Saturday, November 22, 2014

New Uniform Policy

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - From the November the 1st, all students and staff will be forced to observe a severe and some would argue excessive dress code where they must wear traditional white medical caps and white overcoats! Should the students at Moscow's Medical institute Imeni Pirogova violate this code, they could be either expelled or fired.

              The new order has irritated and even angered Muslims who perceive the ban on any religious headdress as a direct slight of their religion.

               The draconian order has certainly alarmed and woken up students. The order which is published in the university's web-site ,might strike outsiders as being eccentric, erratic and authoritian than prudently thought out.

               The order strictly forbids the wearing of short skirts, clothes with bright colours, tee shirts with drawings or slogans, shorts, transparent blouses, untidy haircuts, excessive make up or strong perfume.

                Any clothes which show you belong to a particular nationality and religion are taboo. Visible tatoos are out and so are any piercing of noses or mouths.

                What you are obliged to wear is a white cap and white medical coat. Anyone who violates this order could be either expelled from the university or if they are a member of staff, be dismissed.

                The rector who drew up this order, Andrei Kamkin, claims that the university aims to return to our glorious customs of medical practice which was observed in the past and appears in all European Medical institutes.'

                 But Kamkin is no Peter the Great and he has already showed himself willing to compromise with the Muslims after some religious representatives met him to express their indignation at those proposals.

                 However, if you read the published order properly you won't find any specific reference to banning Islamic headdresses or the 'hijab.' On the contrary, the ban forbids any overt expression of religious or political belief. So the wearing of a crucifix could also violate the order.

                 The supporters of this order claim that the wearing of 'neutral clothes ' is less likely to offend or annoy patients and they will also be taken more seriously. In fact a tidy and clean appearance is an important aspect of Russian culture and Russians spend a lot of money 'keeping up appearances.' Compared to other nationalities they can come across as 'too immaculate ' and less laid back. But woe to the man who forgets to dress smartly on a first date in Moscow. It is perhaps no mean claim to maintain that the Russians must be the most well-dressed people in Europe.

                 Many foreigners are amazed at how well-dressed and very tidy Russians are. They are always looking at their reflections in mirrors and get annoyed when they get a speck of dirt on their trousers. They even keep a special pair of shoes or trousers at work should their clothes get dirty on the way to work! So why is there any need to introduce such an order in the first place? Perhaps some of the tee-shirts which students dawn might appear offensive. One of the strangest fashions is the wearing of 'Union Jack tee shirts.’

                 Perhaps the order has been issued mainly to remind staff and students who is boss and that using forceful orders and exerting new rules implies improvement.

                 The order distracts people from more fundamental issues such as the quality of medical training, care and access!

                 One member of staff stated that, 'This is a medical institute, not a disco'. More is the pity! Perhaps if the doctors danced with some of the patients from time to time the atmosphere would be improved in some     psychiatric wards.

                 This medical institute is not alone in attempting to introduce draconian rules. Universities are becoming more inaccessible and less open to visitors as well as students. For example, in the Department of Foreign      Languages at Moscow state University if you want to organise a course or cultural gathering you need to spend days in advance preparing a list of all the names of the people who will attend such a function so that the list can be given to security men at the door. Anyone not on the list won't be admitted. So people stop organizing such events.

                 Much more seriously is the fact that students who return too late to their student hostels have been banned from entering. This means they are forced to trod around the cold and perhaps dangerous streets until the morning comes.

                 This petty curfew threatens the safety of students. It seems almost certain that the order at the medical institute violates the law of the Russian Federation as the Russian constitution forbids discrimination against any religions not to mention the suppression of freely expressing religious views.

                 It is not only some Muslims which are offended by this order, but also the Orthodox Christians. 'Those atheists are trying to suppress our religion again,' said a teacher  called Olga who would not give her surname. She told me that, 'They were discussing whether to ban the wearing of crucifixes in Britain. They thought about forbidding children from wearing crosses. That would be like returning to the days where Christianity was persecuted'.

                 A school student called Anna said, 'Well if it is an old Russian custom then it is okay to revive it!'

                 For most students the annoying thing is not the issue of expressing views, but having to fork out extra money on a new dress they can ill-afford.  The extreme punishment also seems over the top! Why should a brilliant member of staff lose his job because of untidy hair or a badly chosen tee shirt!

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