Thursday, February 16, 2012

BYU Haters - Go to Heck!

Brigham Young University is__________________________________.

Go ahead. Fill in the blank. Out loud. Fill it in with some nasty comment about how horrible, absurd, self-righteous, ignorant, judgmental, clueless, homophobic, racist and toxic the student body there really is. Tell everyone how much you hate it, hate stupid Utah and everyone who lives there. Tell it just like you see it. Go on! Feed the hate. Feed the anger. Because if you want to be cool and intellectual and acceptable to the rest of the world, there is one thing a person must never do - and that is to approve of and share anything positive about Brigham Young University, its students or culture. And sharing positive things about icky Utah? Never.

You see, Brigham Young University is a private university run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And everyone should really hate this place. Why?! Because there is this horrible thing there called the "Honor Code"! It requires that you comply with clear standards of modesty in dress and action, entertainment, curfews, and church attendance! It is all about control I tell you! BYU's honor code is a bit less lax than BYU-Idaho's honor code, but still too demanding by any public university's standards nonetheless. Some of the more controversial parts of the honor code include men needing to be clean shaven (unless they have express written permission and a special "Beard Card" to prove they are cleared to have a beard) *gasp!*, and girls needing to keep their skirts and shorts to the knee (whether they are sporting their dress with or without leggings), and their shoulders and cleavage covered. *The horror!!*

Go on. Keep on gasping. Keep on hating. Because we know you have it in you to nit-pick about the injustice and the strictness and the ridiculousness of every last tittle and iota in that honor code until your fingers and eyes bleed . . .

Just know that all that nit-picking won't change the fact that students who were accepted to that university chose to attend, knowing full well what was expected of them when they signed their name - their word - to that contract.

The way I see it, it is the young-American-college-student-culture is lacking in integrity and proper judgement. Judgement that allows you to see the larger picture. Ultimately a society that values tolerance and catering to everyone's sense of comfort or entitlement over speaking truth or encouraging integrity and responsibility is one that is doomed to fail.  I'd rather be surrounded by people who encourage me to honor my contracts to the letter (even in seemingly silly matters) over being in a world full of people who have no sense of morality at all.

Why must so many try to deconstruct an institution that at its heart and most often in practice is the embodiment of truth, integrity, and honor? Why do individuals promise to abide by the tenants of a contract, but then become offended or laugh in the face of those who challenge that obvious lack of compliance? Why do they bring it as far as to try to change the whole culture?  "Get rid of that horrible contract! Justify those who break the contract! Hate on the enforcers of the contract!" they say. Go on! Spread the word about what a terrible, horrible judgmental culture it is that try to keep their word and disapprove when you don't keep yours!

Seriously? What good comes of that? What justice is served because of that? How is anyone better off or more inclined to improve with that kind of speech? Don't BYU haters - who are also incidentally often BYU grads or LDS themeselves - realize how destructive they are? If you're over 18 and living in Utah or attending BYU and hating the culture with a firey passion, go somewhere else for school! Live in another state! There are hundreds of institutions that can serve you up the cynicism, moral reletavism, and highly liberal world view that you seem to crave so much.

Don't get me wrong - I know there are some quirky things about the culture of BYU and Utah. Sometimes really quirky and annoying things about the culture. In fact I used to be a bit of a Utah hater myself until I lived there for 5 years and grew up a bit. Yes, there is some ignorance on that campus, and when defending principles or ideas, not everything is said in the perfect, tactful, and loving way that it should be said. Sometimes, the culture focuses a bit too much application of principles instead of the actual principles.  I've even caught myself complaining about the students at BYU from time to time. Like for example, when I did an extensive survey about BYU's mate selection and found data that confirmed that women at the school valued a man's higher education more than their own. "WHAT?! HOW DARE THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT OPINION THAN MINE OR VALUE DIFFERENT WAYS OF SPENDING THEIR TIME AND ENERGY THAN I DO?!?!" I thought, in so many words. Yeah, I've repented of that. Because ultimately when push came to shove and God told me one thing and feminist culture were telling me something different, I found myself choosing what God wanted me to choose. I found myself fitting into the box on my survey that a couple years earlier I had despised. I learned from those so-called ignorant BYU students. They had some wisdom I was too proud to accept for a time.

News flash to all you BYU haters: The world is full of people who are imperfect. All people and all cultures have imperfect things about them. BYU is different. And so it creates a different kind of culture -with different imperfections. 

