Student life at Brigham Young University
Student life at Brigham Young University is heavily influenced by the fact that 98% of its students are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The school is privately owned by the church and aims to create an atmosphere in which secular and religious principles are taught in the same classroom. Students and faculty both are expected to adhere to an Honor Code prohibiting extra-marital sex, alcohol and other drug use, and extremes in clothing or hairstyles. Regular church activity is required among students who are members of the church. Because sororities and fraternities do not exist at the school, church organizations and activities take up an even greater part of student life.
Most male students and some female students take a hiatus from their studies to serve missions for the LDS church. The school is also associated with a strong marriage culture, with many students focused on finding a spouse. This focus is largely due to teachings of the LDS church encouraging marriage and families. The University has a relatively low crime rate. It has experienced a few student protests regarding homosexuality, women's rights, and race over the years.
- 1 Religion
- 2 Honor code
- 3 Culture
- 4 Controversy
- 5 References
- 6 See also
According to the Brigham Young University mission statement, "The mission of [BYU] is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life. That assistance should provide a period of intensive learning in a stimulating setting where a commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued...." BYU is thus considered by its leaders to be at heart a religious institution, wherein, ideally, religious and secular education is interwoven in a way that encourages the highest standards in both areas. It is not uncommon for LDS scriptures to be referred to and prayers to be spoken in classes. In fact, it is encouraged. This weaving of the secular and the religious aspects of a religious university go back as far as Brigham Young himself, who told Karl G. Maeser when the Church purchased the school: "I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God."
BYU is also considered by many Latter-day Saints, as well as some university and Church leaders to be "The Lord's University". This phrase is used in reference to the school's perceived mission as an "ambassador" to the world for the LDS Church and thus, for Jesus Christ. In the past, students and faculty have expressed dissatisfaction with this nickname, as it sometimes gives students the idea that university authorities are always divinely inspired and never to be contradicted. Leaders of the school, however, acknowledge that the nickname represents more a goal that the university strives for, and not its current state of being. Leaders encourage students and faculty to help fulfill the goal by following the teachings of their religion, adhering to the school's honor code, and serving others with the knowledge they gain while attending.
BYU mandates that its students be religiously active. Students and faculty who are LDS are required to submit an affidavit (called an "ecclesiastical endorsement") stating that they are active participants in the LDS Church. The affidavit must be signed by LDS church leaders, and it must be resubmitted annually. Non-LDS students are asked to provide a similar endorsement from an ecclesiastic (religious) leader of their choice with their application for admittance, as well as an annual review similar to the one LDS students undergo. All undergraduate students, regardless of their religion, must take 14 semester hours of religious courses to graduate. Students have a degree of flexibility with these religious courses, although they must take at least two courses covering the Book of Mormon, one covering the Doctrine and Covenants, and one covering the New Testament.
LDS BYU students can choose to affiliate with the local congregation (ward) where they reside or the corresponding student ward. Most single LDS BYU students are members of student wards, which typically have around 150 members, while others may attend "home wards" with nearby family. Married students choose to be affiliated with married student wards or other wards in the community. These specialized church units relieve some of the leadership and administrative burden that the student population would otherwise have on local church units. In addition, student wards and stakes typically have programs designed to meet the specific needs of a younger, more transient population. Over 900 rooms on BYU campus are used for the purposes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregations. More than 150 congregations meet on BYU campus each Sunday. "BYU's campus becomes one of the busiest and largest centers of worship in the world" with about 24,000 persons attending church services on campus.
Some 97% of male BYU graduates and 32% of female graduates took a hiatus from their undergraduate studies at one point to serve as LDS missionaries. Male students typically go on their missions shortly after turning 18 years old. This often occurs during or at the end of their freshman year. Female students may begin their missionary service anytime after turning 19. For males, a full-time mission is two years in length, and for females it lasts 18 months.
