The Honor Code Backslider
Now that I look back, I see that I slid backwards almost from my first day at BYU. I had good intentions, and my moral compass generally pointed north, but the Honor Code road was slippery and falling by the wayside seemed pretty easy – myself being a Natural Man. I wasn’t a member of the LDS Church at the time, but using that fact to explain away my behavior was pure rationalization. I had also attended Catechism at St. Francis for a year under my dad’s thumb, but came to a full balk when the Nuns wanted me to take my first communion. They had scared the Living Daylights out of me with descriptions of Hell – especially if I didn’t fess up in the Confession Booth and change my ways. My dad didn’t force the issue, just letting me know I ought to take a look at something else other than our 99.9% Mormon Town. I did know what constituted good moral performance – but figured I had a ready answer – explaining my misdeeds as poor choices.
As a student from 63 – 65 at the Y, I routinely showed disrespect for the high standards of the institution. I did get it through my thick head that it was a private university, that I attended at the Trustees’ pleasure – and if they decided that I was to wear a blue and white beanie topped off with a propeller, then that was their right – and not my right to question. That is if I wanted to continue my education at the BYU and not further north where I had previously been enrolled.
Why was I making the change? Answer – My friends were having too much fun, meeting too many girls, and I had heard classes were easier; plus my parents would provide room and board at the Ollivier Lower Middle Class Mansion in Pleasant Grove, Utah. And, the real reason, Advanced Calculus and I had finally come to a parting of the ways and it was time to change majors – again.
The Honor code really revolves around being honest and adhering to the principles of the LDS church while matriculated. Specifically it meant: Be honest, Live a Chaste and Virtuous Life, Obey the Law and All Campus Policies, Use Clean Language, Respect others, Abstain from Alcoholic Beverages, Tobacco, Tea, Coffee and Illegal Substance Abuse, Participate Regularly in Church Services, Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards, and Encourage Others in their Commitment to Comply with the Honor Code.
Did I sign a Commitment Form or stand to attention and swear an Honor Code Oath? I can’t rightly remember. But generally the school officiators were light handed if you showed signs of repentance. However there were certain violations – such as trying to burn down the Law School, selling drugs during a Religion Class, or forming an Democrat Party Terrorist Cell in your dorm – those were outer darkness sins. You were out the door and down the road immediately.
Commit a felony, the campus police had their go, then you were turned over to the city cops. There were several incidents that I heard about (ok, encouraged, watched, initiated or participated in) that became real honor code landmarks. Here’s just a couple – butchering and preparing a pig for a Polynesian Luau in a dorm shower (it looked like a mass murder scene), taking an obnoxious and mean spirited social club member into the west desert at midnight, striping him naked and leaving him blindfolded on a dirt road five miles from the nearest asphalt (late fall so it was a bit chilly), and, subscribing to Playboy, Penthouse, Esquire, Tales from the Crypt, True Detective, etc. in the name of a particularly self righteous, self important religion teacher – all copies to be sent to his campus office – and re-established with worse mags (Outdoor Nude, Vixens Abroad, and Voyeurs Anonymous ) when he canceled.
But for the normal (read very bright, able and affable) student, the HC translated into no lying, cheating or stealing, no dressing or acting like a hooker or a gigolo, no fooling around on a blanket in the city park when Spring Fever overtook you, no cussing, (except when you cranked out a C- in Econ), no addictions except for eating a gallon of Haagen Das and three pounds of Oreos once a week. And show respect to everyone – administers, teachers, peers, townspeople – even the honor code personnel.
No erotic or indecent material (I was never sure if I was reading indecent stuff, but did hope to find something vaguely erotic in my quest for a full education). No disorderly or disruptive conduct, and make sure you turned in anyone who even looked like they might not be in compliance with any and all aspects of the dreaded Code.
As far as turning another student in – not particularly my style, although I knew several girls (ratfinks and ugly as a mud fence) that did turn in their roommates for staying out after the 11:00 PM curfew. I, myself, had to jump out of a two-story apartment window on a late evening visit when my friend’s roommates came home early. Nothing serious between us, but she would have been turned in on the spot because guys were not allowed in a bedroom. Wasn’t sure anyone would buy my story of being there examining the family album. There was a slight problem because the ground below had been freshly planted with Spring lawn seed and my escape made 18-inch deep depressions that were clearly visible as I slogged my way to the parking lot.