While you may hate BYU culture for its particular imperfections, I propose that is exactly BYU's "differentness" that makes it so great.

You can go read any college edition of Newsweek to find out about how BYU is the most popular university in the country, or how their business program is top-tier, or how there is an extremely disproportionate amount of BYU graduates working for Pixar. But to me, BYU is so much more than that!

Brigham Young University is a university where students, and assisting parents, benefit from incredible value. Students receive a world class quality education at an extremely low cost because tuition is subsidized by tithing collected by our church. I was able to graduate debt free.

Brigham Young University is filled with people who are wholesome, kind, and good. People who are not perfect, but are trying their best to live how God wants them to live. People who go out of their way to help, love and support you in any way they can. People who care more about others more than themselves. People who try to honor their word and to encourage you to do the same. A few of my most favorite people and very dearest friends were roommates or classmates at BYU.

Brigham Young University is filled with professors who not only teach the secular curriculum (and very well I might add), but who also teach the spiritual components of those secular topics. Professors who know your name, who will talk with you after class, who make you fall in love with life and learning and truth.

Brigham Young University is a place where many people find their spouses. A place where you can find people who share your same values and ideals for life. A person who you can build a life and a family and forever with. I know I found my forever lover at BYU.

Brigham Young University is a place where you can actually say all that you want to say. In secular universities, religious talk is often viewed as anti-intellectual, counter-productive, or just simply not appropriate. But at BYU, you don't have to be a afraid to make connections between secular and spiritual truth. In fact, you learn there that truth whether secular or spiritual are deeply intertwined.

Brigham Young University has a code of honor that keeps the environment wholesome, pleasant, safe and clean. It protects the virtue of students. It creates an opportunity to exercise integrity and to be accountable for your actions. It calls for students to live a higher, better way. A way that benefits themselves and those around them.

Brigham Young University is a place where students routinely hear speeches from the top leaders of their faith about how to be better and to come closer to God. The speeches are directed specifically to them and their stage of life.

Brigham Young University's student wards give oppurtunities to many young people to serve in leadership positions that they otherwise wouldn't usually experience. They are growing leaders and teaching young people responsibility. I know I had experience serving in several capacities that I would not have experienced for another 10 or 15 years at least (if that!), had I not attended BYU.

Brigham Young University's honor code while restrictive in some ways actually contributes to a very lively and creative student body who know how to have good clean old-fashioned fun.

I love my Alma Mater. I will always be proud to be a Brigham Young University graduate. I own all the funkiness of the culture and the benefits, privledges, and responsibilities being a graduate from that beautiful university has provided me. I love BYU!!!



My newsfeed was getting too clogged up with that silly and hateful BYU rhetoric. So, I thought it was time to take my stand on the issue and offer up a voice for you who feel the same. Now keep the positive words coming!

Tell me, what do you love about BYU?

12 comments:

  1. ...is a great school where students get a top-notch education and it's inexpensive. For example, having BYU on Bob's resume faired well for him when he was accepted into a "secular" MBA program that specifically targetet BYU grads as potential students b/c they know those students have high moral character, are dedicated, and are incredibly smart and valuable in terms of networking. I didn't go to BYU (by choice), I was a spouse and yes there are some things that I think are downright stupid and the culture is frustrating, but overall it's a great school and it bothers me to hear people say they hate their alma mater (whatever the institution)- go to a different school! Oh yes, that's right you couldn't get in anywhere else! Frustrates me to no end.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting on my insanely long post! Haha. Yes, yes, yes! School pride is great. I'm glad to hear that BYU helped Bob get into a good MBA program - and that his education there is benefiting you even though you didn't choose to attend BYU yourself! :) Hope you're doing well, Lesly. Your girls are beautiful.

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  2. Hi Jami! I have to admit, while at BYU I was guilty of some of those negative attitudes. Haha at least they made me 'cool and intellectual and acceptable'. But it's good to hear positive things about my Alma Mater a couple years later. Nostalgia has probably aided my memories for the better, admittedly.

