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Little dress makes big trouble in Brazil

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Short dress sparks controversy
  • 20-year-old university student expelled after hubbub over her minidress
  • Amateur videos of incident quickly went viral online
  • Private university said it would readmit woman after public outcry
  • Officials said her behavior, not dress, was the problem
  • Brazil

(CNN) -- A private university in Brazil said Tuesday that because of negative public reaction, it reversed a decision to expel a student who wore a short dress to class, but the school's assistant rector defended the original decision.

Geisy Arruda, a 20-year-old studying tourism at the Bandeirante University, known as Uniban, near Sao Paulo, gained notoriety October 22 when dozens of students harassed and heckled her about the rose-colored dress she wore. It had sleeves that reached past her forearms but barely stretched past mid-thigh.

The incident was caught by several amateur videographers using mobile phones, and their recordings went viral on the Internet. The videos show students heckling her as she enters a classroom and show her later wearing a white lab coat to cover the dress as she exits the building with a police escort.

The university expelled Arruda but this week said it would readmit her after a public outcry that included a protest and counter-protest in front of the university.

But the school denied any wrongdoing on its part, Assistant Rector Ellis Brown said Tuesday.

"The University Council [which expelled Arruda] followed procedure and was very brave because it upheld the rules of the university, even with all the attention," Brown said. "The decision to readmit the student is not an admission of a mistake but a look at the issue from another perspective."

With the about-face, the university was choosing an educational stance instead of a disciplinary one, Brown said.

Brazil, a country known for its Carnaval celebrations and its beaches filled with bikini-clad women, is also staunchly Catholic. College students typically dress modestly.

The minidress itself was not the problem, Brown said. Arruda's reported behavior stirred classmates into last month's frenzy that led to her expulsion, officials said.

Decio Machado, attorney for Uniban, said Arruda was being provocative, hiking up her dress, twirling around on a ramp and entering a classroom so students would catcall at her, according to the newspaper O Globo. Arruda denied that she did those things, the paper added.

The videos of Arruda have made her a celebrity in Brazil and abroad. A YouTube search for Arruda's name pulled up no fewer than 130 videos of the incident and the interviews she has done since.

Brazilians have followed Arruda's misadventure not unlike Americans consume the latest gossip surrounding Jon and Kate Gosselin.

"I was the victim, so I intend to keep going [to classes]," Arruda told CNN affiliate TV Record. "I don't want to cause any more problems. I only want to study. I want to enter the classroom, sit down and study, do my tests and go to the next course."

As of Tuesday, she had not returned to the classroom.

CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor Rafael Romo contributed to this report.