BYU students clash over dress and grooming standards

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The Honor Code used to contain a set of strict rules, but it changed to its current state of general guidelines in 1991. These guidelines allow some students to loosely interpret the standards by wearing leggings as pants or going a few days without shaving. The interpreting of the standards causes frustration for students when they are denied services for what they thought was appropriate.

“There is a huge stigma about wearing yoga pants or leggings on campus, yet everyone does,” said Addie Hunsaker, an English major from Orem. “I guess people just don’t wear them when they know they have to go take a test, which just seems to go against what the Honor Code is trying to teach us.”

Beards were permitted up until the mid-1970s and women were not allowed to wear jeans until 1981. The Honor Code currently restricts form-fitting clothing and also states that “men are expected to be clean shaven.”

The line to get into the Heber J. Grant Building, or the testing center, often extends out of the building. The testing center is known for turning students away for dress code violations. (David Scott)

Employees in the ID Center and Employment Office said they often deny service to students if they notice leggings being worn as pants or a face that has a bit of stubble from lack of shaving, since these may be considered violations.

“The Honor Code is something we talk about often as a staff,” said Brittany Goff, the manager of student employment. “It is something we support and believe in … Our students are trained to handle situations using good judgment on a case-by-case basis. As a staff we do everything we can to help them.”

Mariah Allen, a sophomore majoring in English, was confronted when she tried to take a midterm. Allen was wearing leggings, something she believes allows a much more professional appearance than basketball shorts and sweatpants. However, Allen argues, it is leggings and not sweatpants that prevent students from taking tests.

“I was taking a TMA 201 midterm and the girl at the desk looked at me and told me I had to change to be able to take the test,” Allen explained. “I told her I didn’t have a change of clothes and that this was the only time I could take the exam. She told me she was sorry but that I would just have to figure it out.”

Allen’s midterm was a scheduled humanities test. As a result, she had to come in a day later and cancel plans to visit family in Ogden.

“I thought it was very awkward. I felt embarrassed and the girl who turned me away was visibly uncomfortable,” Allen said.

Allen also noted that when she went back to take the test, the same girl that told her to change was wearing leggings. The only difference was that this girl’s leggings were slightly less form-fitting at the top.

“If ‘form-fitting’ is the qualification that makes leggings inappropriate, then that makes a lot of pencil skirts, tops and jeans inappropriate as well,” Allen said. “I’m absolutely an advocate for leggings. They’re comfortable and appropriate.”

Allen believes that the Honor Code, although a good statement of LDS standards, needs some updating if it is meant to create a professional look.

Hunsaker also had an experience like Allen’s. Hunsaker was wearing leggings but had a modest skirt and long jacket on top.

“I went into the JFSB testing center to take a French test and the lady told me that I would need to go home and change because I wasn’t allowed to wear tights,” Hunsaker said. “I argued that I had never heard the ‘tights’ rule and that I had made sure that morning that my skirt was well below my knees.”

Hunsaker “trekked back home” and put some jeans on.

“I think that girl was just a major stickler,” Hunsaker said.

For Hunsaker, that experience was embarrassing. She said, “Everyone else in the small room was listening and watching the whole exchange.”

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins, explained the importance of the Honor Code.

“Those who come to BYU, whether for employment or education, are seeking an environment that supports their fundamental principles. For this reason, following the Honor Code is done on a personal level, with members of the campus community supporting one another,” Jenkins said.

Stephen Godderidge, an employee in the Student Employment Office, said, “I think the more I understand that the Honor Code is a positive thing, the easier it becomes.”

Whitney Hatch, an ID center employee from Murray who is majoring in music dance theatre, has to turn students away for Honor Code violations almost every day. She has seen problems with leggings lately.

“Most of the time, (students are) pretty understanding about it and they’ll be okay with coming back later,” she said. “Every once in a while, there’s students that give us a hard time.”

Kristen Dunn, an ID center employee from Boerne, Texas, majoring in public health, believes interpreting the Honor Code is “pretty simple.” She read the Honor Code as part of the employee training, and copies of it are kept at the desk for ease of reference.

“I think (the Honor Code is) pretty straight-forward and I came to the university knowing the expectations,” Dunn said.

Nonetheless, Dunn still comes in frequent contact with men who fail to shave or have hair that is too long and women who wear dresses that are too short.

Testing center line extends from the building out to the campus pathways. (Maddi Dayton)

Adam Millett, a sophomore neuroscience major, is a student who has been turned away from the ID center. Millett was told to shave when he went to get a new ID card and was given “a bottle of shaving cream and a cheap razor.”

“I thought it was funny,” Millett said. “Then I had to go in the Wilk bathroom and shave and the other guys laughed with me. I wasn’t mad or anything.”

Millett is generally in support of the Honor Code.

“Once we leave BYU, the professional world respects it, but I get the feeling the general population of BYU dislikes it,” Millett said. “You go to high school and kids get mad there is a For Strength of Youth. You go to college and the same kids get mad there is an Honor Code. Really, it’s there to help us.”

“I’d just like to add we see a lot of support for dress and grooming standards at the ID Center,” ID center manager Rachel Engler said. “Sometimes a person having a stressful day may not be thrilled about a standards reminder, but by and large the people we meet are kind and friendly. We’re blessed to work in this kind of setting.”

BYU spokeswoman Jenkins also voiced support for the Honor Code. “Those who come to BYU, whether for employment or education, are seeking an environment that supports their fundamental principles,” Jenkins said. “For this reason, following the Honor Code is done on a personal level, with members of the campus community supporting one another.

“The Honor Code does not attempt to answer each and every scenario or to solve every problem,” Jenkins said. “Following the Honor Code is a matter of personal integrity.”

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