    That's a really good mental experiment: would we rather live in a society where every contract and agreement was enforced to the extreme, or one where agreements meant nothing. I've never heard it phrased like that, and between the two I definitely would choose the law-and-order, even if it meant people would then be unable to change their minds about contracts they entered in to, or that they wouldn't be able to recover gracefully from breaking a contract. There are some people who who enter into agreements because they are pressured in to them. Yes, people with infallible moralities (perfect people) can weigh out the pressure pushing them to into an agreement with the consequences of following through with that agreement, and once they choose one way or another will swallow the pill indefinitely into the unknown. Real human beings however, when forced to choose one of two not very good options, will make a choice and then complain about it. I agree that everyone who went to BYU entered into a contract to abide by the honor code, but some people enthusiastically signed on and others went because the 'choice' was between that and severing family relationships. The moral thing would be for everyone who did agree to the honor code, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their agreement, to abide by what they said they would abide by. But although some of the whiny sounding complains against BYU and the honor code sound like 6 year olds, "But I wanna...", while I was there I personally knew several responsible adult-types who were aggravated at being placed in a situation where their 'choice' wasn't much of one. And they expressed their frustration verbally, even though it did tend to create a negative rift between them and their peers who simply (and justifiably) wanted a wholesome college environment. It's unfortunate that the conflict exists, especially when the whole admissions process and honor code are designed to prevent it.

    Anyways, cheers to whoever reads all of Jami's posts and the comments. I'm proud to be a BYU grad. BYU rocks!

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    1. Kyle -

      Your comment makes it sound like you went to BYU 20 years ago. Haha. I wish I could see your face to know if you were being completely facetious about every positive blurb you have in here about BYU or not. It doesn't really matter. It made me chuckle just the same.

      I appreciate all your commentary on the mental experiment. It expanded on some of the ideas I've been chewing on but in a different sort of way. For me, it has been more about principles that are applicable every where - not so much in this sort of isolated realm. I have to admit that I'd enjoy reading a dystopian novel with this mental experiment in play and see the extremes fleshed out. I suppose one would lead to some sort of dictatorship and the other anarchy? Haha.

      Anyways, I think you assessed the situation pretty fairly with regards to BYU and some of the conflicts I didn't discuss (i.e. Some people feeling like they have to attend or break up family relationships, etc.) I'm glad to see BYU didn't squash your ability to contribute an insightful comment to a discussion. ;)

      Best!

      Jami

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  3. Jami- Yes, yes, and yes! I have been troubled most of the day because of all the negative attitudes directed towards BYU, the Church, and the Honor Code. No matter where I turn--blogs, facebook, Twitter, the local news--it's there. What really bothers me is when these hateful expressions come from LDS people and BYU students. I am moments away from swearing off all social media because I am so disappointed and frustrated with these people and their comments. Oh and am I the only one that finds a certain "meme" on the issue completely ridiculous because it features a girl in a tiny bikini and a sexy pose--isn't modesty the whole point anyway!? Sharing and promoting a picture with that image shows that these people don't understand the reason for the standard in the first place. I pray that my friends who were quick to laugh at the "hilarious" depiction of the incident will never learn the importance of modesty by the hard lesson of having a family member or loved one that suffers with the addiction to pornography (TO CLARIFY...this comment is referring to the ad with the BYU student/polygamy/bikini ad--not the actual girl in question).

    Anyway, before swearing off ALL social media and internet use I decided I am going to make a mental list of sites, blogs, etc that I know will always be uplifting and inspiring. As I was mentally assembling this list in my mind, I thought of your blog! I was happy to come here and see you felt similarly and decided to post something positive. You're awesome!

    I am also wondering if you could email me your address. I might still have it but I'm going to have to search for it!

    -Your last Provo visiting teacher, Hannah W.

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    1. Um oh yeah, wasn't I supposed to bring positive energy and say what I loved about BYU? Sorry for bringing a bit of the debate to your blog. I do love BYU!

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    2. Hannah!

      It's good to hear from you! I'm glad I wasn't the only one feeling this way. I was disappointed by that meme as well. In fact I'm disappointed by a lot of things going on in the world lately! Too much throwing out babies to keep their bathwater I suppose. I find that I feel less happy when I am too involved in social media, so I take breaks from time to time. I totally understand your wanting to get it out of your life altogether! I will email you my address. Thanks for commenting. :)

