Differing Codes of Honor

I’ve always been curious as to why Church schools have different Honor Codes. At BYUI, for instance, men cannot wear shorts or slippers to classes; apartments are also monitored by an “apartment manager” who ensures things such as people are in their apartments by midnight (1am on the weekends), and enforces things such as the following:

Men and women may visit in apartments of the opposite sex beginning at noon. All must leave in time to arrive at their own apartment by curfew. Visitors need to be in compliance with the following guidelines:

1. There should always be at least three people in an apartment being visited by a member of the opposite sex.

2. Drapes and blinds must be left open during the visit.

BYU Provo is somewhat different. As are the other church schools.

Seeing as how the honor code is about maintiaining “the highest standards” (consider this from Provo’s webpage: 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.), and rooted in common scripture (once again from Provo’s webpage: We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. . . . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.) , why are there different Honor Codes? Is one more “honorable” than the other?

Personally, this may provide us with a good way of thinking about the local application of universal norms, as well as our expectations of our peers to abide by these local applications (especially in a global context, which church schools at least attempt to be).

62 Replies to “Differing Codes of Honor”

  1. Huh. That’s interesting that there are different versions of the honor code for different campuses of BYU. I never would have guessed.

    Some of those rules seem unenforceable. Are there really people who job it is to monitor whether the drapes are open and to knock on the door to verify that at least three people are at home?

  2. This is not surprising, as the Honor Codes are developed by the indivdual schools, and not by the Church in general. Similar things happen with the standards in Catholic Schools, etc.

    Oh, and the honor code isn’t supposed to be enforcable, the idea is you promise to keep it on your honor.

  3. This may stem from the fact that the former Ricks College was historically much more strict than BYU Provo. I remember when I was a BYU student, I had friends who’d been to Ricks and experienced much earlier curfews, etc.

    As for honor code enforcement, I don’t think BYU Provo has ever lacked for “righteous” souls willing to report their fellow students.

  4. Good questions, smallaxe. One thing this creates is a market of moral rigorousness; Mormon students choosing a BYU campus can base the choice in part on which level of regulation they want to impose upon themselves. If they want a curfew and extensive regulations of heterosocial interaction, they can go to Idaho. If they prefer no curfew and mainly disregarded regulations of heterosocial interaction, they can go to Provo. There are trade-offs, of course; a degree from the Provo campus is more valuable in economic or professional terms, even while it signals a somewhat lesser degree of commitment to 24-7 moral supervision. The Idaho model, though, creates a much bigger potential for shock and temptation the day after graduation — when the student enters a world free of moral supervision.

    Matt W., nonetheless, the honor code has been institutionally enforced for decades — it’s not really an honor code in the sense you mention, it’s an institutionally-devised and -managed behavioral standard.

  5. it’s an institutionally-devised and -managed behavioral standard As my wife was a paid “standards cop” on campus (Guest services or whatever they call it, her job was to make sure you were wearing the correct clothes at dances, etc.), I know this is true, but I also know that the institution does allow for input from the student body, and it is the institution of the school not the institution of the church than takes care of this, and further, as I am sure you are well aware, it is mainly run in the same manner keeping mission rules or keeping church rules are run, which is primarily an honor system of self-reporting, coupled with a system of policing one another. The same standards of minding your own business or not apply, I believe. (On the other hand, I don’t really have a horse in this race. I went to Indiana University for my undergrad and Unicersity of Texas for my Masters…)

  6. RT,
    The idea of a market of moral rigorousness assumes, of course, that high school seniors (or, I suppose, their parents) are (a) considering both BYU and BYU-I, and (b) reading the Honor Codes of each. While both are possible, anecdotally, I know very few people who are aiming at both schools. Those who can go to BYU, while those whose grades aren’t good enough apply to BYU-I. (This may have changed since I last looked, but my wife and I helped a girl through her applications about three years ago, and it felt like that was probably the same dynamic as back when I went to BYU and there was no BYU-I.)

    In my experience, students would apply to BYU and UCLA, UCSD, and UC Davis (and maybe SDSU). The students planning on Ricks had, as an alternative, Palomar Community College of Cal State San Marcos. I realize I have no data, but, because the schools aren’t in the same league, I’d be really surprised if anybody took the comparative honor codes into account.

    It would be interesting to see whether the comparative honor codes between, e.g., UCSD (if there is one: I assume there is, but, like I at least implied, honor code didn’t make the top 15 of my criteria for schools, my criteria basically being two things) and BYU. But, given the disparity, I don’t think honor codes contribute to the choice between BYU and BYU-I or -H.

  7. By those who can go to BYU, I mean, of course, that those who can get into BYU probably aren’t spending the $45 or $65 or whatever the application fee is to apply to BYU-I. I don’t mean, for a second, that if you can get into BYU you will or that you should, and I don’t mean to imply it. I’m only talking about the potential for a market that includes only BYU and BYU-I.

  8. At many non-Mormon universities, such as Stanford, honor codes are purely student-written and self-enforced. So, for example, because Stanford is an honor code school, professors and teaching assistants do not proctor tests. Indeed, they are not permitted to be present during tests. Students self-enforce the norm of not cheating. Students also write the first and final drafts of the honor code; the university does not have a say.

    At the various BYU campuses, by contrast, students may have a chance to express preferences and work to convince the university about aspects of the honor code, but the university exclusively controls the final draft. The shorts controversies of the 1980s and 1990s at the Provo campus would be an example: after the university finally gave in to persistent student demands and permitted shorts, the administration kept threatening to revoke the privilege as a way of persuading students to wear shorts that were long enough. In a non-BYU-style, student-led honor code system, such threats would never arise other than from students themselves.

    As for whether the BYU system is largely a matter of self-reporting and policing one another, I think it’s clear that there’s more than that. Professors have access to forms which they can use to refer students to the honor code office. Students are by policy excluded from the library, the testing center, and other campus services if they don’t conform to the dress code. BYU has on occasion experimented with systems of paid secret observers who would report honor code violators, and once tried to formally implement a system of RAs/honor code observers in all BYU-approved off-campus residences — although they dropped the project in the face of extensive landlord protests.

