Tuesday, March 20, 2012

If I Ran BYU...

 I teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.- Joseph Smith Jr.

I went to BYU for three and a half years and in that time (and since) I've learned a few things about the inefficiencies of my alma mater. Now, owing to the fact that BYU fans consider everything about the school to be divinely mandated, this post will sound downright blasphemous to a lot of folks. Nevertheless, this is my blog, so I am going to say what I think.

Things I Would Change About BYU:

  • The Honor Code Office-  I would do away with it entirely. The cutesy angels singing "That's against the Honor Code" at freshman orientation, the people yelling at you to "Honor your valentine this Valentine's Day!", the ecclesiastical endorsements, they don't make one bit of a difference to those who are carnally minded.  If someone messes up, have the bishop report it to Academics and they can take whatever action is needed. We don't need a separate entity governing worthiness.
  • The "Hurry up and get married!" attitude- It's pretty clear that the BYU administration fears students' sexuality and is under the impression that if we would all just get married, we'd stop lusting. As a single student the message I got over and over again from some religion teachers and bishops, not to mention the entire Honor Code Office was, "We know you single people want to have sex and breaking the law of chastity is all you think about, but for the love of Pete, hurry up and get married and then you can have sex and will no longer be plagued by lust!" I can't tell you how strongly I disagree with this sentiment because a) It comes from a perspective of normalizing sin and negates personal responsibility and b) It gives singles the impression that marriage is all about sex. It's not. Marriage is about building a life and a family together and sex is part of that, but not the whole story. We do YSA's and youth a disservice when we tell them that we expect them to think and act lustfully and that marriage will solve the problem. You can't stop people from feeling and thinking about sex and marriage this way, but BYU needs to stop promoting this attitude in its activities and advertising and encourage its employees and bishops to do likewise in their interactions with students.
  • Academic suspension for moral infractions- Believe it or not, this ends up being counter-productive. Many people don't tell their bishop when they've messed up because they don't want to be stopped from making progress in school. After I graduated, I met a guy who (looking back) had a really serious sex addiction. He had had problems as a kid and teen, but one very busy summer he committed just about every sexual sin you can imagine and was terrified of being suspended. When it came time for ecclesiastical endorsements, he rationalized everything away except having full intercourse with a woman he met online. (While engaged, no less.) To deal with that he told his bishop that it really wasn't his fault because even though he was 6 feet tall and worked out at the gym regularly, the girl forced herself on him and he hadn't been able to stop her. The bishop saw what a nice looking, clean cut returned missionary the student was and sympathetically signed the endorsement so the RM could finish school without those nasty sins mucking up the timeline. In contrast, a really sweet girl in my ward got pregnant by her boyfriend. They decided they wanted to make home for their baby and got married and started working with their bishop to get sealed. They got kicked out. The environment BYU is creating is one where people who hide their sins are rewarded and those who repent are punished. What should happen instead is that the student initially goes on probation and must meet with an academic counselor, bishop, and psychologist down at Women's Services throughout the semester. If adequate progress is being made, all three can sign off on the student returning to good standing, if not, suspension or expulsion could be considered. Obviously, serious infractions of the law could be grounds for immediate dismissal.
  • Those once a semester talks from the bishop on chastity- If you think an extra chastity talk is going to stop people who believe they can't control their sexual urges from messing up, you're dreaming. See item #2 on my list.
  • Married students as singles ward bishopric 2nd counselors- I don't know if they're still doing this and I hope not. Nothing made me feel more like I was a sub-par member of the Church because I was single than this. I know the message was supposed to be, "We care and want you to know that we understand your unique circumstances as a student." But what it came across as was, "If you were more righteous like Sally, you'd be the wife of a second counselor at 21. What's wrong with you?"
  • BYU approved housing- Housing single students in separate buildings will not stop them from having sex. Living in the same building as a member of the opposite sex does not cause un-chastity. Entertaining lustful thoughts and desires causes un-chastity.
  • Casual dress code- I really think this would make a HUGE difference in the entire attitude on campus. I think BYU should institute a "by invitation" business casual dress code. Such a dress code would be defined by what to wear, rather than what not to wear. Appropriate items of clothing for ladies would be pantsuits, slacks, skirts that are knee-length or longer, blazers, sweaters, blouses, and button-up shirts. Gentlemen could wear slacks, button up shirts, blazers, jackets, sweaters, vests, and suits. Ties would be optional. Dress socks or nylons and close-toed shoes would complete the recommended ensemble. BYU-Idaho isn't supposed to be as academically rigorous as BYU, but they have a dress code that prohibits flip-flops and overalls. Heck, the professors have to dress up, why shouldn't the students? I think there would be a lot more respect between the professors and the students and amongst the students themselves. I think people would take their studies a lot more seriously with this sort of an invitational dress code. And I think having it be invitational would increase compliance. And with all of these professional looking students, I think we would no longer need...
  • The prohibition on beards- The times they are a-changin' and facial hair is becoming a lot more accepted in the outside world. As long as the beard is well-groomed, it shouldn't be an issue. I agree with the shave policy for missionaries because they are front and center as representatives of the Church and actively proselyting. But I don't see why having clean shaven men lounging around campus in sweats and flip-flops is superior to having well-dressed men with well-kept beards. (Oh and BTW, remember the philandering student from above? He felt beards were a serious sin and would frequently point to his clean shaven look as proof that he was among the faithful.)
  • No garden space- "The prophet said to plant a garden..." and that's what we should do. A campus garden would be a great way to encourage self-sufficiency and healthy eating amongst the student body. It would also provide a pleasant place to hang out.
So there you have it. If I ran BYU, that's what it would be like.


    1. I agree with a lot of what you said in this post,I went to USU so my experiences were different from yours, but that didn't keep me from nodding my head several times.

      On a side note my husband and I went to a ward in Provo (a regular family ward) last spring for a baby blessing. People kept giving my husband surprised and impressed looks during Sacrament meeting and even tried to silently signal him questions from across the room. Finally after Sacrament meeting one man made a beeline for my husband and touched his face and said, what is this?!... we were so confused. We quickly figure out though that he was referring to Matt's beard. Apparently people thought he was making quite the statement walking around with facial hair.

    2. So true. One reason I didn't go to BYU was because I didn't want the honor code telling me what to do. I wanted to do things because I thought they were right, not because I had to.

    3. @Shilah- Wow. I had no idea that the level of facial hair awareness in Provo had reached that kind of low.

      @Val- Very good point. Their humanities program rocked though, so it was a plus for me. Funnily enough, with all the chastity talk around the Y, there was still a joke amongst the humanities professors and students that for us humanities people life was all about sex and death. =)

    4. Haha. Wow. So much worse than I ever knew!!! Never wanted to go there, and this just reaffirms my desire :) Although my Kodaly summer course there was pretty awesome... Probably helps that it was only two weeks long and pretty contained.