My 18 year old daughter gave me her permission to publish these letters that she wrote and received from the College of Western Idaho about being allowed to be barefoot on campus. The first letter is from her, the second is a response from the college, and the third is from her. She had been going barefoot to campus for nearly the whole fall semester, when during the last two weeks of class, a guard felt duty bound to require shoes. He was polite and somewhat apologetic, but felt he was doing his job. She asked for verification that it was “necessary” and at first no one could find it! Unfortunately, they kept trying and got back to her with it. She took time during her winter break to write this letter. She has not gotten any final resolution yet. There will be a funny side story at the end of the post.
Dear Mr. Shellberg,
Executive VP, Instruction & Student Services
It has recently come to my attention that there is a policy in the CWI dress code stating that, “Regulations prohibit any individual from entering any campus building barefoot.” I have been predominantly barefoot for the last two years for multiple reasons, including wanting to have healthy strong feet. Being barefoot allows me to be more aware of where I am walking and keeps me from tripping over things that I would if wearing shoes. When barefoot, I am less at risk of injury than other people wearing shoes, because I am more aware of where I am placing my feet. I am able to keep my balance, and my muscles and feet are not confined to only a few motions. I ask that you would consider revising this policy to allow for being barefoot in CWI buildings. In the Student Handbook, the dress code does not clarify what “regulations” are being referred to as a reason for disallowing individuals to be barefoot in CWI buildings. There are no state health codes or laws requiring footwear to be worn, so it cannot be due to any law.
For the last two years, I have run almost exclusively barefoot, up to thirteen miles on different terrain, including gravel and rough roads. I have walked and run over broken glass without injury and my feet have been strengthened both muscularly and with a leathery protective skin. To me, shoes are comparable to gloves. They may protect from some things, but in the end you can’t use your hands for normal tasks or have the reasonable sense of touch which is required for almost everything we use our hands for. I am perfectly aware of and willing to accept the perceived consequences of being barefoot and will not hold CWI responsible in any way for any harm that might come to me as a direct result of my being barefoot. One person being barefoot does not in any way endanger or harm others and is much safer than many of the shoes that are accepted in the dress code.
You may have concerns about cleanliness and appropriateness. I can assure you that my feet are washed much more regularly than any shoes and do not have inconvenient cracks that carry mud and dirt around in them. My feet also do not stink, as they are hardly ever confined in sweaty shoes. As for appropriateness, if the school dress code allows for flip flops and other sandals, there can be no question of bare feet being less appropriate. Just as much of the foot is visible when wearing flip flops, save under the straps on top.
Most accepted shoes have artificial extrusions from the foot, and or are not securely attached to the foot, making it much more likely for people wearing them to trip than someone who is barefoot. As a student who is hoping to attend CWI for at least two more semesters, being required to wear shoes in campus buildings is not only inconvenient, but quite uncomfortable. Aching feet are an unwelcome distraction when one is attempting to study.
I have a sister currently attending BSU who is regularly barefoot on campus and in buildings without any problems or being required to wear shoes. My mother recently ran all but two miles of a marathon barefoot. I am a member of the Barefoot Runners Society. The Society for Barefoot Living is an open organization that provides support for barefooters. These resources make clear the benefits of being barefoot.
Good evening Carlie –
My name is Kevin Jensen and Mr. Shellberg forwarded your message on to me for some research, etc. First, thank you for the very thoughtful and thorough explanation of the situation and excellent presentation of your questions. I appreciate the time you took to outline the issues in such detail and you’ve certainly given us some important things to think about.
In the coming days, I will be doing some additional research on exactly why our dress code specifically prohibits students from entering campus buildings barefoot and will be seeking an opinion from our institutional risk manager as well as others. We may also need to seek additional opinions from legal counsel and insurance representatives in order to asses potential liability/risk to the college in the event of an injury, etc.
At any rate, I did want to let you know that we will be looking into your questions and hope to have additional information, one-way or another (whether that be a revision to our policy, affirmation of the policy, or an exception to the policy) to you soon. That being said, I do anticipate that it may take a little bit of time for me to compile our official response.
While we are looking into our policy in light of the observations you’ve made, please be sure to follow the existing policy and wear appropriate footwear for now. Again I certainly appreciate the thoughts you’ve outlined below so I will certainly make every attempt to move quickly on this matter.
If you have any questions while we are researching, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Kevin Jensen, M.B.A.
Dean of Enrollment and Student Services
College of Western Idaho
p: 208.562.3251 f: 888.562.3216
Thank you for your kind reply to my letter. As you research and look into these possibilities, you may wish to take into account the liabilities of other clothing and footwear that is considered normal and safe. When compared to the lack of requirements outlining the types of shoes that can be worn, or the possibility of slipping due to a wet tile floor, this rule seems very restrictive. It might seem absurd, but asking students to wear shoes for liability issues is comparable to requiring everyone to wear a helmet in the event that they should fall or run in to something.
Although shoes are considered a “normal” piece of equipment to wear, they present just as many if not more opportunities for injury than being barefoot. People trip, slip, and fall far more often while wearing shoes than when they are barefoot. Shoes also reshape feet as a cast would by molding the foot to fit the shape of the shoe. Here are some sources that I hope will help you during your research.
Thank you again for your considerate reply and for taking the time to research this.
[box]Funny story: Within a very short time of receiving the appreciative reply from the college administrator, Carlie (and the whole class) was also told by one college professor at the start of the spring semester that all of them were stupid and he would not accept any of their papers without them going through the Writing Center on campus for editing and corrections. This would take up time from studies and work commitments and had Carlie discouraged. I suggested she could try to politely show the correspondence above to said professor and offer that “the college administrators seem to think I can write well.” She did so, and the requirement was waived for her.[/box]