    The church/school distinction that you offer is also problematic. As you know, the board of trustees of BYU is just exactly the highest leadership of the church. And the board of trustees has occasionally been intimately involved in decisions about the content and enforcement of the honor code. If you want sources and more details regarding all of this, I’d recomment this book.

    Tying back to the original post, the fact that these honor codes are centrally written, controlled, and enforced makes the question about local application of global standards especially interesting. Why does a single underlying institution provide such differing standards in Rexburg as compared with Provo?

  9. Sam B., this is probably an area where there are real differences between Utah Mormons and folks elsewhere. In the Utah high school I graduated from, there were at least dozens of people who applied to both Ricks College (as it was called at the time) and BYU. Most were accepted to both; BYU rejects a very small percentage of undergraduate applicants.

  10. Sam B., UCSD doesn’t have a single uniform honor code. Different colleges within the university have varying honor codes. Here’s the text of the Jacobs School of Engineering Honor Code:


    We, the members of the Jacobs School of Engineering, have a responsibility as students, faculty and staff to ensure the highest level of integrity in our academic and social practices.

    As Jacobs School engineering students, we are creating the foundation for our futures as engineers. We must look to pursue knowledge justly, fairly, and honestly. The value of our education is in understanding that learning is a lifelong commitment. The experiences that we share and the skills that we learn are all the more valuable if we hold ourselves to high ethical and moral standards.

    The Jacobs School must promote leadership, honesty and integrity. The Jacobs School community must work together to ensure that these qualities are valued. We must also make a conscious effort to provide our students with the instruction that will prepare them for a professional career. Instructors will honor their teaching responsibilities, and in turn students will reflect this commitment by pursuing leadership, honesty and integrity in their own academic endeavors.

    This is a personal and professional commitment that we all share as members of the Jacobs School of Engineering. We pledge ourselves to these ideals and promise to be honest in our hearts, minds and our actions.

    That’s the whole thing. Another college has an honor code that consists of six rules about not cheating on tests and homework Obviously, these are wholly different in kind from the sorts of honor codes the BYU campuses have. For variety’s sake, here are a few other honor codes. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University:

    All students enrolled in a course offered by the Kellogg School of Management agree to abide by the Kellogg Honor Code.

    The Kellogg Honor Code governs student conduct pertaining to all academic, placement and extracurricular activities associated with the Kellogg School of Management. Each student agrees:

    1. Not to seek an unfair advantage over other students, including but not limited to giving or receiving unauthorized aid during completion of academic requirements

    2. To truthfully represent fact and self at all times

    3 To respect the property and personal rights of all members of the Kellogg community

    4. To uphold the Kellogg Honor Code by reporting all material violations, and by fully cooperating with and protecting confidentiality of any Honor Code proceedings.

    All Kellogg students are also expected to adhere to all policies and requirements of Northwestern University and to abide by all applicable laws and regulations.

    Here’s the Stanford honor code:

    1.The Honor Code is an undertaking of the students, individually and collectively:
    that they will not give or receive aid in examinations; that they will not give or receive unpermitted aid in class work, in the preparation of reports, or in any other work that is to be used by the instructor as the basis of grading;
    that they will do their share and take an active part in seeing to it that others as well as themselves uphold the spirit and letter of the Honor Code.
    The faculty on its part manifests its confidence in the honor of its students by refraining from proctoring examinations and from taking unusual and unreasonable precautions to prevent the forms of dishonesty mentioned above. The faculty will also avoid, as far as practicable, academic procedures that create temptations to violate the Honor Code.
    While the faculty alone has the right and obligation to set academic requirements, the students and faculty will work together to establish optimal conditions for honorable academic work.

  11. RT,
    If that’s true, it is definitely a difference between Utah (or Mormon Corridor) Mormons and folks elsewhere. The only people I know of who applied to both were doing a Hail Mary for BYU, while knowing they could get into Ricks.

    And I don’t mean to knock Ricks (or BYU-I), although I know very little about them. I had a family friend who had some learning disabilites and did poorly in grade school. The remedial programs at Ricks did wonders for him, restoring his confidence and making it possible, in his last two years, to go to (and, as far as I know, do well at) BYU.

    To follow up on your point, though (in all sincerity—I’ve honestly never heard of people legitimately applying to both BYU and Ricks): did the differing honor codes play any part in the decisions of people you knew who were accepted at both schools? And, if so, was it a significant factor? (At the time, of course, given that Ricks was a 2-year institution, I assume that most who went to Ricks eventually transferred, again, presumably to BYU. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t know that Associates degrees existed until sometime after my mission, and it took some time after that to realize that they could be considered terminal degrees; in my paradigm, I grew up assuming that you had to have a Bachelors, even though there were people who stopped school after high school).

  12. RT,
    Thanks for the list of honor codes. The BYU honor code, although we focus on its dress and grooming aspects, has the same sort of honor and integrity aspect. That, I have to admit, is what I liked about the honor code, and BYU in general: I was confident that I was competitive, because nobody (okay, relatively few people) were cheating.

    I had the same feeling, however, at my East Coast law school. I couldn’t tell you, though, without Googling, if it had an honor code; nonetheless, with or without, most students (in the law school: other schools have recently had big-headline scandals) acted honestly, from my vantage point.

  13. I’m not going to copy and paste the BYU honor code, since it’s much longer than the others above and I already feel like I’m taking far too much space in this thread. (Sorry, smallaxe!) But it’s worth reading for purposes of comparison with the honor codes quoted above. While the BYU code includes academic honesty provisions — like the others — and the famous dress and grooming standards, it also includes curfew information, rules about male-female interaction, a stipulation to obey the word of wisdom, rules against profanity, and an injunction to attend church regularly. While some of these rules may be difficult to enforce, church attendance is very effectively enforced via the requirement that a bishop provide an annual ecclesiastical endorsement for every continuing student.

