilde-St. Margaret’s.”

Let’s face it, I’m irked, no, strike that––irate. I was sitting in class, freezing my butt off, and the dress code forbade me from putting on my coat. I had two choices: remain a human popsicle for the rest of the year or try to change the dress code; I chose the latter.

I started my journey for justice by conducting a poll of the Knight Errant Twitter followers, asking if a colder classroom made it more difficult to pay attention in class. After 24 hours the poll closed and the results showed that 70% of students did indeed have a harder time paying attention when the classroom was too cold. A poll is a very useful tool, but scientific evidence makes a case much stronger.

Thankfully, a study by an undergrad at Loyola University found a correlation between extreme room temperatures and memory. 52 students were randomly assigned to three rooms with temperatures of 64, 72, and 80 degrees fahrenheit. The students all participated in a computerized memory test, and the students in the rooms at extreme hot and cold did noticeably worse. If jackets can potentially help students do better in class, why are they against the dress code?

Her response boiled down to two main reasons: one, jackets are outdoor clothing, so there’s no need for them indoors, and two, bulky jackets make it easier to conceal potentially dangerous objects.

— Gunnar Lundberg

I sat down with BSM’s Freshmen Dean and Assistant Principal, Ms. Rasmussen, and asked her why coats were forbidden in the BSM dress code. Her response boiled down to two main reasons: one, jackets are outdoor clothing, so there’s no need for them indoors, and two, bulky jackets make it easier to conceal potentially dangerous objects.

In my opinion, the first reason can be debunked by simply applying that same principle to other articles of clothing. Take Hunter rain boots for example. Their popularity has grown exponentially in recent years, but they are rain boots, and because it does not rain inside, shouldn’t they be off limits too? If the the answer is no, then both rain boots and coats should be allowed. If the answer is yes, I’d love to see someone tell every girl at BSM that the Hunter boots they scrambled to buy are now outlawed. The second reason regarding safety is a valid concern, which is why I personally am still against having large bulky winter coats that are floor length. However, I believe light down jackets hold no large potential threat to school safety.

The dress code currently has coats under the “Other Prohibited Items” bullet point in the student handbook where it lists “coats (these must be kept in your locker during the school day).” Other than the obviously vague wording of the prohibition, there is absolutely no definition of a “coat.”

Armed with my printer card, pen, and motivation to make a difference, I began to circulate a petition around the student body that voiced support for adding jackets to the dress code. Not surprisingly, in just over a day I was able to amass 139 signatures. Clearly, a large portion of the student body was behind me. However, a list of signatures and results from a Twitter poll  would not be enough to make my case. With the vague wording of the dress code on my side, I set out to prove a point.

I took photos of three students in three different styles of coats, and showed the pictures to teachers with the question as to whether or not they would ask the students to change. Much like I predicted, the teachers were fairly split about which students that said they would ask to change. By definition, (“any outer garment with sleeves” according to all of the students were wearing coats, but each was evaluated differently by the teachers. There was no real consensus as to what qualified a coat to be removed. This goes to show that the enforcement of the dress code is solely up to teacher discretion, which varies by instructor. The sporadic enforcement creates confusion among the students and teachers as to what coats are actually forbidden. However, this study was purely hypothetical, at least until the Winter Coat Brigade.

Four friends, four jackets, four schedules––one goal: wear coats during the school day until asked to remove them. Disclaimer: The students involved in the Winter Coat Brigade were fully aware of their actions and potential consequences that might befall them. The Knight Errant and its staff in no way encourages organized rule breaking. However, these puffy, colorful, warm, armor adorned trailblazers agreed to the possibility of discipline in order to conduct this experiment. Two of the four were able to successfully make it through the day wearing their bulky winter coats, one of which extended all the way to the knee length.

With my armada of petitions, polls, surveys, and experiments, I finally felt ready to present my case to the administration, and I scheduled a meeting with BSM’s Assistant Principal, Ms. Andersen.

I walked into Ms. Andersen’s office with a powerpoint and complete confidence. I presented my findings and offered possible solutions as to modifying the dress code. I suggested that the “no coat rule” warranted its own bullet point in the Dress Code, and a less vague wording of the ban. Sadly for me, Ms. Andersen saw the coat issue as less of a wording problem, and more of a teacher enforcement problem. I was told that my suggestions would be considered, but change was not a guarantee. Ms. Andersen did, however, mention that a student “Dress Code Task Force” was being developed to help arrive at a consensus between students and administration in regards to attire; she even hinted at the slight possibility of updating certain rules––yes, even the one involving leggings.

As this is my last year as a BSM student, I shall leave failing to win my classmates the justice of sweet warmth. I fear that if the Gales of November come early next year, the feebly framed freshmen may freeze to death in BSM’s arctic West Wing. As for the possibility of leggings being allowed, I really can’t say––but baby it’s cold inside.