On my honor I will… shave?

While at BYU I often wondered why “dress and grooming standards” were subsumed under “the honor code”. Can someone please explain this to me?

Why isn’t dress and grooming standards in a category of it’s own? I guess the reason I’m bothered by this was because, as circumstances would have it, I occasionally went off to class having forgot to shave, and was warned a few times about violating “the honor code”. I couldn’t help but feeling that in essence my personal “honor” was being challenged. Was my 5 o’clock shadow somehow marking me as a “dishonorable” person?

Of course some of the root issues at play here are the relation between appearance and morality, the mediation of appearance between the inner-self and outter society, the social construction of meaning in symbols, and many others.

To see BYU’s honor code go here: http://honorcode.byu.edu/The_Honor_Code.htm

15 Replies to “On my honor I will… shave?”

  1. The Honor Code encompasses virtually all non-financial student obligations to the university. Including the Dress and Grooming Standards in the Honor Code is a logical choice. Many universities have an Honor Code (or some similarly named agreement) that deals with issues such as academic honesty and/or plagiarism. It was natural for BYU to incorporate other student agreements in that same document. The term “honor,” in this case, refers less to personal “honor” or “worthiness” than it does to one’s “word of honor.” Naturally, this is more clear at schools other than BYU because personal worthiness issues are not associated with their honor codes.

  2. peter,I guess I would have to disagree about the “logic” and “naturalness” of including the dress and grooming standards in an “honor code”. I attended a private middle school and high school that had both an honor code (that dealt with academic honesty) and a dress code (that dealt with grooming). There is no reason that they have to be combined into one, potentially conflating honesty with personal presentation.With that said however, I actually think that BYU purposely conflates grooming with academic honesty (as well as housing standards, etc.). Take for example the following quotes from the honor code: All who represent BYU, BYU-H, BYU-I, and LDSBC are to maintain the highest standards of honor, integrity, morality, and consideration of others in personal behavior. Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church. This doesn’t seem to me the simple pragmatic approach of lumping all “non-financial” obligations together, which you describe. In particular I think the last line can imply that an outter uncleanliness (i.e., not shaving) “reflects” an inner uncleanliness.

  3. Ah, a subject of endless debate. Disagree if you like, but I think Peter has correctly summarized the brethren’s logic (and I think this certainly does reflect the will of the Board of Trustees). The Honor Code encompasses all matters of conduct the university requires employees and students observe as a matter of honor. The Honor Code includes many items that have nothing to do with honesty; honesty is in fact only one of nine specific principles and one of four policies that it covers. I guess there could be a number of different codes to cover the various matters of conduct, but this seems easier. And much to the annoyance of generations of students (myself one of them), I suspect the brethren very much want plagarism and bare midriffs on the same level, for probably obvious reasons (your “root issue”). They do indeed want unshaven males to be regarded as dishonorable; I suspect most of the brethren really do feel that way. The Dress and Grooming Code was, as I recall, the very first thing Pres. Samuelson addressed the students on.Anyway, would you only break out Dress and Grooming into a separate code, or other “non-honor” items like church attendance, housing, etc.?

  4. Hey Bodhi,I’ve been meaning to ask, why “bodhi”? If you don’t mind sharing…I actually don’t think peter has summarized the logic behind the honor code. He makes it a matter of convenience to lump together “virtually all non-financial obligations” to the university. I think you’re closing statement comes a lot closer to the inner logic.A disagreement with this “inner logic” would probably be one of the root issues I am raising, but that of course is not the question you are raising.If it were up to me (which in all likelyhood, never will be), I would not necessarily break them up but label them all under a “Code of Conduct” rather than an honor code. That of course doesn’t deal with some of the other ideological differences I may have, but solves the problem at a general level.

  5. I think that the Brethren and the BYU administrators really like the clean-cut, conservative appearance that the Honor Code requires.Look at how missionaries are required to dress. Think of how BYU celebrates each year when the Princeton review declares them to be the #1 Stone-cold Sober School. We really like this squeaky-clean image.I think the dress and grooming standards are part of the Honor Code because the university expects students to “honor” their commitment to all school policies, from academic integrity, to personal morality, to dress and appearance.

  6. Bah! I always wanted to go to BYU, but because of other opportunities I never had a chance. Now that I read they actually have the ludicrous notion that beards are somehow unseemly, I’m glad I didn’t go. I love having a drake and I would be very sad if I had to shave it off. Whomever judges a man unworthy of education because he has a beard is casting judgement based solely on self-invented prejudices. Apparently Lorenzo Snow would not be welcome there. Poor guy, he can be the prophet of the church, but he’s not allowed to go to the Y. LOL!!

