A former student accused the University of Holy Cross of forcing her to withdraw from its nursing program due to her natural hair.
Per NBC affiliate WDSU, Jade Payadue had been enrolled at the New Orleans-based school for a few years and was set to start clinicals in January of this year. During Holy Cross’ “white coat ceremony” (which marks the transition from in-class training to learning on the ground in a hospital setting), officials told Payadue that “her hair was too big and she needed to fix it.”
Some thought that Payadue was breaking the school’s hair policy, which states, “When in lab coat or uniform, hair must be neat and may not extend below the bottom of the collar of the lab coat or uniform. Therefore, long hair must be secured above the collar, off the neck and shoulders and appropriately contained at the back of the head. If the hair is ‘put up’ the hair may not be higher than four inches. Hair must be clean with the appearance of being shampooed regularly.”
In response, Payadue met with the university’s provost and the head of the department multiple times. Holy Cross came up with an ultimatum: either Payadue could remain enrolled, attend counseling, and agree to school probation, or she could drop out.
Payadue said she chose the latter because, “If I didn’t withdraw from the program and I signed that contract, and they found one reason to expel me from the program, that meant I would not be allowed to enroll in another nursing program in the state of Louisiana for five years.”
Now, Payadue is calling on University of Holy Cross to change its policy, which insinuates that natural hair doesn’t look “professional” enough. That mentality has been a frustration for many PoC for years, and celebrities such as Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington and have spoken out about hair-based discrimination.
Payadue said, “I’m really concerned about making things different for all black women, all women of color, who are constantly being told the way they were born is not appropriate or not professional.”
The university responded to Payadue’s plea with the statement, “Those rules and regulations take into account those of the hospitals where its students perform their clinical rotations. The hair rule about which a nursing student complained is for the safety of the nursing students.”
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