DURHAM — Know the old Bible verse that goes, "What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?"
Here's an updated one: What doth it profit a man to have a great education from an esteemed university if he can't get past the HR department because he looks like a bum?
Want to bet that more jobs have been lost because an applicant didn't know how to present himself for the interview than because he was stupid or didn't know how to interface a media file extension, whatever that means?
N.C. Central University Chancellor Charlie Nelms is trying to ensure that NCCU alumni don't have that problem. On Monday night, Nelms and other members of the university's faculty met with male students to provide them with neckties, to teach them how to tie a tie and, more importantly, when to know a tie is called for.
Kevin Rome, vice chancellor for student affairs, called the event "an informal, fun setting to teach them and let them get to know the chancellor and the staff."
Behind the fun, though, he said, were some important lessons.
"We're also teaching them to make sure their shoes are shined, their suit is pressed, when they go on job interviews," Rome said. "It's the little things like that that a potential employer will look at and make a huge assumption about you and your work ethic."
Go ahead and smirk at the idea of a university teaching something many of us learned to do in grade school. Before you do, though, realize that not everyone has had the same advantages you had. Like a daddy.
A lot of the male students, Rome said, "may be like I was and may have grown up without a father in the home."
Rome said he learned to tie a tie the way many young people learn everything these days: "On YouTube.com," he said.
Hmmph. That sounds like cheating. When I started wearing bowties because columnist Chuck Stone wore them, the Internet hadn't even been conceived. That meant I had to start getting dressed for dressy events an hour earlier than usual because it would take that long to get a presentable knot.
Rome said, "I wear bowties exclusively, and Chancellor Nelms didn't know how to tie one. ... He said, 'Kevin, you should have something to teach students how to tie a tie.' "
In addition to teaching them to tie different knots - I still can't get that little dimple thing in mine - and when to wear one, NCCU is providing ties and suits to the students who need them. Rome said suits donated to the school's Shepherd's Closet program are provided to students in need.
The School of Business requires its students to dress up at least once a week, and it often has events that require students to dress in business attire, Rome said.
More universities ought to adopt such a full-service approach to education as NCCU has and impart knowledge on etiquette and general comportment.
Trust me: Sending forth grads with bad table manners - or who answer their cellphones in an interview - can be just as damning to your school's reputation as an ill-tied tie.
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