  14. By the way, from your comments about general student honesty, Sam, I infer two things about you. (1) You’re personally honest, since the honest typically perceive others as honest. (2) You haven’t done much university-level teaching. When BYU professors that I know have run student papers through the online plagiarism-detection services, there have been problems at a not inconsiderable rate.

  15. This is very interesting from a church management standpoint. The campus in Provo and the one in Rexburg operate under the watchful eye of CES, and both purport to maintain the highest of standards, but those standards are different. This is not a trivial thing in a church where people claim to know what “church standards” are.

    It is pretty funny to think that a student in good standing at Provo could get himself thrown out at Rexburg by wearing knee-length shorts on campus.

  16. RT,
    I’m going to try to control myself and stop using up space, too. However, in response: (1) I hope that’s true, and appreciate the inference, and (2) not yet, although I hope to make the transition into teaching in a couple years.

    As for the length of the BYU honor code, is it bad of me to admit that I never read it in my 4+ years there? I did read through the abbreviated version that you sign for the ecclesiastical endorsement, but I didn’t realize that there was a longer version until probably my last year. (So you may want to add a third: (3) You’re [meaning I’m] hopelessly naive about certain things, which may fit well with your (1) and (2), too).

  17. Stanford’s Honor Code is faculty enforced in a way. If a professor determines during grading that cheating has occurred that is an honor code violation. Interestingly, the CS department had the highest rates of honor code violations because they had automated systems that compared the code you turned in to code previously turned in.

    If you want an Honor Code that actually expects students to be honorable (from an academic standpoint), look at Cal Tech.

    I wonder if BYU students would run wild if not for the honor code acting as an artificial restraint on their activities. One would think they could comport themselves in a righteous manner without crutches.

  18. Having grown up in Utah, I decided to go to college in the East to avoid the typical Mormon fate (BYU / “big brother” / whatever). I ended up at a beautiful, small women’s liberal arts school in North Carolina … whose rules of heterosocial conduct seem to be more stringent than at the BYU campuses, lol. Men — fathers and brothers included — were only allowed in the dorm buildings on one day of the year, the Sunday of Spring Fling weekend. In the case of boyfriends (or even boy friends), your dorm room door had to remain open at all times and at least three of your collective four feet had to remain on the floor. LOL. (Not that this rule seemed to have any effect on the student body’s standards of chastity — they just didn’t have sex on campus.)

    My alma mater, loosely affiliated with the Presbyterian church, took its honor code (which, in addition to universals like no cheating, and the aforementioned prohibition on boys, included a ban on alcohol) seriously, though it was mostly enforced only culturally. By which I mean, nobody snuck boys up or hid wine coolers in their mini fridges because it just wasn’t done; it wouldn’t have been respectful to the college. I’m only aware of one instance of institutional enforcement, when a student was suspended after drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning at an off-campus mixer. (I’m sure there were instances of cheating that were taken care of more quietly, but EVERYONE in the student body of ~400 knew about the alcohol incident because the paramedics had to be called.)

    Anyway. Sorry to ramble, and a bit tangentially since I have very little experience with LDS church-run schools. But as far as seeking after things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy, I think it’s important for college applicants to remember that BYU (BYU-H / BYU-I) doesn’t have the market cornered on honor codes. Or even honor. Plenty of schools, both secular and affiliated with other denominations, try to instill integrity in their students along with academic knowledge. Nick mentioned the “righteous souls” willing to tattle on their peers…. It was that ambiance that made me want to stay far away from Provo, lol, but I think I found the best of both worlds (a school that valued moral behavior, students that valued individual agency) where I ended up.

  19. They are different honor codes because they are different schools. While we have the BYU name, Kim Clark reports directly to the CES commisioner and not to Pres. Samuelson (I understand that BYUH may be different in this regard). I am a Ricks grad (follow by two degrees at the U. of Utah) and on faculty at BYUI. The unfortunate part of our name change is the constant comparisons to that overrated den of pride in Provo.

    Sam B,
    My choices coming out of high school (1994) were Ricks College and the University of Maryland, College Park (the only two schools I applied to, accepted to both). If I had heard of Palomar Community College of Cal State San Marcos, I probably would not have applied to go there. I have no learning disabilities and I still choice Ricks. I did learn enough to recognize an elitist prick. My sister applied to both and was accepted by BYU and rejected by Ricks.

  20. I attended BYU-I for two years and found their honor code very restricting. I am all for honesty, living the law of chastity, observing the word of wisdom, and everything that is required to enter the temple, but I felt that BYU-I took things too far and bordered on taking away the agency of the individual. It is interesting to me that the administration prided themselves that BYU-I observed a “higher” standard. Frankly I think that they went to far and served for me as a personal example of what it was like to live according to the Pharisaical tradition in times past.

  21. Chris,
    I may well be an elitist prick; I have no intention of arguing that. I stand by my examples, though. I’m sure there are exceptions to what I’ve said (and I by no means meant to imply that only people with learning disabilities go to Ricks; he was the kid I remembered who spoke about how much he loved Ricks). In my experience, also in 1994, Ricks wasn’t on the radar of anybody I knew. (For that matter, neither was U Maryland.) Most people I knew were headed to UCLA, UCSD, or SDSU. About eight of us from high school went to BYU.

    As for my point, you basically back it up. You didn’t apply to BYU, so the difference in honor codes did not play a part in your determination of schools. That was my complete and total point. I don’t know why you didn’t apply to BYU, but it doesn’t matter. On point to this topic is that the difference in honor codes did not, apparently, play a part in your decision, whether or not I’m a prick.

  22. And, for clarification, since either I’m apparently not communicating well, I don’t mean that U Maryland College Park isn’t a great school; I mean that most of the people I knew went to relatively local state schools; my relatively local state schools happened to be in Southern California, not in the D.C. metro area (yeah, College Park is a decent way out of the District, but the Metro will get you there).

