A just cause, a fair shot, an equal representation–humans, by their very nature, demand equality. In many instances, however, equality is not easy to come by. As we grow older, the experiences we encounter are not always sugarcoated; rather, some experiences are met with the harsh realization that the world is not always a level playing field. College students often know better than others that our ideally uniform world is plagued with discrimination.
Since discrimination comes in such varied forms, it is often hard to define. Discrimination is especially hard to spot in the workforce. If a person is rejected in an area, when, if at all, is rejection deemed discrimination? Where is the line between discrimination and mere preference drawn?
Students who look different sometimes feel they have an automatic strike against them when it comes to job opportunities. Whether tribal art encircles their bicep or a ring adorns their nose, those who let art rule sometimes feel the negative effects of their individuality.
“When I first came here, I stuck out like a sore thumb,” admits senior RTV major Lindsey Stockberger. “I moved from Austin where I felt totally accepted, and here, people stare at me like I’m an alien.”
Lindsey has orange hair.
But should a person’s outside appearance be their nemesis in a job interview?
“I think companies should hire based on work, not on looks,” continued Stockberger, though she understands why many professionals are against hiring the “unique.”
Can it be said, then, that a failure to hire a potential employee because of an attribute of their appearance is a form of discrimination?
Not hiring a person because of physical appearance is a form of discrimination and is not justifiable, according to junior English major Daniel Vrana.
Vrana currently has three visible piercings and has frequented the campus in the past with his shades of green, blue and red hair.
“I can see how customers might have a problem (with a person’s appearance), but how bad looking does someone have to be not to get hired? Do companies only want to hire good-looking people over not good-looking people?” he said.
In a hiring decision, then, on what ground can discrimination be claimed?
Junior journalism major Amee Allen feels discrimination cannot be claimed in instances where applicants possess an undesirable, yet “controllable” attribute.
“A person can choose not to smoke or not to wear a piercing or to remove a tattoo. I feel that is a person is not hired because of something they can control, they are not being discriminated against,” Allen said.
Junior accounting major Melinda Kalmus recognizes both sides of the argument, but believes not hiring a person because of tattoos or piercings is a form of discrimination.
She adds, however, “Appearance is an evaluation of one’s professionalism, and tattoos and piercings just don’t show professionalism.”
Whether professional or unprofessional, acceptable or unacceptable, a blessing or a curse, tattoos, piercings and hair color have an effect on more than the individual bodies they garnish.
Individuality, it seems, rarely comes without a price.