Any reported violation of the Honor Code could result in a hold being placed on your registration next semester – until resolved. As the years went by you eventually had to have an ecclesiastical endorsement and the Admin Guys looked for obvious forgeries. No beards, no guy earrings, one each ear for girls, any other body piercing – automatically kicked out the door (Later as an Adjunct Prof, I did make fun of some of the male students in my classes in the 80’s who wore wide gold neck chains – I ask them if they were pursuing an alternate lifestyle – probably wouldn’t wash today).
While making light of the code, I fully respected the University’s right to enforce their rules to the Nth degree. At that early student age, and unfortunately like most folks in today’s world, I was mainly afraid of getting caught, and felt little moral responsibility – figuring I had years to repent and reform. It was a great school and I had life changing experiences, met lots of snaky girls and got an education with a BS degree thrown in to boot. And, despite my own shaky HC back sliding history, I still believe it is one of the best schools and environments for students anywhere in the world, and I fully support the Code of Conduct. Don’t want to comply, go to Mongahela State and party on.
As a frisky young guy in the 60’s, however, I straddled the Code line, nothing serious, but always on the edge of getting turned in to the Standard’s Office – throwing snowballs at then President Ernest Wilkinson, looking sideways a little too long at a fellow student’s test paper during an exam, swearing at and with my friends, cleaning a 38 Colt Revolver in the very back of a very large class, and removing (with some damage to the device) the steel boot attached to my front wheel while parked in a faculty spot. The ticket shredded by a paper punch before I mailed in the remains. Probably the most serious infraction was to assist a couple of my buddies with a mandatory statistics class – a little help on the final exam. I mean, it was Statistics, how could that be a sin?
My friends and I basically camped out down at the deepest underground floor of the Library between our classes, supposedly studying. Less students to disturb our antics, and there was, of course, access to the certain Illustrated Art Books hidden deep in the Stacks. Each day there came a gorgeous long-legged blond to study in an open carrel. We would gape and poke each other – making the idiot remarks of such a group. She would sit down, arrange her books and kick off her high heels before starting to study. This was the routine every afternoon – we lusted, she studied – barefoot. Naturally we were all afraid to approach her.
I finally came up with a plan to reach under the opposite side of her carrel wall and silently take her shoes, just to see what would happen.
Snagged them both and scurried back to the table. When it came time for her next class, she started to tap around feeling for her pumps. Next she looked down – no shoes – total bewilderment. It was as if a space alien with a shoe fetish had swooped in. I let her suffer for about three minutes and then presented her heels, not sure if she would call the BYU Thought Police, give me a smile, or call me by a name that questioned my parentage. Though surprised, she saw the joke in a playful light and laughed. I got a date out of it, but found we were incompatible – she devout, sophisticated and intelligent, me an unfocused goofball.
However in 1971 the Honor Code Worm turned. Now I was an adjunct professor (read lowly paid, part time instructor) teaching marketing and personal finance. Teaching (with eventual self reductions in pay to zero) continued semester after semester for thirty-four years (one as a full timer). Finally ending up in the Entrepreneurial Center where I belonged all along.
In those early years, since I was the mud on the bottom of the totem pole, I was assigned all of the jobs that befitted my station. That included Honor Code enforcement at registration. My first duty was to at make sure the students were adhering to the dress code. Short hair and no facial growth for guys, correct length dresses and no pants for the girls, etc. – Take names, turn them away, put on a mean face – basic Gestapo tactics.
I quickly got into the spirit of enforcement by stopping every good looking girl whose dress I thought too short, and informing them that they were: 1, Unbelievably beautiful, and 2, someone would eventually hassle them if not me. But go “thy way and sin no more” was my suggestion as I passed them through. I did stop one gal who had on pants under her winter coat. I told her that someone would grab her by and by and turn her out into the snow – no pants allowed. She was in tears because she would have to ride the bus back to her apartment, change, and then return, but not before registration closed for the night. Came up with a great solution. I told her to go to the nearest restroom, take off the pants and just keep her overcoat tightly buttoned.
Many passed without my slightest interest. The hefty ones with dresses that barely hid their thighs I let march right on by – guys with a couple of days growth slid through. I noticed other of my esteemed brethren doing exactly the same, although there were a few with darting, blazing Elmer Gantry eyes, ready to shout, “I Accuse” at a minor non-adherer of school standards.
As a part time professor I was encouraged, no, expected, to fully enforce the honor code in my classes. I was to turn in any offender to the Standard’s Office who would then be further monitored to see if their actions warranted being reprimanded, kicked out of school, or put on the Rack. Naturally, looking back at my own dubious HC career, I never turned anyone in, but got occasional notices from the “Office” that one of my students had been noticed by other professors as being out of standards. I was given a form to be filled out, stating what I had seen, to be turned back into the higher powers – immediately after observing the student in my next class.