  23. And, finally, if you’d heard of Palomar Community College or Cal State San Marcos, I would expect you not to have gone there, unless you spent enough time in state to be eligible for California residency. They’re both great schools—I have close friends who took plenty of credits at both schools—but they’re not UC Berkeley or U Michigan, where it’s worth spending the tuition money from out of state. If you’re in-state, though, like most state JCs, colleges, and universities, you could do far worse.

  24. As a general note, it may be worth mentioning that an “Honor Code” at most (but not all) other schools has to do with academic integrity (i.e., cheating), and not things such as grooming and housing standards (among others), which the BYUs incorporate. The inclusion of these other categories into an “Honor Code” carry with it the implications of “honor” or “dishonor” for those who obey or disobey. This of course is problematic in as much as I’m not sure how facial hair would make me a dishonorable person other than the fact that I promised not to grow it as a part of my acceptance there.

    To refer back to the larger question though, I don’t find the justification for different honor codes due to the fact that they “different schools”, despite the name, to be compelling. As a matter of fact, it seems that they are meant to be more or less the same. The main page at BYU-Provo (linked above) speaks in behalf of all the church schools. The grooming standards page at both BYU and BYUI use EXACTLY the same language except the line about wearing knee-length shorts is removed from BYUI. There’s no doubt that different management styles lead to different practices. I don’t think that’s at issue here. The question is the justification of different management styles as it relates to moral standards, of which the honor code explicitly is. Is that which is “virtuous, lovely, or good report or praiseworthy” (which the honor code explicitly seeks to pursue), not universal? This seems the type of question that needs to be pursued. One could also argue that the honor code is not at all related to AoF 13. In which case there then seems to be a management problem as far as the assumption between “honor” and “appearance” is concerned.

  25. Sam B.,

    Although I don’t think you inted to say this, it does seem that you think only lesser human beings go to BYUI, which is certainly not the case, and unrelated to the issue unless you are arguing that these lesser human beings are in need of different honor codes. Anyway, how do you justify different honor codes? Or would you?

    I think your “market of moral rigorousness”, is effective to some point, but it doesn’t take into account other, perhaps more determinative factors in deciding which school to go to (which Sam B. seems to be trying to point out). The larger question, however, is why such a market should exist in the first place. Why should church schools have different “moral” standards? One way to resolve this is to disassociate some of these standards from “morality”/”honor”. Different practices/management styles require less justification than different codes of honor.

  26. Sam,

    I did not go to BYU because I had a 2.5 GPA in high school (I got into college on my test scores). Most of my LDS friends went to BYU. My non-LDS friends mostly went to Maryland (inside the beltway so you are geographically correct), though others went to Georgetown, Vanderbilt, American, and Emory.

    BYUI/Ricks is not UCSD or UCLA and we do not pretend to be like them or BYU in Provo. Of course, BYU is not UCSD or UCLA either. I do not mind if they pretend. BYUI is more similar to SDSU for what I hear (one of my former profs at Utah is now at San Diego State).


    “To refer back to the larger question though, I don’t find the justification for different honor codes due to the fact that they “different schools”, despite the name, to be compelling. As a matter of fact, it seems that they are meant to be more or less the same. The main page at BYU-Provo (linked above) speaks in behalf of all the church schools.”

    I can only speak from my experience as a student and an employee at Ricks/BYU-Idaho. To be honest, I could care less about BYU in Provo. I do not think that the dress code is a “moral principle” (there is no moral principle underlying the ban on shorts in Rexburg or the ban on facial hair at both). It is part of membership in a community. If you are going to benefit from a church education, you have to make some small sacrifices. I do not think that the difference in honor code details requires moral justification.

    In the end, who cares? I just cannot resist the conversation.

  27. Smallaxe, I agree that the market of higher education involves decisions made on the basis of many factors, moral rigorousness being only one of them. But providing a diversity of levels of moral supervision does allow that factor to be a part of the market; if all the Mormon schools had an identical honor code, potential students couldn’t choose even in part on that basis, but because there are different codes, they have that freedom. I wouldn’t buy a car just because it was green, but whether the car is green does enter the calculation.

    I agree that it’s puzzling why different church universities seem to be promoting different standards of morality or honor. And the language used in discussing the honor codes, both in the official texts and in speeches about them, seems to connect the codes closely with virtue, morality, and honor. But that’s strange. I’ve known Mormon students at a few different universities with no honor code whatsoever, and those Mormons seemed capable of maintaining personal virtue, morality, and honor even so. So what the BYU schools are providing isn’t morality, but rather moral supervision; they’re providing an institution that checks on factors presumed to be correlated with your morality from outside. They, in effect, create a moral halfway house between childhood and adult autonomy. I can see why some people would find that desirable, even if I personally do not.

  28. In the end, who cares? I just cannot resist the conversation.


    I do not think that the dress code is a “moral principle” (there is no moral principle underlying the ban on shorts in Rexburg or the ban on facial hair at both). It is part of membership in a community. If you are going to benefit from a church education, you have to make some small sacrifices. I do not think that the difference in honor code details requires moral justification.

    Uh, allow me to quote directly from BYU’s honor code page:

    “As a matter of personal commitment, students, faculty, and staff of Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Brigham Young University-Idaho, and LDS Business College seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will:”

    At which point the individual parts of the honor code are listed. Your distinction between “moral principle” and “community membership” seems to be less distinct or even non existent for the institution you attended/work for.

    Secondly,the justification that I claim is needed in regards to your earlier comments is not about justifying the morality of the honor code (which is assumed by the Chuch schools), but in justifying the different applications of an (otherwise assumed) universal morality.

  29. RT,

    If wearing a beard and not wearing a beard are equally moral (or perhaps “immoral”, and outside of this conversation we would most likely agree “amoral” or “nonmoral”)choices then why do we need different levels of supervision?

