Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BYU Commits Atrocious Act

A Mormon who was excommunicated has had his diploma denied by Brigham Young University.

Brigham Young University has yanked the diploma of a man who created a calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries and was later excommunicated from the church.

Chad Hardy of Las Vegas attended graduation ceremonies Aug. 15 after finishing up his last four units of study online in June. But on July 13, in between completing his studies and the graduation ceremony, he was excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Plenty of non-Mormons go to BYU. Is there some contractual agreement that says that BYU can withhold the diplomas of excommunicated Mormons? If so, it's a stupid agreement. If not, I hope they get their you-know-whats handed to them on a platter.

Usually I support BYU and other private schools with a conservative bent, but this type of "punishment" goes beyond the pale. At a minimum it's unethical.


Anonymous said...

From the BYU website on the BYU honor code:

"When a student is disfellowshipped or excommunicated, Church leaders are to notify school authorities. In these instances, suspension from school is virtually automatic, although the president of the school has authority to authorize exceptions under rare circumstances to the end of the current term. The school generally suspends disfellowshipped and excommunicated students because acts leading to these Church penalties generally far exceed the bounds of the school's Honor Code."


I doubt that they updated this part recently. The student signed up for this when he attended BYU ...

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

Officially, he was excommunicated for failing to tithe. Interesting Honor Code. I knew a Catholic who attended BYU, and she didn't tithe to their church.

Also, they didn't expel this guy--he finished his courses. They're just withholding his diploma. That sounds petty, mean-spirited, and vindictive to me.

Anonymous said...

"I knew a Catholic who attended BYU, and she didn't tithe to their church."

Maybe they don't have to? I would be surprised if they did.

"Also, they didn't expel this guy--he finished his courses. They're just withholding his diploma."
I'm not sure that they *can* expel him ... from the article: "in between completing his studies and the graduation ceremony, he was excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

I think the valuable lesson here is, if you are planning on really pissing off the Mormon church, don't attend BYU. I occasionally wonder how Jim McMahon managed to survive at BYU :-)

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

Jim McMahon won football games for them.

As for this guy's situation: petty, mean-spirited, and vindictive.

Ellen K said...

BYU is a private university. Just like other private schools, they can write their own bylaws. While this seems sophomoric at best, I have heard of similar retribution against people who may not so blithely follow their local Ward leader's whims.

Rob said...

It's certainly harsh but I don't know if it's atrocious, mean spirited, etc.

If that's what the guy signed up for and if everyone knew what the rules were from the beginning, how can the school be faulted for following them.

My father was a department head at the Air Force Academy whose honor code is "We will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate among us those who do." He presided over a disciplinary proceeding of a cadet who was throwing a football in the hallway between classes with another cadet. They accidentally broke a window and both of them ran off. The one cadet came back a minute later and started cleaning up the broken glass. An upperclassman walked by and asked what happened. This cadet initially said he just came across the broken glass and started cleaning it up. He only admitted to being involved with breaking it after further questioning. The result of the disciplinary proceeding was to expel the cadet from the Academy because of his initial deception. Harsh? Absolutely. Mean spirited, vindictive or atrocious? I don’t think so. This is what they all signed up for. The consequences of even a relatively minor violation of the honor code were well known.

You can argue the merits of having such a strict honor code in place, but I don’t think you can fault the institution for adhering to it.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Jim McMahon is a perfect example of how the exception proves the rule. But -- BYU students DO sign an incredibly intrusive horrific behavior contract when they go in. Whether or not football players are scrutinized less, or whether or not it's a reasonable contract, are both arguable points, but BYU is probably well within its rights here.

It is an excellent reason why NOT to go to BYU, unless you desire to play NFL football, however.


Darren said...

Having attended a school with a single-sanction Honor Code, I have no problems with such things.

But let's state outright what no one really wants to face here: the Mormons excommunicated this guy because he made a homoerotic calendar of fellow Mormons; the tithing thing is just a cover.

Also, he finished his course of study.

I'm not saying BYU can't *legally* do what it's doing, I'm saying that it can't *ethically* do what it's doing.

Petty, mean-spirited, and vindictive. This action they're taking is a play right out of the "we're powerful enough to do anything we want with impunity" playbook--it's part of the image that this guy was trying to counter when he made his calendar.

Rob said...

I’m still not seeing any ethical lapse on BYU’s part. It seems like there are 2 separate issues here:

1. Whether the Mormon church should have excommunicated this guy just for publishing a homoerotic calendar of Mormon missionaries and/or not paying tithing.

