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Campus anti-'sagging' policy draws mixed reaction

By Myriah Downs
On November 13, 2011

"Sagging," or wearing pants below the waist, is widely believed to have started in prison culture in the United States where belts are prohibited.

Inmates would frequently "sag" their pants because they were unable to hold them up with a belt. Belts are frequently prohibited in prisons in the United States as they pose a significant safety risk.

To cut down on the presence of sagging on campus, ASU has implemented some rules for students to follow, although many members of the ASU community will be surprised to find that there are currently no laws restricting sagging pants of campus.

"(University Police) cannot arrest anyone for that particular violation. If we do stop them and they refuse to identify themselves or cause a disturbance, then we can intervene and they will be cited for obstruction of governmental operations. But, there is no actual law, but is a university rule," said UPD Lieutenant Jarrod Long.

Many students reported confusion over the sagging regulations on campus.

Some students said they were unaware of any specific regulations or consequences of breaking the regulations.

Tra'Mond Taylor, a junior philosophy major of Little Rock said while he was "not (personally) aware of any rules" restricting sagging on campus he was not in favor of sagging.

The regulations regarding sagging at ASU-J may be accessed via the ASU Student Handbook, which can be found on the Office of Student Conduct homepage.

The handbook lists all university regulations and policies regarding Academic and Student Affairs.

Assistant Dean of Student Conduct, Patience L. Bartunek, declined to comment regarding the university policies.

Bartunek said any student interested in the policies could review the Student Handbook under the Lewd, Obscene and Offensive Behavior ordinance.

To be in violation of the ordinance, students must commit "any conduct that is offensive to accepted standards of decency, including attire that exposes undergarments or does not provide adequate coverage."

Sagging was introduced to the mainstream culture in the early 1990s with the rise in popularity of hip-hop culture and rap music. Since then it has crossed into mainstream culture as a fashionable form of self-expression for young men and on occasion women.

During the 2008 presidential elections, President Barack Obama said, "brothers…pull your pants up. Some people might not want to see your underwear. I'm one of them."

ASU is not the first university to attempt to regulate sagging pants.

Miles College, a private Historically Black College just west of Birmingham, Ala. added regulations to their student handbook restricting students from having sagging pants as a part of the university's restrictive dress code.

This move was followed by many other private HBUCs in the South including Morehouse and Paul Quinn College.

"Sagging pants [have] become a nationwide epidemic amongst young males all around the world," said representatives from Morehouse.

The university also banned grills, Do-Rags, and "wife beater" style undershirts along with sagging pants.

Nationally many communities have passed ordinances and laws regulating sagging pants.

On March 30 of this year, Gov. Mike Beebe signed a bill prohibiting kindergarten through 12th grade students from wearing sagging pants.

The ordinances generally prohibit individuals from "intentionally wearing [their] pants in such a way as to show underwear. Individuals found in violation of this ordinance will be cited for "indecent exposure."

Among the most aggressive combatants in the war over sagging pants is Dallas, Texas.

In late 2007, Dallas launched an attack on sagging with a billboard campaign featuring slogans such as, "Pull ‘Em Up!" and "Don't Be Lame, Elevate Your Game."

Dallas Mayor Pro Temp, Dewayne R. Caraway, said the billboards were meant to "encourage youth."

The campaign was accompanied by a song titled, "Be a Real Man – Pull Your Pants Up", which featured lyrics such as, "walking around showin' your behind to other dudes."

Critics of the sagging ban point to the bias created by the regulations toward African-Americans.

"It doesn't look good…especially for African-American males," Taylor said. "People who sag portray an image they don't have. [They want a] thug image when in reality, thugs in college don't exist."

"…We see this as racial profiling…There's a fear with people associating the way you dress with crimes being committed," said the Americans for Civil Liberties Union.

"I just think people should have enough respect for themselves and for others not to sag. (Sagging) is not professional or classy. It sends the wrong image, a bad image," said Bethany Boyle, a junior chemistry major of Helena.

Other students find the idea of sagging as restrictive to women, who are chastised for wearing revealing clothing.

"If I cannot show my stuff, don't show yours," said Bianca Jordan, a senior psychology major of Paragould. "(Sagging is) alright, as long as I don't have to see anything or it gets to the point to where your pants are about to fall off."

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