  30. smallaxe,
    I’m sorry for straying from the topic at hand, and for implying that I though only lesser people went to BYU-I. I was replying (inelegantly, as it turns out) to RT’s idea of an honor code market. I was trying to point out that (in my experience: RT had a different opinion) there isn’t a huge overlap between students looking at one and students looking at the other, and I didn’t think the honor codes paid much difference. (So Chris, I’m sorry I insulted your alma mater and place of employment; I didn’t mean to, but I apparently wasn’t clear. I apologize. And, FWIW, I didn’t mean to imply that BYU was on the level of UCLA; I was just stating what the general choices a Southern Californian made in ’94, although UCLA wasn’t as hot back then as it apparently is now.)

    To get back to the question at hand, I have to confess that I don’t know much about the history of BYU-I’s or -H’s honor codes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some historical difference in the adoption and development. (In fact, even if they started the same, each institution appears to have the ability to separately change their honor codes, so they may have just evolved differently.) I doubt they were made different deliberately, and, without knowing anything about the history of two of the three, and knowing very little about the history of the third, I can’t really guess about the underlying causes of those evolutionary steps.

  31. And, because I seem incapable of posting a complete thought in one comment, the fact that the schools are all owned by the Church doesn’t mean that there’s any reason they should have a unified honor code—as RT pointed out earlier, each college at UCSD has its own honor code, which I don’t think implies that school thinks that honor is dependant on what college a student is, but rather that each has chosen, for whatever reason, to emphasize different aspects that it considers important or relevant or whatever.

  32. Sam B., at UCSD the honor codes were student-generated. That’s why they vary from college to college — they aren’t expressive of the school’s position, but of the students’.

    Smallaxe, I completely agree that beard wearing or non-wearing has no moral content. Furthermore, I found the beard regulations — and, indeed, the honor code more generally — to be irksome impediments to my personal spirituality when I was at BYU. For the most part, nothing the BYU honor code asked me to do was at all a problem or even an inconvenience. (The one memorable exception was daily shaving, which irritates my skin and becomes quite painful.) Yet the fact that an ulterior motive for compliance was also present, in addition to my personal motivation, made my obedience feel less religious to me. So, for me personally, it simply wasn’t helpful.

    However, I don’t have knowledge enough to say that such supervision wouldn’t be helpful to some college-age people within our community. In fact, it even seems possible that some people feel better able to develop spiritually because someone is pressuring them to shave every day. Who knows which symbols matter to a given person? But on that subject, one might ask why missionaries, bishops, and so forth must be clean-shaven when such is not required or even asked of the rest of us. At one time, that policy may have made sense for social or PR reasons. But now? Beards are not a sign of the counter-culture today… Yet the church persists; for all I know, some people benefit.

    If the underlying theme is that the various BYU honor codes have a subset of clauses with surprisingly tenuous links to honor or morality, I agree. Furthermore, I think you can be a Mormon just as well at Harvard, Berkeley, or UT Austin as you can at a BYU. But, it seems okay to me to have BYUs with various degrees of moral supervision to exist as long as there is demand for such. Either the supervision really does help some people, or they find some other benefit in it; otherwise, why aren’t they at a secular university, etc.?

  33. My understanding is that BYU’s honor code originated with the students. It is now written by the administration which seems to take student input at times. It strikes me as a way of attempting to manage 25,000 kids that the administration does not trust. I can see why they do it, I just think that sticking with the commandments and teaching correct principles will result in real learning. College is a great time to take off the training wheels. I know Elder Oaks has railed against the idea, but I still think that the BYU honor code resembles Satan’s plan in a way in that by artificially restricting agency it attempts to assure success.

  34. …and one of these days they’ll see the light in Provo and follow the lead of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building by offering caffeinated Diet Coke on campus.

  35. RT,
    And the various BYUs’ honor codes were generated by different groups of people, too: the three schools may all be Church-owned, and I imagine they have the same boards (i.e., the First Presidency and the Q12), but they have seperate administrators and administrative staff. I’d be surprised that the boards spend significant time on the details, and I agree with you that most of the “honor” in the codes has nothing to do with personal righteousness. I suspect, though, that the reason they differ is that, historically, different groups of people have been writing and revising them, and that the Church sees no need to equalize them. (That they aren’t the same school goes without saying; as I understand it, BYU-I decided not to offer graduate degrees, at least initially, to focus on the undergraduate education of students. BYU has an excellent jazz saxophone program, but there’s no reason the Idaho or Hawai’i should have to get a professor in saxophone to match Ray Smith’s stature, just like clearly BYU won’t have an academic of Kim Clark’s stature as president in the near future.)

  36. Does anyone else tie the differences in the respective codes (speaking just of the two BYUs) to differences in educational preparation? (Or am I just more cynical?) In other words, is there any correlation between the stricter codes at BYUI and the lower academic requirements for admission? Is the BYUI code a preemptive strike taken against the student body by those who assume that the students who go to that school need such regulations, or is it a reaction by the administration to the particular behavior at that school?

    PS I’ve heard, too, that Kim Clark (pres of BYUI), for whom ethics is a primary focus, is working to relax some of the more stringent requirements. Is this true, Chris H.?

  37. It’s easy to overstate the educational preparation required for admission to BYU, jupiterschild. Depending on the church website you consider, BYU admits between 70 and 80% of applicants. Average test scores and GPAs are higher among students admitted at BYU than among students admitted at BYU-Idaho, but probably not as much as you think. For example, the difference in average ACTs between the Provo and Idaho schools is about 3 and a half points — a real difference, to be sure, but not the kind of night-and-day contrast many imagine.

  38. Jupiterschild,

    I have not attened any of the BYU schools. However the topic came up in a conversation with a ward member about two years ago. She had attended both BYU-I and BYU-Provo and contended that the BYU-I honor code was better because it was stricter. I was a bit shocked by this, and asked she thought it was possible that the BYU-I administration trusted its students less and wanted them on a shorter leash. This idea came as quite a shock to her, but to her credit she gave it consideration and within a few minutes she reversed her position and declared that BYU-P’s honor code seemed to indicate that it had more honorable students. Then I mentioned the Cal Tech honor code. While she saw its merits she stuck with BYU-P’s honor code as being “better”.