2. Whether BYU should have denied this guy his degree for being excommunicated.

The way I see it, if BYU made it clear to this guy from the beginning that if he is excommunicated, he will not graduate, where’s the ethical lapse in actually following through on this rule? I don’t think the rule was: if you’re excommunicated for things that we think are a big deal, you won’t graduate; or if you’re excommunicated any time except during your last semester, you won’t graduate.

I would say that the only claim of an ethical lapse on BYU’s part would be for instances where it didn’t follow this rule (so maybe Jim McMahon could say BYU didn’t treat him ethically because they didn’t kick him out).

Darren said...

Reading again the excerpt from the Honor Code (above), I'm still not seeing it. It says that expulsion is *virtually* automatic (not automatic), and the reason for that is because the excommunicable offense is generally beyond the bounds of the school's Honor Code.

Does the school's Honor Code state that all students must tithe? Even the non-Mormons?

As I said, though, they're just dancing around the homoeroticism issue and seeking a more legalistic way to demonstrate that they're petty, mean-spirited, and vindictive.

Rob said...

I don’t want to go overboard defending BYU on this one. It does seem kind of petty what they did. I think it’s like a cop catching you speeding just one or two miles per hour over the speed limit and still giving you a ticket instead of just a warning. The cop has a right to do it and it’s even ethical to do it, but it’s still kind of mean.

I’m not sure what it would have hurt for BYU just to give this guy a pass and let him get his degree as long as he did all the academic work for it.

I think, though, you also have to point some of the blame at this guy, too. He was a bit boneheaded in what he did. Going for a second analogy here, it’s like a guy going to an orthodox Jewish university, following all the rules the whole time he’s there, and then, right before he’s set to graduate, he goes and opens up a stand selling ham sandwiches. Geez, couldn’t the guy have just waited?

I’m not as sure what to make of the whole homoeroticism thing you mention. I think that’s more of a charge against the Mormon church and their reason for excommunicating him, than against BYU. And, as far as that goes, I’m not sure the Mormon church is really dancing around that one, it seems like they’re pretty up front about their feelings on homosexuality. They’re not big fans of it. I would bet that did have something to do with his excommunication and, if so, that they wouldn’t have had any problem letting him know that.

Darren said...

They excommunicated him for "not tithing", not for producing a homoerotic calendar.

I guess it would all have been OK if he had just given 10% of his "sinfully-gotten" profits to the church.

Anonymous said...

The reason for not allowing the student to graduate is pretty simple. BYU requires that all students have an Ecclesiastical Endorsement; i.e., regardless of their particular religion, they must have a letter vouching for their character from a member of their church's clergy. Catholic students, for example, must have a letter from their priest, just as a Mormon student must have a letter from his or her bishop. This Ecclesiastical Endorsement is regularly updated and is required for a student to continue on at BYU. A student who is excommunicated has decidedly lost his or her endorsement.

As a BYU alumnus, the Honor Code sometimes seemed burdensome, but it was not an "incredibly intrusive horrific behavior contract". It was a fairly straightforward code of conduct that the student agreed to live by. It's certainly not as strict as the Air Force Academy and there's significant leniency for those who are apologetic and do not repeat the offense. The student's statements in a series of articles in the Deseret News (a Utah-based newspaper) shows that he was anything but apologetic.

It is also incorrect that the Church's official reason for excommunicating the student was for not paying tithing. Prior to the student's excommunication, the Deseret News story of July 11, 2008 stated that a meeting was to be held between the student and his stake president (which ranks immediately above a bishop in the LDS Church) and that "the calendar was the primary concern." The Deseret News article of September 26, 2008 said that the student was excommunicated for "conduct unbecoming of a member of the church." The statement about not paying tithing was made by the student himself in the July 11 article.

Finally, the student can still receive his degree from BYU. The Deseret News article of October 16, 2008 stated that a "BYU letter said Hardy's degree is on hold because he was not in good honor code standing because of his excommunication... The letter invited Hardy to contact the executive director of student academic and advisement services about his degree if he returns to good standing in the church." This doesn't seem particularly mean-spirited or vindictive to me.

Darren said...

It does to me, and this is an instance where I believe that people of good conscience can disagree.

As far as returning to the church in good standing, I'm not familiar with what it takes to be un-excommunicated. I've known of people temporarily excommunicated before, and that was for a year.

This was a "nonacademic" hold placed on his diploma. When students are kicked out of West Point (my Alma Mater) between finals and graduation--and it does happen--they do, unless I'm grievously mistaken, get a "certificate of completion" or something along those lines.

The church has this guy by the short and curlies by withholding any form of diploma, and they want to yank. That doesn't sound like a very kind, generous organization to me; rather, that sounds very much like the way the medieval Catholic church acted--my way, or the highway.

The Highway To Hell, that is! (AC/DC fans, welcome!)

Anonymous said...

Another reason not to go to BYU is because it's in Utah.