BYU now considers religious reasons a valid exception to its beard policy.
Students with a medical condition, with a role in a theatrical production or with a religious reason will receive consideration for exemption from the Honor Code beard policy.
“This has come from looking at the requests made by our students,” BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins told KUTV. “Although we have given exceptions in the past, BYU has now formally identified three areas where exceptions may be considered.”
In an email to The Universe, Jenkins explained that there has been no change in the Dress and Grooming Standards guidelines that require men to be clean-shaven.
“Let me also answer your question as to why the university has identified religious observance as an exception, along with the other two exceptions,” Jenkins wrote. “The reason being is that we looked at where we were receiving legitimate requests and made the decision to formalize exceptions in those areas.”
The BYU Honor Code website still claims that beard are “unacceptable,” but exemptions will still be made on a case-by-case basis. BYU Provo is the only Church-owned university that has made this change; BYU—Idaho and BYU—Hawaii still prohibit beards.
The beard policy has received much attention from the media in the past year, and some speculate that the hype contributed to the change.
Protest organizer and 23-year-old BYU student Shane Pittson received attention for his “Bike for Beards” ride from the Provo Library to the BYU campus with 50 other students in September 2014. The New York Times also wrote an article on Pittson’s attempts to reform the clean-shaven standard.
Pittson said he was happy with the recent change and attributed the change to increased interest and efforts from students. The Facebook group he heads, Beards at BYU, has more than 935 likes, and group members celebrated the news on Wednesday.
The group believes this was a step in the right direction but that there is more to be done in order to lift the ban altogether.
Pittson said students should be on the lookout for future events on the Beards at BYU Facebook page. “There are no demonstrations planned as of right now, but students can expect to see a bearded kissing booth and more in the future,” he said.
Other non-LDS students recognize the opportunity to be an exception to the rule.
Sophomore Osvaldo Pacheco is a Catholic from Yakima, Washington, attending BYU. Pacheco said he wants to begin growing a beard and get into the Testing Center without being asked to shave.