  39. Jupiterschild,

    There are always rumors of impending changes, I will wait to see the final product. I fully trust Clark. I do not say that about many business school types.

  40. Differing communities may require different standards of conduct to achieve identical goals–making those different “honor” standards equally moral. If I were the bishop of a ward full of elderly people, I would strongly encourage young men to wear white shirts and ties while passing the sacrament. If I were the bishop of a singles’ ward, I wouldn’t care. I’d be requiring a “higher” or different standard for deacons in an aging family ward for the sake of the older people who would find a stumbling block in a blue shirt. We’re building Zion and we must tolerate and accommodate each other in our weaknesses.

    I don’t know whether the differences in standards at the two schools are actually valid, but I can see that there ARE valid reasons for variance in “honor codes.”

  41. Bradley,

    In order for your example to attain in this situation, BYUI would have to be the “elderly ward”, and BYUP would have to be the “singles ward”. In other words, there would have to be some substantive difference in the communal make up of the student bodies to warrant the differing honor codes. Are you willing to make such an assertion? If so, what would it be?

    The larger issue, though, is one of flexibility in determining moral conduct. How would you determine different applications in different circumstances? And how would you justify it? To use your concrete example, wearing white shirts or colored shirts are equally “moral” options. Would the deacon in the family ward be less moral for wearing a colored shirt? Why should the youth be valued less than the elderly, or the minority valued less than the majority? In short, how do we explain “variance”? Or is no explanation needed when it comes to the decisions of priesthood leadership?

  42. SmallAxe,

    I’m not arguing that there are differences between BYU and BYU-I communities, but I’m saying that if there are differences, it could justify different honor codes.

    It is not moral to put stumbling blocks in front of other people, so I guess the deacon in the blue shirt could be considered immoral in some circumstances. Paul said, “But when ye … wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.”

    Sin can’t be judged in a vacuum.

  43. Bradley,

    I understand what you’re saying, but I’m trying to push past the examples to get at the issue of why we allow for different standards in different situations. Let’s forget about the honor code example because it doesn’t seem like we actually want to say that either of the student bodies are different enough to justify different standards (although perhaps historically this may have been more the case than it has in the past few decades, and maybe there are other factors we are unaware of).

    In the example of the deacons and the older generation though, why is the colored shirt the “stumbling block”, and not the overly stringent mentality of the elderly? Both potentially impede the religious life of another group. This is why I ask the questions: How would you determine different applications in different circumstances? And how would you justify it?… Why should the youth be valued less than the elderly, or the minority valued less than the majority? In short, how do we explain “variance”?

  44. I had a 3.8 GPA in High School (as well as a 4.0 among the college credits I earned at the local community college while attending high school). My wife had a 4.0 GPA (Actually, a 4.2 since she took an AP class and they weighted that A as though it were 5.0 and so it raised the average to above 4.0) in high school.

    We went to Ricks not because we couldn’t get into BYU (we could, and with scholarships to boot), but because Ricks was less than half the cost of BYU (and we got better scholarships). Getting two years of college and all your GEs out of the way at half the cost makes more sense than caring about what idiotic elitists think.

    People who think or say Ricks/BYU-I is for people who couldn’t or can’t get into BYU-Provo say more about their own limited thought patterns than they do about the objects of their derision.

  45. Ivan,

    Sam B., who is not affiliated with us, was the only one to insinuate such and appologized for it back at #31. Do you have anything constructive to say about the differences in honor codes?

  46. Ah, I understand your question now. Sorry it didn’t get it before. You’re asking why the young person is wrong for his error and not the older people. I think they are both wrong.

    Ignorance isn’t wickedness, so inasmuch as the elderly people genuinely believe that wearing a blue shirt is wrong, they are not sinful in believing the deacon to be in error. They are sinful when they have an accusing and demeaning attitude toward the deacon. This hurts them directly and may cause the deacon to “stumble.”

    If I’ve asked the deacon to wear a white shirt so as not to offend the older people, and he wears a blue shirt anyway, he is guilty of knowingly offending them and so he is in the wrong.

    Why ask the young man to change instead of the old people? Because old people are harder to convince and if I were a bishop, I’d probably be a lazy one. 🙂 But seriously, the differing standards I was trying to illustrate (and I think I succeeded) was between sacrament passers in different wards, rather than between the deacon and the older crowd.

    Do you see any validity in the differing standard set for the two sacrament passers in my example?

  47. Bradley,

    I should probably first point out that I agree with you in regards to the possibility of having different standards in different places (although I would probably call them “customs” rather than “standards” because I don’t think these are necessarily tied to one’s level of spirituality/morality; although obedience to them may be).

    However, I think I disagree as to how you justify different standards. Don’t get me wrong, your approach sounds very practical (although it runs the risk of ruining your relationship with the youth, unless of course you explain to them, “Come on! Please do it for the old people.”). But does your decision really come down to who it’s easier to convince? Let’s say that these people weren’t old, but were an ultra-stringent majority, would you do the same? And what if there were an ultra-stringent minority in the ward, who would you side with there?

    In thinking this through myself, the distinction between “standard” and “custom” actually could be pretty important. I think customs can vary from place to place, and even from time to time. To challenge a custom doesn’t necessarily make one less moral, although it could damage one’s relationships with others. Maybe this is why the different honor codes bother me, they are directly tied to one’s “goodness”. In the situation we are discussing, I guess I would tell the deacons, “We have a custom of wearing white shirts while passing the sacrament. I would appreciate it if you were to continue this custom. However, if you choose not to, I will not think less of you.” To the elderly I would say, “We have a custom of wearing white shirts while passing the sacrament. This is not a requirement or a standard enforced by the church. Some of the youth may choose not to wear a white shirt, we need to develop a sensitivity in allowing others to choose for themselves within the bounds of rightness.” Or some mumbo jumbo like that.

