Readers’ Forum: You belong here! — unless you dress ‘immodestly’

Protestors hold signs requesting changes from the Honor Code system outside the J. Reuben Clark Building. (Sam Bigelow)

The BYU dress and grooming standards of the Honor Code are straightforward and strict: Shoulders and midriffs covered, knee-length or longer bottoms, men are to always be clean-shaven. There’s even a standard on sideburn length.

The section states at the top that the dress code follows the standards laid out in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, which reflects the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While the basic standards of modesty written in “For the Strength of Youth” are present within the Honor Code, it takes those basic standards and goes above and beyond what is written. Nowhere in the pamphlet does it say anything about knee-length skirts and in no General Conference address has any church leader given direction that sideburns should be a specific length.

The fact of the matter is that BYU is overzealous in its pursuit of “modesty,” and that needs to change.  

Throwback to my senior year of high school. I was filling out college applications and working on my BYU application. I was excited at the prospect of attending BYU — I had friends from my stake who attended previously and spoke highly of the classes they took, campus life and the friends they made there. College was something I was looking forward to. I envisioned living in the dormitories, going to all my new classes and most excitingly, having purple hair.

For a bit of background information, I was prohibited from changing my hair color any way during high school, so I was looking forward to being able to achieve my dream of having outlandishly violet hair and being able to express myself how I wanted. When the time came for me to read and agree to all parts of the Honor Code, including the dress and grooming standards, I was crushed. BYU was my top college of choice, but to be able to get accepted I’d have to sacrifice my years-long dream of having my dream hair color.  

Some people may say, “You agreed to this when you decided to come here,” or even “It’s not that big of a deal,” when it actually is. People choose to attend BYU not only for the spiritually enriching environment but also because it’s affordable. Colleges are only getting more and more expensive and most recently graduated high school students can’t afford to pay over $25,000 a year to attend university. Yes, students chose to attend BYU and, by doing so, agree to the dress and grooming standards, but is that fair? Is it fair to ask an 18-year-old to sign this overbearingly strict dress code that will dictate what they can and cannot wear every single day so they don’t end up with thousands of dollars in student debt?  

The truth is that dress codes, especially ones as strict as BYU’s, are damaging to students. College students aren’t kids anymore, yet the university still implants a dress code, something used to dictate what children do or do not wear. It is demeaning to have adult responsibilities and lives but still be treated like a child in this regard.  

BYU needs to change its dress and grooming standards to better fit with the actual counsel given by Church officials. There is no need to look beyond the mark regarding how students dress, which ultimately is their own decision. Instead, the university should simply have students abide by the principles and instructions already given to them by Church authorities.

–Trinity Bunker

Indianapolis, Indiana

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