Diplomat in Action (Facial Hair Policy)

Photograph by Nishant Chanda

Article by Naoki Nomura

Recently members of the Diplomat have succeeded in initiating some positive changes to the St. Mary’s high school. Being a place to not only generate and publish articles for the SMIS community, the Diplomat strives to express the voices of fellow students as well. One issue that came up recently was regarding the SMIS high school facial policy. As a Diplomat project, a group of reporters(Alex Behr, Naoki Nomura, Nishant Chanda, Soumyadip Nandi, and Nishant Naricitty) decided to take on this challenge and proposed a change in the policy to the High School administration.

The change concerned the uniform policy for grades 9-11. The facial hair policy in the High School Student Handbook stated that students are required to be “clean shaven; sideburns to bottom of ear[and no further].” However, the reporters of the Diplomat viewed these guidelines as being too vague, and perhaps unfair, and put together a proposal to make amends to the Facial Hair and Grooming Policy for the non-seniors. Here is the letter written by the Diplomat to the administration:

To the Administration,

We would like to propose some changes to the facial hair policy. However, we would first like to engage in a discussion with the administration to clarify what exactly is the grooming policy for high school students, since we have noticed many cases in which (what we have understood to be) the rules were not being enforced. According to the SMIS HS Student Handbook, to be in uniform means to be “clean shaven” for grades 9-11, and having a “clean, groomed, and conservative goatee” for grade 12.

We propose that the current policy for grades 9-11 should be reconsidered, for these reasons:

  • Due to genetic factors, and because the students of the high school are in different stages in puberty, there is a great variation in the degree to which we grow facial hair. Some can get by without shaving for weeks, but others would have to shave every day to achieve a “clean-shaven look”.
  • Many religious and ethnic groups have strict attitudes regarding facial hair. The current policy doesn’t seem to account for this, and could potentially discriminate against students of that category.

Kind regards,

The Diplomat

1 Nov. 2016

Following this letter, the administration(Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Sharp) replied by scheduling a meeting with the current student council president Jun Woo Hwang and vice president Stefano Adelima to discuss this issue. Consequently both parties concluded that there should be a change to the Facial Hair and Grooming Policy for the freshman, sophomores, and the juniors. The high school student council members are currently in the progress of making the appropriate changes in the High School Student Handbook.

The change in the Facial Hair and Grooming Policy is just one example of possible student initiated actions. When asked about the administration’s thoughts on student initiated change Mr. Sharp replied, “I think it’s really important because it is your school. You need to have input into what happens in your life to be engaged in what’s happening around you.” He then went to mention that there is a process that goes along with this. He stated, “we can’t just change the school rule every year just because we have new graduating class coming in. What has to happen is that there has to be a historical perspective and an overarching focus.” As Mr. Sharp mentioned, the high school administration is very supportive of student initiated changes if accomplished through the proper process.

Self-determination is an important value that needs to be promoted in life. As students we are able to help determine our paths in school through reasoned arguments. The Diplomat is open to hearing about and possibly getting behind any changes to the SMIS community that seem reasonable, so feel free to contact us.