I’ve been asked by countless readers if I’d weigh in on the story of BYU suspending Brandon Davies from the basketball team (which earlier this week was ranked No. 3 in the country) for violating its honor code, one that prohibits consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, premarital sex, and also reaches far into a student’s wardrobe (no tank tops for women) and whether or not men can have facial hair (only if it is medically necessary).
Is this honor code draconian and idiotic and totally unrealistic? Of course it is. But more importantly, is BYU a private institution? This is significant because it takes the previous question, crumples it into a tiny ball, and throws it out the window. BYU has complete control over its enrollment qualifications. And agreeing to adhere to that honor code is DRILLED INTO YOUR SKULL when you apply and get accepted to attend.
I graduated from BYU, so I lived this first hand. I never drank alcohol or smoked cigarettes or had premarital sex the entire four years I attended that school. In fact, whenever I thought I had taken foreplay with a boyfriend too far, I’d feel bad enough about it that I’d go to my bishop and confess my wrongdoing. And it was a wrongdoing according to that honor code I agreed to live by, even though no clothes were ever removed and I never saw a naked body part.
When I heard that Davies had been suspended for violating the honor code, my initial thought was, well, finally they are holding the athletes to the same standards as regular students. Because there were all sorts of rumors and stories in the early nineties about football players getting away with all sorts of unsavory behavior and never even getting a slap on the wrist. Remember: I got put on academic probation, WITH A 3.95 GPA, because I didn’t do my visiting teaching, because I wasn’t living up to the absolute letter of that honor code.
But over the last day or so I’ve been struck by something else… the BYU community is devastated. This year’s basketball team is one of the best in the school’s history, and they had a great chance to do well in the NCAA tournament. While I know that BYU had the right to kick him off the team, and actually agree with the fact that they did so, I can’t imagine what he is personally going through right now.
Yes, he made a mistake. And according to reports, that mistake was getting his girlfriend pregnant. So not only has he let down his school and his community, and most importantly himself, he has a pregnant girlfriend. That’s a whole other hornet’s nest of complications.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that you can argue all day about honor codes and potential championship titles… you can say, well, he deserves it! Don’t go to BYU if you can’t handle the rules! And you can make valid points on every level and side of this issue.
But none of that really matters, at least to me.
Because he’s really just a kid. A sophomore, for crying out loud. And I really hope he has someone in his life right now who can make him feel a little less judged by this giant, jeering audience, someone who can make him feel like life will not always be this horrifying nightmare.