Some of the students were not within BYU expectations, mainly out of step with grooming and dress codes. With guys, usually with longish hair, or week old beards, my approach was as follows. I would have the offending student come to the front of the class, turn around a couple of times for everyone to get a good look, then announce that he had been reported by others to have affected the look of an aggressive transvestite. We would then vote on whether or not to turn him in.
For the girls with short skirts, I had them stand up, then walk back and forth to model the dress they were wearing. I ask who wanted a date – lots of hands – then let her pick her penance (got turned in for that one – another visit with the Dean). Again we voted as to her compliance with the Honor Code.
Regardless of the vote, I threw the form in the wastebasket, but the kids usually changed their behavior, which was good since there were plenty of Faculty ready to “righteously” enforce repentance and permanent change. I did get a little flack from the “Office” because I didn’t turn anyone in, so about once a month I would submit a form stating that the student was within dress code limits when observed in my class. I did have a visitor from the Honor Code Disciplinary Council once, but luckily everyone that day was up to par.
A reprimand from the Dean came again when he got a complain about the Resume Preparation and Job Interviewing class I did – one session each semester no matter what the subject. I had very strong ideas about why people got hired or rejected. One of my examples was to pick two girls in the class and have them stand up. One would have hair pulled back, wear glasses and be dressed conservatively – darker colors, white blouse. The other would have blond Farah Fawcett Hair, lots of makeup and would dress (hopefully in red) right up to the Honor Code Line. There always seemed to be one of each. Then I would ask the members of the class which of these attractive girls they would hire for a responsible position.
The guys, of course, voted for the Bombshell, the girls for the one trying to gain entrance into a Convent. Then I explained how that men (despite their early physical interest) would really hire the conservative gal if they wanted serious work done, and that is how I wanted my students to dress for an interview. I did tell the Blond she was very attractive, but for job interviews, she should dress down from her “Hookerfied” look. That term (of my own invention, I’m proud to say) brought complains – along with referring to the Law School as the “Devil’s Incubator” and the full time business faculty as “Those Who Have Never Had a Real Job or Met a Payroll”. But being an unpaid/lowly paid adjunct what did I have to lose. But I did curtail my behavior for a bit.
My most memorable honor code experience came in Marketing 340, a survey class for marketing majors. The second day of class, which started at 3:00 PM, a ravishing beauty came sauntering in – ten minutes late. Best comparison would be a young Catherine Zeta Jones, but that didn’t really do her justice. Maybe a slightly less voluptuous, but taller Elizabeth Taylor – but Liz would pale next to this girl.
Dressed in tight jeans (things had changed at BYU by then) black boots with four-inch heels, pastel silk blouse form fitted, an extra button undone – everything stylish, classy and expensive. Silken black hair, dark Sapphire eyes – the works. Perfect teeth, perfect smile; peaches and cream complexion, perfect make up, tall, poised, intelligent, but with a “come hither” look. Body that would make a plastic surgeon consider applying for unemployment, somewhere in between statuesque and sexy curvy. The girls stared with hateful envy, the guys open-mouthed, not breathing, with carnal sin in their hearts.
Class after class this continued. Each day another new outfit, more stunning than the one before. Always ten minutes late, always striding in front of my podium like she was walking a Christian Dior Runway. Then a slow climb up the stairs to her seat at the back of the bear pit. Silence from all 120 students and myself – just those stiletto heels clicking. I finally ask her to please be on time. Paid not the slightest attention. Just a slow starlit smile that said, “we should talk some time”. Didn’t even try after that. But I did briefly give thought to the possibility of an annulment after twelve years of marriage and five kids. And, in my nightly prayers addressed the possibility of Polygamy making a comeback.
Hoping for some flaw, I thought I’d at least expose her as having no sign of intelligent life. Please God, I thought, let her IQ be in the eighties, with a rural, high pitched, lisping, West Texas Accent. But each question ask in class was answered thoughtfully and to the point – in a voice fit for the lead in La Traviata.
But it was killing me. I finally had her stay after class about mid semester. When everyone was gone I asked, “Why do you dress this way – why do you parade yourself in front of the class each period”? She gazed at me with those dark blue eyes, slightly shifting her hips. “I like men, and I’m applying the principles of the class”.
She got an A for the semester. But only because I wasn’t allowed to give an A+.