LONDON – A university in Belgium has apologized for suggesting women wear low-cut necklines to graduation.
An email sent last week to about 100 medical students at the Free University of Brussels said it was preferable for young women to wear a low neckline because it would look better in photos.
“From an aesthetic point of view, it would be better if the young women would wear a skirt or a dress, as well as a low neckline, and the men, a suit. Of course, ladies, this guidance isn’t mandatory,” the email said.
In its apology, the School of Medicine said the advice was “contrary to the values that the School of Medicine and the Free University of Brussels have always defended.”
University spokesman Nicolas Dassonville told CNNMoney the advice was written by a longtime secretary as part of lengthy instructions about the graduation ceremony. He said the dean spoke to the secretary to make sure she understood why the advice was inappropriate.
Dassonville called it an example of the everyday sexism that plagues society and that the university has tried to stamp out.
“The university isn’t more sexist than the rest of society, but it should be less. We are working on it,” he said.
The school, which has about 26,000 students, has programs in place to fight sexism on campus and encourage women to pursue higher degrees after graduation. Each department has a designated person responsible for promoting gender equality.
“This incident is showing us that what we do is necessary, because ordinary sexism still exists, so we need to fight against it,” he said.