BYU’s Honor Code prohibits men from growing beards unless they have a medical skin condition that would make shaving painful.
But some BYU men admit cheating the system by creating their own painful conditions so they can get a doctor to diagnose a skin problem.
BYU’s Student Health Center didn’t want to talk about how often they see students seeking a waiver, commonly known as “beard card,” but several students were willing to talk their bearded faces — as long as The Universe agreed the faces wouldn’t be attached to their real names.
A student we’ll call Mike grew a beard but didn’t have the beard card he’d need to get essential campus services, like access to the campus testing center. He was also getting flak from faculty.
“Every time I got in trouble by either the Honor Code Office or the Testing Center I was handed a one-blade razor. I thought, if that is the standard, I’m going to use it. So I used it every day for three days, and it obliterated my neck. I had ingrown hairs, and it was gross,” Mike said.
He then went through the rest of the approved-beard process: He met with a health-center doctor, who signed off that he had a skin condition. The next step was an appointment with the campus Honor Code office, where the doctor’s recommendation is considered. If approved, the student starts growing a beard and has a new student I.D. card issued with a photo sporting the beard.
“I didn’t want to be dishonest about it, but I also felt like it’s my face and if I have to play by their rules then I will, so I did,” Mike said.
Mike didn’t come up with his scheme all on his own. “I had a friend that had gotten his beard card. I talked to him about the process and realized it was way easier than I thought,” he said.
Other students working the system talk about dry shaving or using rubbing alcohol and wire brushes to irritate their skin enough to get a medical waiver.
“I’ve heard of all those,” Mike said. “The craziest one I’ve heard is the lotion one. They have an allergic reaction to a type of lotion, so they put it on their face and had a really nasty reaction. After hearing so many buddies that did it that way, I’m glad I did it the right way.”
Another student we’ll call Bobby also had an unauthorized beard. “I was losing points from my grade and getting emails from my professors,” Bobby said. “I shaved for three days like I was supposed to, and the night before I took steel wool to my neck and cheeks. The doctor looked at me and said it was obvious that I had a rash.”
Cheating the system is apparently better known among students than among campus administrators. “The Honor Code Office has not received any reports regarding this type of behavior,” said campus spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.
According to the university, fewer than 100 beard waivers have been issued each year for the past 10 years. Unknown is how many of the conditions for those waivers were for fabricated conditions.
Some male students may see “fooling” campus doctors as a moral gray area, but campus authorities take it more seriously. “Students who fraudulently represent they have a medical condition to acquire a beard waiver have broken the commitment they’ve made to live the principles of the Honor Code,” Jenkins said. “In particular they have broken their commitment to be honest, uphold all campus policies and to respect others.”
Eric Schefield is a BYU sophomore and good friend to a student who faked his way into getting a beard card. “I think it brings up an interesting point that these Honor Code stipulations should be discussed in an open forum instead of hidden in the dark,” he said.