Church Educational System Honor Code

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The Church Educational System (CES) Honor Code is a set of standards by which students and faculty attending a school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) are required to live. The most widely known university that is part of the Church Educational System (CES) that has adopted the honor code is Brigham Young University (BYU), located in Provo, Utah. The standards are largely derived from codes of conduct of the LDS Church, and were not put into written form until the 1940s. Since then, they have undergone several changes. The CES Honor Code also applies for students attending BYU's sister schools Brigham Young University–Idaho, Brigham Young University–Hawaii, and LDS Business College.


Early forms of the CES 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 school's moral rules prohibiting obscenity, profanity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Maeser also, however, relied largely on individual student's honor and honesty in keeping the rules, intending faculty visits as times of counsel rather than espionage. After George H. Brimhall served as president, enforcement became somewhat more lax (there were no more faculty visits), but adherence to the same basic principles were encouraged. The 1930s and 40s saw increased standards regarding rules related to student housing and dress codes. Women were allowed to wear slacks only on Saturdays, and men wore uniforms for a short time.[1]

The Honor Code itself was not created until about 1940, and was used mainly for cases of cheating and academic dishonesty. The Student Honor Council, created around 1949, oversaw case violations. This council met with enough success among students in alleviating cheating that in 1957 BYU president Ernest L. Wilkinson suggested the Honor Code expand to include other school standards. This led to an expansion during the 1960s which created the bulk of what the Honor Code represents today: rules regarding chastity, dress, grooming, drugs, and alcohol.[1]

In the 1960s, several rules regarding longer hairstyles in men were introduced after long hair on men became associated with the radical movements then springing up on college campuses around the country. However, long hair and beards were not completely against the rules until the mid-1970s. The 1960s also saw changes in rules regarding women's dress, as LDS Church leaders made statements against low-cut dresses and short skirts. By this time, women were allowed to wear slacks and pant-suits, but jeans were not allowed until 1981.

In 2007, BYU reworded its honor code to clarify policy on homosexual behavior. Several students, including gay and lesbian students, thought that the previous wording was confusing and unclear. While both homosexuals and heterosexuals must abide by the church's law of chastity (i.e. no sexual relations outside of marriage, no crude language, and no pornography),[2] the Honor Code additionally prohibits all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings (i.e. dating, making out). There is no similar restriction against expressing heterosexual feelings. No one may advocate homosexuality or promote homosexual relations as being morally acceptable.[3] It does make clear, however, that sexual orientation is not an honor code issue. Several civil rights organizations, including Soulforce, have criticized BYU's Honor Code for its practices.[4][5] Also that year, Fox News highlighted BYU's blocking of pornographic and other sites, including YouTube, from campus Internet connections,[6] pursuant to the code's prohibition of the viewing of pornographic material. BYU lifted the YouTube ban in 2009, again receiving nationwide press attention.[7]

In March 2008, the University of Texas at San Antonio was accused of plagiarizing a portion of BYU's honor code related to cheating and plagiarism.[8][9] Southern Virginia University, which also espouses LDS standards, uses a similar code of conduct.

The Honor Code received national attention in March 2011 when the university dismissed BYU basketball player Brandon Davies from the team for violating the code,[10][11] reportedly having engaged in premarital sex,[12] the same day the college basketball rankings came out listing BYU as the #3 team in the nation. Davies was reinstated to the university the next school year, and returned to the basketball team, where he completed his athletic eligibility in 2013.


The CES Honor Code governs not only academic behavior, but morality, and dress and grooming standards of students and faculty, with the aim of providing an atmosphere consistent with LDS principles.[13] The Honor Code requires:

  • Abstinence from illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea (substances forbidden by the LDS Word of Wisdom)
  • Honesty
  • Encouraging others in their commitment to keep the Honor Code
  • Living a chaste and virtuous life:
  • Obedience to the law
  • Active participation in church services (according to whatever religion a student is a member)
  • Respect for others
  • Clean language (no profanity)
  • Following the "Residential Living Standards" (visiting hours for members of the opposite sex)
  • Dress and Grooming Standards: Abiding by the guidelines for dress, grooming, and housing. Skirts must reach to the knee and shirts may not be sleeveless. Form fitting, strapless and revealing clothing is not appropriate. Male students may not wear beards or goatees, hair length must be above the ears, and sideburns must not extend below half of the ear.
  • Students are prohibited from having guns on campus.[14]


Honor code policies and principles are promoted by BYUSA, the campus student association, and the Honor Code Office. The office handles all accusations and violations, and works in conjunction with bishops of BYU wards. If the student's bishop is thought to be able to corroborate the alleged infraction, the accused student may be required to sign a legal form waiving his or her rights to ecclesiastical privacy, which allows the school direct access to the bishop and any content discussed on the said topic, or others which may have been in violation of the Honor Code, but not yet reported. Not all students at the school are familiar with LDS standards, so students who break the code for the first time are usually only contacted by mail as a warning and clarification of standards. Later violations may cause the student to be called into the office to speak with an Honor Code officer. Severe and continued violations can merit expulsion.[15] Students may be brought to the attention of the Honor Code office by faculty, staff, or other students.[16] BYU Events Staff patrol school dances for Honor Code violations.[17] Cafeteria, library, athletics, and BYU Testing Center employees are asked to encourage students to follow dress and grooming standards, sometimes denying service to students not adhering to the code.[18]

