Dressing Like the Big Man on Campus

• E-mail Maggie Lineback

Do clothes make the man (or woman)?

One college president says yes. Michael Sorrell, the new head of the historically black Paul Quinn College in Dallas, says he needed to make some major changes. He walked around campus and saw decidedly unbusiness-like attire. When corporate recruiters came to campus, he knew they weren't taking his students seriously.

Enter the new dress code. No jeans. No T-shirts. No sneakers. And definitely, no flip-flops. Sorrell says he's not expecting tuxedos and ball gowns, just khakis and collared shirts. Initially, the students gave him a lot of push back. You can see why. Walk on any college campus these days and casual wear is de rigueur. For most students, going to college is a chance to get away from the rules and regs of mom and dad and finally get some freedom — including the freedom to dress how you wish.

But Sorrell points out, that if you're not used to dressing in business casual, how can you make the transition to life after school? Sorrell cruises campus looking for infractions. A first offense gets you a citation. A second offense gets you a Saturday 7 a.m. meeting with Sorrell — on the jogging trail. So far, no one has gotten to a second offense.

Paul Quinn has deeper problems than image. Some of its buildings are abandoned and crumbling, and in the past, it's been the subject of financial mismanagement. Sorrell says he's tackling those troubles too, but first, students have to do their part. The community donated business clothes to help the kids who couldn't afford them. And the kids we talked to on campus say they're on board — they look and feel better.

Maggie Lineback is a Dallas bureau producer.