A former University of Holy Cross nursing student says she felt forced to walk away from the school because of regulations against her natural hair. Now she’s fighting back.
Jada Payadue had dreams of becoming a nurse and spent the last few years taking classes, local station WDSU reported. She started clinical rotations earlier this year but is no longer sure of what lies ahead of her.
Payadue’s plans began to unravel the day of her white coat ceremony when an instructor approached her and told her hair was “too big” and needed to be adjusted. According to a portion of the university’s hair policy, “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 of 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,” it continues.
Speaking to Teen Vogue, Payadue said the incident left her feeling humiliated.
“I was surprised and taken aback,” she said. “I was exposed, and deprived of my dignity. I lost all confidence in the system that was supposed to protect me. I feel deprived of my dream and passion, and all that I worked for. [Women of color] aren’t begging for acceptance — we are demanding respect and fair treatment.”
The teacher’s complaint prompted a number of meetings with the university’s provost, instructors, and the head of the department, after which Payadue said she was given two options. The provost said she could either sign a contract and be placed on probation or leave Holy Cross without penalty.
“ … 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 wouldn’t be allowed to enroll in another nursing program in the state of Louisiana, for five years,” Payadue told WDSU.
The former nursing student made the decision to leave the university but has since pressed the school to make changes to its policy.
“I want to see not only changes here, but in every workplace and every university,” she said. “I don’t want other women to go through what I’ve gone through … I am 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 addressed Payadue’s concerns in a statement:
“The University of Holy Cross expects all of its students, while doing their clinical rotations at various hospitals throughout the New Orleans area, to comply with Holy Cross’s rules and regulations. 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.”