  48. Small Axe –

    apologies if you were offended. I just felt it needed to be said, since it’s a rather common slander and needs to be shot down whenever it’s said.

    As for differing honor codes – nope, nothing constructive. In the end, they’re different colleges, in different states, so it’s not a surprise they would have differing honor codes.

  49. No offense taken, just didn’t wanted to be implicated. Keep shootin.

    I’m not sure why, though, “it’s not a surprise” that the schools have different honor codes–they’re both church schools, claim their honor codes to derive from the same texts for the same reasons, and have (as you’ve argued) equally intelligent attendees.

  50. The fact that someone went to BYUI does not automatically correlate with academic preparation, Ivan and wife are an example. But this does not necessarily mean that their case represents the average, either. While one cannot assume that any given BYUI student isn’t as strong a student as another, are there general trends in GPAs, test scores, etc. that differ between the two schools? (I’m guessing yes.) Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t correlate necessarily with intellect. What I’m getting at is wheter there are perceived differences in the “moral needs” of students at each school.

    The more I think about it, the more I think that there may be something to RT’s “market of moral rigorousness”. In looking for examples of people I’ve known that went to Ricks, I can think of at least two personal friends whose parents chose Ricks because they thought of it as a reform school with a little more rigor (i.e. oversight) than BYU. That, and their kids didn’t get in to BYUP.

    I keep coming back to the same question: does the history of Ricks/BYUI–especially as a church *junior* college–have anything to do with its more stringent honor code? Is there any implicit statement about the respective students in the difference, or is it just that they were independent entities who made up the rules as they saw fit and only now are having to ask the question of how these two honor codes should be correlated? Smallaxe’s point about the overlapping language is important evidence here…

  51. SmallAxe –

    I’ll bite (a little).

    This is based on my experience at Ricks and BYU, and I’ll limit it to one part of the Honor Code: Curfew.

    Now, curfew at Ricks was several hours before curfew at BYU. At first glance, this may seem too strict on the part of Ricks, but having been there for 5 semesters, I can say this – it makes a lot of sense.

    In Rexburg, there is nothing to do compared to Provo, and honestly, the only social life for college kids is centered around the college. Since Ricks wasn’t in the habit of holding activities after midnight, there was no reason at all for students to be out and about so late.

    However, at Provo, there is a lot for a college age student to do late at night that doesn’t involve getting into trouble. In fact, I think curfew at BYU-Provo should be done away with (if it hasn’t already). But given the social situation in Rexburg, the much earlier curfews (especially for on-campus housing) make sense.

    However, at least Ricks and BYU made you sign a statement saying you read and understood the Honor code. UT-Austin (where I am now) came up with an honor code a couple years back, and just announced it and proclaimed all students were bound by it. Now it was very general, along the lines of “be honest, respect diversity” but there was no discussion with the school community. It was handed down by fiat, and no one had any real say in it. One day, we were just all of a sudden bound by it. At least at Ricks/BYU, you went in knowing what you were up against.

  52. Ivan,
    AARGH!!! That’s why I mentioned Palomar (which is a junior college just north of San Diego, so maybe the specific regional reference was more obscure than it should have been). There are plenty of reasons to go start at a junior college: grades, money, proximity to home, concurrent enrollment in high school, taking general interest courses, etc. (My mom, valedictorian of her high school, went to a community college for a couple years because her older siblings did, and nobody told her any differently.) A person who has one of those reasons for choosing a JC is not (generally) the same person who’s looking to a four-year college. It doesn’t necessarily relate to intelligence, to finances, or to any other thing. Again, and for the last time, my sole point was that there are so many other factors causing a person to choose between BYU and (at the time Ricks, which, for the record, was a two-year junior college at the time I went to school) that the differing honor codes probably did not factor into a prospective student’s decision-making process. There are, I’m sure, remarkably dumb people at BYU-I; I know there are at BYU. And probably a couple smart people at both, too.

    Interesting idea about why curfews (there were none at BYU as of 1994, at least to the best of my knowledge); again, because I don’t think there’s any cosmic significance to the details of an honor code, even where the schools are run by the same organization, based on the same foundational texts, the real (and perceived) reasons to create rules may have differed over the years between the schools. Even with the renaming of Ricks to BYU-I and its changing from a 2- to a 4-year institution, I haven’t noticed any push to correlate the programs at the two in any significant way.

  53. And (and then I promise not come back here): if anybody thinks they’re elite for having gone to BYU (or BYU-I, BYU-H, or the LDS Business College), they sure don’t get out much. While I loved BYU, it is clearly not a prestige school. (That’s what grad school is for 🙂 ).

  54. Oh, it’s all good Sam B. I wasn’t so much targeting you as I was dealing with the years of frustration at other people who constantly say things like “Ricks is for people who can’t get into BYU” with a sneer and treat BYU as the Ivy league of Mormondom.

    Being from Alaska, and 1). not wanting to go to college in Alaska; 2.) wanting to get that “LDS college experience” Ricks was a good cheap option.

    As for curfew, here’s what I meant (this is from the BYU Honor Code):
    Visitors of the opposite sex are permitted in living rooms and kitchens but not in bedrooms in off-campus living units . . . Visiting hours may begin at 9 a.m. and extend until midnight. Friday night visiting hours may extend until 1:30 a.m. Landlords may establish a shorter visiting period if proper notice is given to residents.

    At BYU-Idaho, here’s the relevant portion :
    Students should be in their own apartments by midnight Saturday through Thursday nights, and 1 a.m. on Fridays. When attending university functions that end later than established curfew hours, such as plays and concerts, students should be in within 30 minutes after the event is over. Curfew during test week, including Reading Day, will be at midnight.

    Looks like BYU-Idaho has loosened up, as there’s only a half hour difference now. When I went to Ricks, the curfew was 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

  55. Ivan,
    Ah, I never thought of requiring people to be out of someone else’s apartment, as opposed to requiring people to be at home in their apartment, as being a curfew (although I guess it is, in a way). Just curious: does the BYU-I curfew (or did the Ricks curfew) apply to married people, too? (Or people who worked nights? I had a couple roommates at BYU who worked graveyard shifts.)

