Cornell University is an institution of higher education, bringing students together from all walks of life. Here a student is provided with the needed knowledge and skills to face the challenging world of today. But sometimes, things turn unpleasant, like in this case, where a student undresses because she’s upset over the professor, who apparently questions her shorts during a thesis presentation.
Letitia Chai 18, got up to give her class thesis presentation and called for everyone to undress. Straightaway, among the 44 students present, 28 of them undresses gradually.
This incident occurred after Chai had an altercation with professor Rebekkah Maggor, a week before over her wearing shorts during her thesis presentation trial on rehabilitation for evacuees ‘is that really what you would wear?’
Chai was so shocked on hearing the question, as she was wearing a blue button down and jeans short shorts. She just didn’t know how to react at that given moment.
As per Chai, the professor questions regarding her shorts being too short, as it was not at all an appropriate dress while speaking on a sensitive topic.
Usually, there isn’t a formalized dress code in the University but expects a student to dress appropriately while giving a presentation because it represents the speaker’s character, as per the course syllabus.
Maggor mentions in her e-mail to The Sun, that she never tells her students on what to wear, neither does she define what constitutes appropriate dress. But she does tell them to speculate and decide for themselves.
Earlier, a student was asked by Maggor to remove the cap he was wearing during class, in order to abide by the dressing policy of the University.
Chai felt that asking a student to remove his cap and questions regarding a girl’s shorts being too short, are totally two different topics. The professor precisely pinpointed that Chai would distract the men’s attention from the significance of her presentation.
However, a male international student agreed with the professor’s comment and said, that a speaker has some “moral obligation” to the gallery by dressing decently during a thesis presentation. Soon after this, Chai walked out of the room with two students, who supported her.
Well, Maggor did apologize for her choice of words with the remaining 13 students after Chai left the class. But elaborated, that the concept of short shorts on women bears plenty of moral values and political baggage.
Matters turned worse when Maggor came behind Chai and told her, what Chai’s mother would think of her daughters dressing sense. Chai reacted by saying, that her mother is pretty cool about her shorts, as she’s a feminist, gender, and sexuality professor herself.
At that given moment Chai bluntly answered that she will be giving the best damn speech of her life when Maggor asked her, what is she gonna do now.
This is when Chai straightaway walks back into the class, undresses and begins to give her thesis presentation in a semi-naked state to the rest of the students present.
In that very night, Chai wrote on Facebook about the episode and straightaway there were 1050 likes and 165 shares. She went on to invite the public for her thesis presentation to be held on Saturday morning. But she never revealed the names of the students or the professor.
On account of all the attention, Chai received from her Facebook post, eleven out of the thirteen students present during the incident, wrote a joint statement to The Sun, expressing their support for Chai’s outcry, but was not in favor of her going public.
The statement mentioned “The majority of us are students of color, from multi-ethnic backgrounds, who very much relate to Letitia’s frustration with systemic oppression that is part of the fabric of this country,” and further read “We do not want to discredit [Letitia’s] narrative.”
The students also went on to write that there was an error of phrasing by the professor, as her intention and desire for her students, was always genuinely to encourage diversification and involvement.
On the other hand, Chai said that her intention was not to get back at the professor but to raise alertness regarding this “huge societal issue,” which she believes is centered on a negative approach rather than personal issues.
Chai feels that the only way to progress is to consider everyone as equals, in spite of their clothing, appearance or any other differences.
Here are some responses that started pouring in on social media right away after Chai undresses to prove a point. Some were in favor of her outcry and some were against it.