History of the Honor Code


    By Christy Shepherd

    Karl G. Maeser told the first class of BYU in 1876, “I trust you all. I give you my confidence. I put you all on your word of honor.”

    However, the first official Honor Code was not established until 1949, when students from the Blue Key National Honor Fraternity saw a need for a clear, unified standard, and drafted the first code.

    The proposed code was then approved by 83 percent of the student body.

    In 1973 the Board of Trustees accepted the Honor Code as official BYU policy.

    Scott Nebeker, former member of the psychology department, wrote an article entitled, “Recognizing the Covenant Community.”

    In the article, he states his belief that the purpose of the Honor Code is to prepare people for a Zion community.

    “If we have students who are committed to the vision of BYU, the function of the Honor Code will become clear. Rather than being concerned with rules, the discussion will become for them, “What is my obligation to the community? What is my responsibility in establishing Zion?” Nebeker said in his article.

    Honor Code Office Director Steven Baker said he believes the purpose of the Honor Code is to help educate, strengthen and uplift the students of BYU.

    “Students are trying hard to do good things and live good lives. The Honor Code gives students something to stand for and to stand by. It”s always helpful to have principles and guidelines,” Baker said.

    The honor code is based on the principles founded on the gospel and the teachings of the church, he said.

    Principles such as modesty, morality and honesty don”t change. However, Baker said occasionally the Dress and Grooming Standards have to be adjusted.

    For example, this year, in compliance with President Hinckley”s recent counsel, the Dress and Grooming Standards were changed from allowing females to have two pairs of earrings to one pair.

    In an article in BYU Today by Carri Jenkins, former BYU president, Rex Lee said, “There are some aspects of the code and standards that are value based and doctrinally founded, and they will not change. At the same time, as new issues emerge and dress modes and behaviors evolve, we see a need to update our standards so they can address these changes.”

    Students throughout BYU”s history have had various opinions regarding the Honor Code.

    Jill Christianson, former BYU student from 1986 said she thinks the university has a right to have its representatives keep the values it stands for.

    Christianson said even though she wished she could have worn shorts to school during her BYU days, she made the decision and commitment to abide by the Honor Code.

    “I knew what was expected and I made the choice to abide by those principles before I ever got to BYU,” she said.

    Brad Barber, 23, a senior from Knoxville, Tenn., majoring in documentary film, said he wants to be in an environment where people live the gospel principles, and if the Honor Code is the way to fulfill that purpose, he appreciates it.

    “Although I love the Honor Code, and think it helps us live worthily, I regret sometimes that we have to have it, because we should just be able to live that law on our own,” he said.

    No matter how students may feel about the Honor Code, they agreed to abide by it as they chose to attend BYU.

    In the words of Camilla Kimball on a plaque in the Honor Code Office, “Some people feel that their responsibilities stifle them. I feel that fulfilling obligations is the best way to grow.”

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email