All students and faculty, regardless of religion, are required to agree to adhere to an honor code. Early forms of the BYU Honor Code are found as far back as the days of the Brigham Young Academy and early school President Karl G. Maeser. Maeser created the "Domestic Organization", which was a group of teachers who would visit students at their homes to see that they were following the schools moral rules prohibiting obscenity, profanity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. The Honor Code itself was not created until about 1940, and was used mainly for cases of cheating and academic dishonesty. President Wilkinson expanded in the Honor Code 1957 to include other school standards. This led to what the Honor Code represents today: rules regarding chastity, dress, grooming, drugs and alcohol. A signed commitment to live the honor code is part of the application process, and must be adhered by all students, faculty, and staff. Students and faculty found in violation of standards are either warned or called to meet with representatives of the Honor Council. In rare cases, students and faculty can be expelled from the school or lose tenure.
BYU's social and cultural atmosphere is unique. The high rate of enrollment at the university by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints results in an amplification of LDS cultural norms; BYU was ranked by The Princeton Review in 2008 as 14th in the nation for having the happiest students and highest quality of life.
Dating and marriage
Brigham Young University is known for emphasizing a “marriage culture”. To many, BYU is viewed as a “meat market,” a hotbed for Mormon dating and marriage. Due to the many factors such as Latter-day Saint beliefs and University encouragement, “old-fashioned” courtship and marriage are very important aspects of BYU’s social scene.
Dating is a common activity at Brigham Young University. When compared to other college dating habits, BYU is extremely different. Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt studied the “dating and mating” habits of typical college students in their study “Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right.” Of 1000 college women surveyed, only half reported going on six or more dates in their four years of college. Contrastingly, according to research done by professors at BYU in their study titled “A Survey of Dating and Marriage at BYU,” 88% of BYU students reported going on at least one date a month. Even more, 15% of the student population reported going on six or more dates each month. In the same study, 57% of students at BYU reportedly felt they dated “not often enough”.
Besides dating, BYU students also opted to “hang out,” much like other college students. On average, the plurality of students “hang out” with members of the opposite sex six or more times a week. Overall, hanging out with members of the opposite sex and, especially, dating play a large role in the BYU social scene. These activities contribute to BYU’s reputation regarding its emphasis on a “marriage culture.”
Compared to most universities, the marriage rate at BYU is much higher. In 2005, 22% of the student population was married. In 2005, 51% of BYU’s graduating class were married. In the same year, only 3% of Yale’s graduating class were married. And as a national average, 11% of the college class of 2005 were married. The graduating class of 2010 yielded 6147 graduates, 56% of which were married. In addition, these studies failed to account for the many students who were engaged at graduation time.
Furthermore, the average age at first marriage at BYU is statistically lower than the national average. In 2005, the average American man married at age 25 while the average American woman married at age 27. However, at BYU, the average age at first marriage is about 22 years old.
Student perception of marriage
According to a study done by BYU professors, students at BYU feel marriage is a high priority. More specifically, 95% of BYU students rank “marrying in the temple” as a “very important” goal, second only to “a close personal relationship with God”. On the other hand, a survey of American High School Seniors showed that 78% of typical college age Americans rank marriage as an important goal in life. Similarly, Glenn and Marquardt report in their study that 83% of the women surveyed ranked marriage as an important goal in life. As a whole, students at BYU place a higher emphasis on marriage as a life goal than other college age Americans; however, across the board, college aged Americans place a considerably high emphasis on marriage as a life goal.
Furthermore, most students at BYU foresee marriage in their very near futures. In fact, 94% of BYU students felt that marriage would be a part of their lives in the next five to ten years. Comparatively, 71% of the women surveyed by Norvall and Marquardt saw marriage in their near futures. Even more, 29% reported that marriage would be “hard to fit in with my other plans...when I look ahead five to ten years”. Once again, BYU students feel marriage is not only an important life goal, but also, a goal that will happen soon after—if not during—their college years.
Among students, marriage is a hot topic. When asked about the alleged “meat market” mentality found on BYU campus, many students expressed agreement, providing comments such as, “Everyone is interested in marriage around here”. Or, “Marriage is such a huge thing. It’s ingrained in every aspect of BYU.... You come to BYU to get married”. This mentality is common on BYU’s campus, causing many stereotypes and countless jokes.