  56. Sam –

    AFAIK, like BYU, at Ricks, married people didn’t have to stay in approved housing and the “curfew” (or whatever we call it) didn’t apply either. As far as working graveyard shift – as long as there were no members of the opposite sex in the apartment, I don’t think it mattered.

  57. Ivan,

    You do know there is an honor code that you’ll have to accept before going to BYU, but if they change it (which is done by fiat) you have to sign the new one or leave.

    Also in agreeing with your statement about BYU being the Ivy league of Mormondom in the eyes of some, I would go even further: The Ivy League is the Ivy League of Mormondom, as there are in fact Mormons attending those schools. BYU is the MWC of Mormondom.

  58. I’m currently at BYU-Idaho. I don’t have any beef with the Honor Code, because 1) it’s something that, with my signature and my integrity, I’ve covenanted to live, and 2) living the Honor Code helps me keep the Spirit. Sure, not all the rules may be inspired of God, but, not all laws of governments are inspired of God either. Yet, “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

    And for those who care, BYU-Idaho’s Honor Code is comprised of four components:
    1. Dress and Grooming (no shorts, capris, flip-flops, etc)
    2. Academic (I know someone who was suspended for plagiarizing in her final English paper)
    3. Housing Guidelines (inc. curfew, drapes open, etc)
    4. Ecclesiastical Endorsement (you have to maintain your endorsement if you want to stay at BYU-Idaho. Thus, if you are caught breaking the Law of Chastity or the Word of Wisdom (ie, if caught drinking or having the sex) you can be kicked out. Also, if you are LDS you are expected to go to Church; if not, you could lose your endorsement. If you are not LDS, you are encouraged to go to another denomination, yet you still have to meet with the local bishop to renew your endorsement once a year.

    In summation, here are President Kim B. Clark (President of BYU-Idaho)’s words from a devotional address one year ago:

    The Honor Code establishes rules and standards for behavior and dress and grooming for everyone at BYU–Idaho. The written Honor Code is the baseline standard. It is the letter of the law. The spirit of the Honor Code is the spirit of love, service, and willing obedience. The grand purposes of the Honor Code—letter and spirit—are to foster in your life and on this campus a great spirit of consecration, to protect against evil, to invite the ministry of the Holy Ghost, to help us build Zion, and to help you prepare to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    To live both the letter and the spirit of the Honor Code, you must know the baseline standards, understand their purposes, and listen to the Spirit. When you heed the promptings of the Spirit to raise your personal bar for living the Honor Code, you not only grow in your discipleship, but you also bless the lives of those around you. Let me give you an example. Each area of the Honor Code is important, but today I want to focus on the dress and grooming standards and, in particular, what you wear every day to class.

    I have noticed, for example, that jeans and T-shirts are the daily wardrobe of choice for many of you. If they are modest, not too short, not tight fitting, not torn or ragged, do not have holes in them, and do not have inappropriate messages on them, then jeans and T-shirts meet the baseline standard of the Honor Code. But as you reflect on your personal bar, listen to these words from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

    “. . . choose your clothing the way you would choose your friends—in both cases choose that which improves you and would give you confidence standing in the presence of God. Good friends would never embarrass you, demean you, or exploit you. Neither should your clothing.

    “. . . from ancient times to modern we have always been invited to present our best selves inside and out when entering the house of the Lord—and a dedicated LDS chapel [and I would add, the Lord’s university] is a ‘house of the Lord.’ Our clothing or footwear need never be expensive, indeed should not be expensive, but neither should it appear that we are on our way to the beach.

    “. . . We should be recognizable in appearance as well as in behavior that we truly are disciples of Christ, that in a spirit of worship we are meek and lowly of heart, that we truly desire the Savior’s Spirit to be with us always.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, To Young Women, Ensign, November 2005, 28).

    Every time you walk into a classroom on this campus, you are walking into a space that has been dedicated and set apart by the prophets of God. This is the Lord’s university, a temple of learning, a disciple preparation center. When you look in the mirror in the morning before you walk on this campus, say to yourself: “I want to be a disciple of the Savior; and I am going to look like, and act like, and, in fact, be a disciple of the Savior today.” If it is a devotional day, dress in your temple best. On other days remember who you are and wear clothes that are a notch or two up from jeans and T-shirts.

    Now, you may wonder why what you wear is important. After all, the Lord has said, “. . . man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”13 I want your hearts to be pure and your faith to be true, but I think there are two reasons why what you wear to class is important. First, like being on time, it is a sign of your respect for the process of learning and teaching that occurs in those dedicated places. It is a measure of your respect for everyone involved in that process—including your classmates, the faculty, and especially the Holy Ghost.

    Second, what you wear affects how you and those around you behave. Simply said, your dress will affect how you and your classmates engage in the learning process and how much you learn. If you come to class better dressed, you will help to establish a sense of respect, seriousness of purpose, and focus that will affect how the class works. Through your obedience and through raising your personal bar, you will bring a better spirit to class and help to create an environment in which the Holy Ghost can minister, not only to you, but everyone around you. This means that raising your personal bar for dress and grooming is not just about you. It is an act of faith, kindness, service, and love for those around you. It is a powerful step on the path of discipleship.

    Note: I’ve been told, by some friends on a council working to re-work the Honor Code, BYU-Idaho’s Honor Code is in process of changing again. President Clark wishes to emphasize living the spirit of the Honor Code, with no specific clothing guidelines, but wishing students to “dress a little better and more professional.”

  59. I live about 1/4 of a mile from the BYUI campus, and I have some problems with the standards there. For one thing, they wouldn’t let Jesus into any of there classes because 1) His hair touches his ears 2)He wears sandals 3)His robe does not by ANY standards comply with the long pants and shirt policy.

    Just something to think about…

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