A French-speaking university in Belgium is being labelled by local media as sexist after female students were asked to “show beautiful cleavage” at their graduation ceremony.
Both male and female students in their final year of medicine studies at Université Libre de Bruxelles (the Free University of Brussels) received the following email from the University Secretariat:
“My colleagues and me expect you at 1 pm behind the Paul Emile Janson auditorium.”
“Please be there on time. From an aesthetic point of view, we suggest the young ladies wear a dress and also show beautiful cleavage, and for the gentlemen a suit.
“Of courses, dear ladies, this instruction is not compulsory.”
A screenshot was grabbed and shared on Facebook and Twitter, where hundreds of students reacted with everything from anger to humour.
“No one has the right to tell you how you should feel in your skin,” one person commented on the Confessions page. “Nobody has the right to tell you how to dress. No one has the right to tell you how to play your role as a woman. No one has the right to take away this freedom that has been (and is still being) obtained with such difficulty.”
While another student took a different approach: “It is true that it’s shameful…to ask a man to wear a suit!!!”
Marco Schetgen, dean of the school’s Medicine Faculty, confirmed with Belgian news outlet RTL that this is not a hoax and that the email was in fact sent out. Although he’s shocked, he stated:
“It is probably a woman who is at the origin of this writing, since the secretariat is composed only of women.”
University spokesman Nicolas Dassonvile labelled the email “totally inappropriate” and said it goes against the values of the ULB. The university released a statement apologising for the email on Facebook:
“The Faculty of Medicine, through its dean, presents its sincerest apologies to all the students who have received the email mentioned below,” the apology began. “It goes without saying that the instructions related to the clothing of young graduates are also displaced and are contrary to the values … of the ULB and its faculty.”
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