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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tatted up teachers: Freedom of expression or unprofessional?

    Tom Price
    Alissa Neal, a third year grad student in the 3D Extended Media program, shows off her tattoos outside the Art Building on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Neal hopes to express everything she’s gone through and wants to go through in life in her tattoos.

    Visible tattoos in the workplace are a touchy subject with many individuals. Some view them as freedom of expression, some as art. Others view them as inappropriate.

    Stigmas about tattoos have changed, but misconceptions still remain.

    There are a number of teachers and faculty with visible body art at the UA, which raises the question of whether tattoos remain unprofessional or professional within the educational workplace.

    RELATED: Tattoo artists giving out ink for canned food

    “I would say that more on a personal, rather than professional level, people tend to assume you are a certain type of person because you have tattoos,” said Spanish instructor Rebecca Pitts. “I have never felt like my tattoos have defined who I am at work, or that my employers have assumed I was less professional because of them.”

    What used to be considered counterculture is now modern-day art. From entry-level jobs to high-paying jobs, tattoos are becoming more visible.

    “There should be no problem with having tattoos in the workplace,” said psychology freshman Julia Sochi. “As someone with two visible tattoos myself, my tattoos were and are a way to express myself in a visual way and I have made them part of who I am.”

    Tattoos arguably do not detract from one’s teaching abilities, yet they can inspire many first impressions—and not always good ones.

    “There are definitely still people [who] do not like them and jobs that will not allow you to have them visible,” Pitts said. “However, I think for most people and employers, accepting tattoos is kind of inevitable at this point.”

    Pitts explained that most of her tattoos were spur of the moment, and she has had to cover up a few as a result.

    While not all of them possess sentimental value, they all remind Pitts of a time in her life. One of her tattoos is from Harry Potter, which reminds her of the times she spent waiting for each book to hit the stands.

    Pitts considers getting tattoos an addiction, but also said she feels like she has never been discriminated against because of her ink.

    “Here at the UA, I have never felt like my employer treated me differently because I have tattoos,” Pitts said. “I would imagine that my students might perceive me to be a certain way, especially when they first see me. But I have never asked.”

    Some students believe in the cons of visible tattoos in the workplace, especially in a professional and educational setting. But some understand how popular they have become.

    “Tattoos in the workplace can be distracting in some settings, especially based on where the tattoo is placed on the body,” said pre-business sophomore Grant Konen. “I have no conflict with teachers or students having tattoos because tattoos are becoming more common in today’s society.”

    Certain employers will oftentimes ask employees to cover up their body art within the workplace to set a certain standard throughout the company. Pitts has never been asked to hide her tattoos at the UA, but she has been asked to hide them at other jobs.

    “Most of the time, it was either because of a specific dress code or because of the clientele,” Pitts said. “I think anytime that you are representing a company or brand, they can be a bit weary about tattoos and piercings.”

    There is no doubt looking professional is part of fitting the criteria for certain jobs. But the idea that tattoos are not professional-looking or do not qualify for the workplace is a distinction that seems to be slowly changing.

    “I don’t understand why employers discriminate against people with tattoos,” Sochin said. “[They] are not bad, they are just a way to express yourself. People with tattoos deserve great jobs, too.”

    Follow Sarah Briggs on Twitter.

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