      Jami

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  4. Jami- awesome post. I think you very clearly illuminate two significantly different tensions regarding BYU culture. First, and most overwhelmingly, there is a tension between the standards of BYU and its conflict with pop culture. This tension, for me, is not something to be overcome. It is and will forever be a defining part of LDS culture to be something "other," no matter how hard we try (and want) to seamlessly integrate. (Although this is not to say that rejecting a synthesis should be acceptable either, it is to say that LDS standards have consistently remained outside of the scope of an ever changing pop culture that does not appear to be flowing nearer to our consistency--however self-righteous or "other" that consistency may seem.) The second tension, that I do think can be overcome with a significant amount of effort, is LDS reactions to the realization that we don't perfectly (nor will we) synthesize with pop culture. I suggest that there are two primary reactions here (and only two primarily because the third would be an assimilation with pop culture which seems unfitting of the principles being referenced in this post, but I digress). The first is an overly compensating conservatism--the odd self-righteousness that BYU is known for. The group at BYU that it wasn't enough for them to just observe the honor code, but that they had to enforce it even on those who were not asking them to compromise their own contractual agreement. The second is a group that attempts to assimilate slightly with pop culture--cut a few corners, push a few boundaries, marginalize the contract they've willing signed as a condition of acceptance into the university (on an annual basis).

    So this is where I'm going to cop out--take the easy road, and suggest that the honor code and BYU and the LDS religion are suggesting distinct principles that lead to an eternal perspective in an effort to reduce unnecessary-short-lived happiness at the expense of lasting joy. I accept that this is a cop out answer, I realize that I just pinned students into two primary boxes but I'm just suggesting that we can raise the bar. Students need to be more than rules, they need to see the principles and integrate those things so that as they move past BYU they have learned the boundaries of those principles but also where there are opportunities to be flexible and make connections with a pop culture that views us as so absolutely different. The pursuit of lasting joy, at least for me, is an transcendent good that bears influence on the atheist and religious alike. Although the answers to what that joy might look like may be different for some, the conversation requires both a distinct understanding of principle and also a willingness to truly look into pop culture to actually connect and have a genuine discussion.

    Jami I apologize for the cop out but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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    1. @ Everyone reading these comments: Don't you see why I love BYU? Incredible and interesting friends like this one here?! Haha.

      @ Kristen: Love, love, love your comment. Will you please comment on every post I write?

      First off, yes, that is a cop out! Human nature - without accountability - is bound to go to down a slippery slope. (I suppose that is why I tend to associate more often with those in the overly compensating conservative camp - though I like to think I grew up a bit in that area after Freshman year.) ;) Especially at a University of any kind with young kids who are free and flapping their wings for the first time, and because the student body is so transient. I think it would be much easier to encourage a standard like this in a more established area, though not impossible by any means at BYU.

      Despite the challenge though, I would completely accept the superior intellectual nature of your cop out - with one catch. I really like this sort of "Spirit of the Law" proposal you are making here as a means to amending some of the tension at BYU. My only qualm with that idea is that more often than not, when people discuss flexibility and following the spirit and etc. they use it as an excuse for bad behavior MUCH more often than they use it as a means to "raise the bar." I think if people truly have an understanding and appreciation for the principles they are trying to embody, they will often go farther and more deeply into righteousness (not the other way around.) You know what I'm saying?

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    2. I know what you're saying and I think you're very right. But there are risks with holding people to a higher standard--as you perceptively pointed out, there can be a significant amount who struggle to hit the bar. Although I'm not sure that because there is a risk that it shouldn't bea goal. I think if we set the bar higher and expect more, people are likely to be better. At least with my own personal experience as a Freshmen at BYU (as you well know) the letter of the law was overly stifling, an dI think if RA's and students had a natural expectation (rather than a need to catch others) students would rise to the occasion. For example, testing center. One of my biggest pet peeves about BYU. The testing center hires people to monitor students so that they won't cheat, yet wasn't I required to sign an honor code where I promised to be honest? Why then the monitoring? Either accept me as a belligerent youth, incapable of keeping my promises, and DON'T have me sign the honor code, or treat me like I signed it and cut the crap with the monitoring. Eh?!

      I recognize that this can go terribly wrong, that there are risks. But (from and LDS perspective) didn't a loving Heavenly Father take a significant number of risks in his providing a probationary state? Great risks, great rewards. Lets behave like it! Boom baby!

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  5. “Too often we complicate the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with endless lists of meticulous expectations. However, when we focus on the ‘why’ of the gospel, much of the confusion fades away.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, First Counselor in the First Presidency.

    Read this and thought of the discussion going on here.

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  6. Jami! Awesome Post! Just minutes ago Steve was telling me about a new debate on facebook about the "honor code quiz". I think it is absolutely ridiculous that someone who chose to attend BYU should be offended by such a mundane thing. Sure, caught in a bubble, Utah culture can be a little quirky at times, but if you go there, attend, live there, whatever with the right spirit and right attitude, it is a wonderful place to be. Everywhere you turn there are opportunities to learn, to serve, etc.

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