Even the course selection at BYU reflects an emphasis on marriage. While many universities offer one or two marriage and family classes to their students, BYU offers courses focused on mate selection, marriage preparation, marriage enhancement, marriage therapy, and multiple classes aimed at strengthening the family.
On a higher level, the weekly university devotionals and quarterly Church Educational System Firesides (often held at BYU’s Marriott Center) often center on the topics of dating and marriage. Members of church leadership such as apostle Richard G. Scott urge young men to “not waste time in idle pursuits, but [to] serve a mission for the Church, then make marriage their highest priority”. Overall, students at Brigham Young University are urged often by church leaders and school leaders to wed.
Honor Code influence
On many college campuses, sexual encounters are common. For instance, in Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt’s study “Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right,” of 1000 college women surveyed, 90% reported “hooking up”—non-committal sexual encounters—to be a regular occurrence on their respective campuses. Even more, 40% of these women have participated personally in a “hook up”. However, at BYU, only about 4% of the student population reported sexual activity within dating and less than 1% of the student population reported sexual activity outside of dating (aka “hooking up”), according to “A Survey of Dating and Marriage at BYU”. This abstinence from sexual activity is caused by both personal religious values and BYU’s Honor Code, a contract each student signs prohibiting activities ranging from mixed gender camping trips to sexual intercourse. Students breaking these rules may face expulsion from the university.
While at other universities, a “hook up” is typically defined by sexual activity, around 2% of the student population at BYU reported passionate kissing done outside of dating. This tamer form of “hooking up” has generally become known among the BYU student community as a NCMO— “nik-mo”— standing for “noncommittal make out”.
The LDS church places strong emphasis on marriage in its teachings. In fact, celestial marriage is considered an ordinance necessary to exaltation. Members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints firmly believe that their mission on earth is to marry and have a family. As a whole, Latter-day Saints are known to marry young. Compared to Protestants, Catholics, Methodists, and Jews, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the youngest to wed. Most likely, Latter-day Saints marry young because of the importance the LDS church places on marriage and family. The belief that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” furthers the LDS belief in the importance of marriage.
Crime and drug levels
Many visitors to BYU, and Utah Valley as a whole, report being surprised by the culturally conservative environment. Brigham Young University's Honor Code, which all BYU students agree to as a condition of studying at BYU, prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, etc. As mentioned earlier, The Princeton Review has rated BYU the "#1 stone cold sober school" in the nation for several years running, an honor which the late LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley commented on with pride. The school's strait-laced reputation is a major selling point in athletic recruiting. As non-LDS players have become ever more important to the school's teams, BYU's wholesomeness is often attractive for prospective students who prefer an academic or social environment without alcohol, illegal drug abuse, and violent crime. According to the Uniform Crime Reports, incidents of crime in Provo are lower than the national average. Murder is rare, and robberies are about 1/10 the national average.
In the 1970s, several schools protested against BYU, claiming it was a racist organization — Stanford and San José State both refusing to play the university in sports. In 1970, the University of Arizona sent a “fact-finding committee” to determine if BYU was racist, finding that “rhetoric had escalated too far” with regards to racism and the Western Athletic Conference. The BYU newspaper The Daily Universe reported that Arizona's committee determined that BYU was not racist, but was an “isolated institution whose members simply do not relate to or understand black people.” BYU football players were met by 75 picketers demonstrating against racism at BYU when they played Arizona a week after the report.
In April 1992 during Take Back the Night, an on-campus women's rights group marched in protest at the University's lack of a Women's Resource Center. They feared that by not having such a center BYU was not giving enough aid to female students who were the victims of rape and abuse. By December 1992, a center had been approved. Then-BYU President Rex E. Lee said that the decision of the Board of Directors to approve the building of the center was unanimous.
In February 2012, a YouTube video called "What do you know about black history?" of students at BYU surfaced, exemplifying some students' knowledge about Black History Month and African Americans in general. The interviewer himself does Blackface while asking students a variety of questions.
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