In regards to facial hair restrictions, permission to wear facial hair can be granted in three specific cases: For men with skin conditions aggravated by shaving, for theatrical performances, and for religious needs.[19] In regards to medical exemptions, students/faculty must visit a BYU Student Health Center doctor who will fax a recommendation to the Honor Code office. The student/faculty must then visit the office to fill out the requisite exemption paperwork. A new BYU ID card is issued including a symbol marked "BE" and a photograph with the facial hair. In regards to theater exemptions, students or faculty must obtain written permission from the theater or film company explaining the need for facial Such exemptions are only granted for the duration of the production. Thus, in such cases a temporary exemption card issued. Religious exemptions will be coordinated through the university chaplain's office.[19]

The CES Honor Code has been attacked by Darron Smith, a former BYU instructor, as being applied in a racially disparate manner.[20] However, Vai Sikahema, a former BYU football player and native Tongan, defended the honor code, saying that it was not racist and citing a number of players, from a variety of racial backgrounds, who had positive experiences at BYU. He said that although the honor code isn't perfect, it is constantly evolving and is better than it was in the 1970s and '80s.[21]

Housing accommodation[edit]

Students have the option of living in on-campus housing, with family members who reside in the local area, or in off-campus housing which must pass a school inspection for health and safety, as well as satisfactory separation of gender quarters and compliance with other standards. Students under certain conditions can apply for a housing waiver for special approval.[22][23]

  • Single parents with children.
  • Single students living with parents.
  • Single students who are taking classes away from Provo.
  • Graduate students.
  • Under certain conditions, as determined by the Off-Campus Housing Office, the university housing requirement may be waived for other students who have a special circumstance or hardship.

This approval is designed to ensure that students live in a safe environment that is consistent with the standards of the University. Since students are only allowed to live in BYU-approved housing, landlords in the area consider it important to meet the standard in order to gain residents. The housing standards mandate that bathrooms and bedrooms be off limits to those of the opposite sex. Members of the opposite sex are required to be out of the apartment by midnight.[24] Guns are permitted in off-campus housing only if the gun owner receives written permission from both the landlord and all residents in the apartment.[25]

In 2003, BYU announced that beginning in 2007, housing would only be approved if it was within 2 miles (3.2 km) of campus. The school did this out of concern that its Office of Residence Life was being stretched too thin and was unable to meet demands. Students feared the new boundaries might lead to a rise in apartment prices and decrease the amount of available housing. According to BYU, the effect would be minimal, as 98 percent of students already lived within the designated area. About 40 properties lost BYU approval due to the new guideline.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bergera, Gary James; Priddis, Ronald (1985). "Chapter 3: Standards & the Honor Code". Brigham Young University: A House of Faith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. ISBN 0-941214-34-6. OCLC 12963965. 
  2. ^ Morrison, Jenna (April 17, 2007), "BYU Clarifies Honor Code", The Universe (BYU) 
  3. ^ "Church Educational System Honor Code", 2009-2010 Undergraduate Catalog (BYU) 
  4. ^ Kneefel, Brandon (April 17, 2007), "Brigham Young University Revises Policy on Sexuality; Discriminatory Policy Revisited After Soulforce Equality Riders Visit", (Soulforce) 
  5. ^ Jon Adams (August 7, 2007), "The Case Against Brigham Young University", Unscrewing The Inscrutable (blog) (Brent Rasmussen), retrieved 2014-04-10 
  6. ^ "Brigham Young University Bans YouTube Access for Students". Fox News. AP. 2007-02-17. 
  7. ^ "Brigham Young University Lifts YouTube Ban". Huffington Post. 27 June 2009. 
  8. ^ Haurwitz, Ralph K.M. (March 31, 2008). "The lowdown on higher education". (Austin American-Statesman). Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  9. ^ "UTSA students apparently plagiarized honor code". Houston Chronicle. AP. March 30, 2008. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  10. ^ Forde, Pat (March 2, 2011). "BYU puts principle over performance". ESPN. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  11. ^ Kavanagh, Jim (March 3, 2011). "No. 3 BYU loses after dismissing player for honor code violation". CNN. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  12. ^ Drew, Jay (March 2, 2011). "BYU's Brandon Davies apologizes to teammates". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  13. ^ "Church Educational System Honor Code", 2014-2015 Undergraduate Catalog (Brigham Young University) 
  14. ^ Johnson, David (February 28, 2006), "Concealed Weapons Prohibited at BYU", The Universe (BYU) 
  15. ^ Miller, Nicole (January 18, 2007), "Honor Code Exists to Uphold Gospel Principles, Create Environment", The Universe (BYU) 
  16. ^ Stuart, Elizabeth (May 26, 2006), "Universities use social networks to find misbehaving students", The Universe (BYU) 
  17. ^ Westenskow, Rosalie (January 17, 2006), "BYU Dances Keeping it Clean", The Universe (BYU) 
  18. ^ Payne, Sara Elizabeth (September 13, 2005), "HBLL reviews Honor Code enforcement", The Universe (BYU) 
  19. ^ a b Phillip, Abby (January 14, 2015), "Brigham Young University adjusts anti-beard policies amid student protests", The Washington Post 
  20. ^ Luke O'Brien; Darron Smith (April 13, 2011), "The Truth About Race, Religion, And The Honor Code At BYU", (Deadspin) 
  21. ^ Vai Sikahema (April 22, 2011), "Vai's View: On the honor code and accountability", Deseret News 
  22. ^ "BYU Contracted Housing", BYU Off Campus Housing (BYU) 
  23. ^ "Off-Campus Housing", 2009-2010 Undergraduate Catalog (BYU) 
  24. ^ Shippen, Rebecca (June 12, 2006), "Honor code influence helps and hampers student housing", The Universe (BYU) 
  25. ^ Forschler, Leaa (June 2, 2005), "BYU housing office prohibits firearms in apartments", The Universe (BYU) 
  26. ^ Larson, Lesley (June 12, 2006), "Students resistant to and confused by new housing boundaries", The Universe (BYU) 

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