  7. I think the dress and grooming standards are part of the Honor Code because the university expects students to “honor” their commitment to all school policies, from academic integrity, to personal morality, to dress and appearance. Sure. The problem however is in the implicit connection between morality/right-and-wrong and school policy. In other words, the way the honor code is constructed is not, “here are a few policies, we believe these will maintain our image of BYU, please give your word of honor to abide by them.” Instead there is a direct moral basis to the honor code that extends beyond policy and commitment by one’s word of honor.This leads to an odd situation in the following questions: Is it wrong to cheat on an exam? Of course. Is it wrong to puff the ganja? Sure. Is it wrong to grow a beard? I don’t think so.Yet in the honor code these are tied together as if they are all wrong. Now, that’s why I was arguing for a shift in terminology away from an honor code to a code of conduct. With a code of conduct certain aspects of it can be justified on non-moral basis–such as tradition, community cohesion etc. The reason an honor code could not be made to perform the same is becuase honor in the sense of word of honor would too easily be conflated with personal honor.

  8. Diahman,Don’t get me wrong, I 100% agree with you.I was just guessing at BYU’s reasoning for including facial hair in the Honor Code. I certainly don’t agree with it.

  9. diahman,As much as I whined about it at BYU, the “honor” part deals with a malum prohibitum, not a malum in se. That is, including dress and grooming in the honor code does not mean that there is something inherently wrong with beards (although I’m sure Bro. Wilkinson, who apparently initiated the honor code in its roughly current form, would disagree); rather, it’s something BYU students have agreed to contractually. At that point, honor probably does play into it.I get your point that, by giving plagerism and beards essentially the same status in the honor code, it equates something wrong with something not wrong except in a particular situation (that is, in BYU under contract). And I don’t dig the implication. But I understand it–if you had an “Honor Code” and a “Dress and Grooming Standard,” even if both had the same weight, one would have moral significance, while the other had merely contractual significance. And look at how good Columbia House’s contractual significance is (was) among college students.I guess what I’m trying to say is, most of us who have or want beards don’t attach moral significance to their placement in the honor code once we’re no longer at BYU. As for those who do, they probably can’t grow/don’t want beards, and most of us more hirusite persons don’t care much what they think anyway.

  10. diahman: Why this nym? I suspect you can guess. No disrespect intended to Gautama Buddha, but rather all respect. Buddhist teaching on dukkha has been profoundly on my mind lately. It is certainly not meant to indicate any enlightenment of my own!

  11. bodhi,Interesting. I’d actually really like to know your thoughts about dukkha in particular or Buddhism in general. If it relates to mormonism in even the slightest way, I’d be happy to make it a guest post. There may be a few others that are interested in the issue.Sam B.,What is/was the Columbia House?

  12. I would find it hard to relate to Mormonism, or at least it finds little commonality. I’m most interested in the great insight of the Third Noble Truth, that the cause of all suffering is desire and attachment. It has much in common with philosophical Taoism (think Tao of Pooh); there must be an organic connection (not a world religionist, can’t say for sure). But both represent distinctly eastern solutions to human suffering that are fundamentally different from Xty/Mormonism. Suffering is not purposive, it has no metaphysical reality, and is ultimately of our own manufacture, the product of our ambitions and grasping. I can see why billions have embraced this insight. A can’t readily see how to reconcile it with Mormonism, but I’ll give it some thought. (Last post today. Really.)

  13. bodhi,The notion of dukkha, or suffering, and its tie to the realization that this world is nothing more than samsara (the world of illusion), is actually quite a bit different than anything found in Daoism. There is no historical connection. Buddhism at its earliest makes it into China near the first century CE, and the Dao De Jing goes back to at least 300BCE.While Daoism does have a notion of wuwei, which bears some similarity to dettachment, it is often meant in more of a spontaneous or natural notion that is not about overcoming desire.To relate it to mormonism, can one believe in dukkha and still be mormon?

  14. I obviously understand it imperfectly, but I agree with the principle that ambition, desire and attachment are the root of suffering. It is our response to life that determines our experience, whether we find joy or suffering in our daily experience. If we accept its totality as it comes to us, wrap ourselves around it, rather than try to subject it and bend it to our own wills, we will find peace and harmony (the the Taoist connection I see).I can’t accept Hindu/Buddhist metaphysics, and this synthesis is entirely my own, but it works for me. I’m a Mormon, and if any of that is recognizable as Buddhist dukkha teaching, well, there’s your answer.

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