Recent events have caused me to ponder deeply the beard ban at this great university. Oddly enough, I found answers to this universal enigma from the hit movie “Batman Begins.”
“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. … As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol … as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting,” Bruce Wayne said.
At BYU, we, like Batman, are creating a dramatic example for the rest of society. In a world where other university students are increasingly associated with promiscuity, alcohol consumption and general unprofessionalism, the BYU student body is striving to prove itself to be the polar opposite of that perception. Now, in order for Batman to become an effective symbol he had to put on his uniform: the batcape, the batarmor, the pointy-eared batmask, the batbelt, the batsocks, etc. On paper, the bat motif seems silly, but when put in practice it was very effective and memorable. Without it, Batman would have been forgotten.
At BYU, to be a memorable symbol and a dramatic example we, too, must put on our “uniform”: the modest, yet remarkably stylish, clothing, the clean and respectful language and the beardless face. Some may say the beard-free motif is silly. However, while beards are not innately evil, it is undeniable that the professional world and society at large have a stigma against them. It is no coincidence that of all the famous professionals with beards, almost all of them had to found their own companies in order to experience facial follicle freedom.
Whether this stigma is justified or not is irrelevant. Perception is reality. The dollars on my online bank account have value because everyone perceives that they do. Likewise, if most people perceive goodness and professionalism with beardless folks, then to be an effective symbol of goodness and professionalism BYU students must don the beardlessness! Like Batman, this is our uniform and our burden, but it is necessary … for the good of society. Society is counting on our school to be different, to be a symbol. We are a light to the world. And that light reflects brighter on faces without beards.
However, there is still hope for the beard enthusiasts. If the criminal underbelly of Gotham ever perceived bats the same way they perceived kittens, Batman may have had to change his symbol because of its loss of effectiveness. Likewise, our beard-free uniform at BYU will change if societal perception changes. As terrorists, dictators, drug-addicts and criminals start shaving; and as church leaders, military personnel and business professionals don their glorious beards, I assure you the societal perception will shift. However, I declare my support for the ban until this paradigm shift. For you beard-loving gentlemen, I hope it comes someday.
Highland Village, Texas