BYU’s honor code, implications of racism, and journalistic rhetorical structures

I don’t really follow college sports, but I couldn’t help but notice the attention BYU has been receiving in the national media this year. I kept hearing about this fellow named “Jimmer,” who, evidently, is quite a fine basketball player. (He’s looking to surpass Danny Ainge as BYU’s top scorer of all time, for example.) BYU was surging ahead in the rankings, a system which I don’t understand in the least, but is supposed to be a big deal. BYU ranked #3 in the nation, something like that.

With all this hype BYU was poised to make some noise during March Madness. Then they announced the suspension of a key player. A lot of national media coverage was positive, praising BYU for their integrity in suspending a player despite the risk of ruining one of BYU’s finest basketball seasons ever.

I have some mixed feelings about the circumstances but I wanted to take a look at a report from NPR’s “All Things Considered,” which plays nationally, not just locally in Utah. Michele (Mee-shell) Norris is interviewing an NPR sports analyst Stefan Fatsis:

FATSIS: Yeah, BYU kicked its second-best player, sophomore center Brandon Davies, off of the team for violating the Mormon school’s honor code because he’d had premarital sex with his girlfriend. And almost universally, the media has praised BYU as courageous for sticking to its principles in a world of college sports cheats, especially at time when it was doing so well, the argument being that BYU students know what they’re signing up for: no caffeine, no alcohol, no cursing, no beards. Living a chaste and virtuous life is the way the honor code puts it.

Columnists and commentators love to defend righteous acts. But I think there’s more to this conversation.

NORRIS: More like what?

FATSIS: Well, these rules, for one thing. We haven’t heard much about whether these rules are applied uniformly across the student body. And it’s also worth noting that Brandon Davies is African-American, and the last two athletes who left their BYU teams for the same reason are of Pacific Island descent. And this is a campus that is overwhelmingly white.

Then you’ve got the stickier subject of whether these rules should maybe be questioned by people outside of the Mormon Church. And finally, I think it bears asking, you know, does BYU’s willingness to shame a 19-year-old in such a public way, is that the best approach, honor code or not?

NORRIS: Now, BYU was trounced in its first game without Davies, just its third loss this season…

A few things stuck out to me as I listened to this on the radio.

First, the implication of racism stuck out, but I’ll get to that below. Overall I thought the rhetorical structure of Fatsis’s response made it appear as though BYU publicized the actual violation (premarital sex). He begins his comments by announcing the actual violation, premarital sex, which BYU themselves did not comment on. He concludes by noting “BYU’s willingness to shame a 19-year-old in such a public way.” At no point does he distinguish what BYU said and what was ultimately reported by media outlets. Had I not been following other coverage I would have been under the impression that BYU announced his sin as a public shaming of some sort; a scarlet letter moment. This isn’t to say the suspension doesn’t shame the player at all. To the contrary, given his stature and the national coverage I think it’s a really unfortunate situation. At the same time, BYU is not announcing his sins in public in an effort to publicly shame him (in fact, Fatsis’s remarks disclosed more “shameful” information than BYU did, ironically).

Second, Fatsis says “We haven’t heard much about whether these rules are applied uniformly across the student body.” From what I understand, a violation is a violation, no matter the religious background. But are LDS players, students, coaches, teachers, more likely to be “found out” because of the ecclesiastical connection to the school? Say a practicing Muslim breaks the honor code. Would she be as likely to be found out as someone who confesses a sin to an LDS bishop? I don’t know.

Third, a question about Fatsis’s list of forbiddens: “BYU students know what they’re signing up for: no caffeine, no alcohol, no cursing, no beards.” No caffeine? (Or maybe he’s talking about purchasing caffeine on campus, I can’t remember if you can get caffeinated fountain drinks or not, for example. Anyone?) And I admit, I’m 100% with Fatsis on the beard ban. Time for that hoary rule to be buried (especially in regards to visiting Sikh professors, whose beards are part of their religious obligations although BYU has required them to shave). Compared with more difficult issues involving morality, etc. the beard thing ought to be a no-brainer. Maybe they fear the “if you give a mouse a cookie” scenario? The “camel’s nose in the tent” situation? The “how close to the side of the road can you, a trucker applying for a job at my trucking company, drive without falling off the cliff” circumstance?

Finally, I was pretty surprised to see Fatsis’s veiled charge of racism, which slipped by without analysis or challenge by the interviewer. But this is part of the radio journalism game: quick coverage is the goal. Radio reports like this one are built to be bite-sized sound-bites. It’s obvious they’re just trying to get through quickly. NPR spends much more time on bigger stories, this was sort of a side-show story of sorts, March Madness is on the horizon. Still, Fatsis basically implies that race may be behind sports suspension and as evidence, points to other players who “left their BYU teams for the same reason.” Why not distinguish between what teams? What about non-sports players who receive sanctions based on honor code violations? BYU is “overwhelmingly white,” that’s understood. But do the sports teams accurately reflect the overall ethnic makeup of the school? My guess is that they don’t, and that raises questions neither Fatsis nor Norris raise. Incidentally, I’ve only seen implied charges of racism in one related story about NBA star Amare Stoudemire’s Twitter comment: “Don’t ever go to BYU, they kick a Young Educated (Black)Brother OUT OF SCHOOL. The kid had premarital sex. Not suspended, Not Release. Wow!” He quickly issued a wooden apology though.

I mulled over some of these thoughts as NPR quickly moved on to weightier stories about Libya, gas prices, and local traffic.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Haven’t listened to it yet, but here’s a report on NPR with Terryl Givens discussing the honor code stuff:

    http://www.npr.org/2011/03/04/134264429/College-Hoops-Star-Suspended-For-Premarital-Sex?ft=1&f=1022

    And here’s a column by Michael Otterson, head of Church public affairs:

    http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/michael_otterson/2011/03/brandon_davies_suspension_byu_stands_on_principle.html

  • Zack

    Whoever leaked that Davies was suspended because he had premarital sex did Davies a favor, in my opinion. Absent that, all people would be able to do is speculate about what Davies did. Most people, unfamiliar with the strictness of BYU’s honor code probably would have assumed that he cheated in a class or committed a crime. Do you think it’s more shameful for someone to say, “You had premarital sex” or for someone to say “You did one of the following: killed a person, held up a convenience store, raped a girl at a party, or had consensual sex with your girlfriend”? I would much rather have people know my infraction than simply know that I committed something serious enough to get booted off the basketball team among myriad possible crimes (especially when most people would assume it had to be something more serious than sleeping with my girlfriend).

    This column in the SL Tribune was really good:
    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/cougars/51355487-88/byu-code-honor-davies.html.csp

    Let’s not congratulate BYU for any of its actions here. If this is the way they handle every honor code violation of this type (by all accounts I’ve seen, they acted more swiftly on this confession than any other account I’ve heard about), that’s just a terrible way to treat human beings. It’s way less merciful than the Church and can’t possibly do anything to assist in the repentance process. Finally, it’s downright perverted for university administrators to snoop around about which students are having sex and with whom.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    From what I understand BYU said the violation was not in violation of civil laws or something to that effect, ruling out the speculations that he is a murderer or rapist. (Seriously Zack?)

    Also, you assume the administrators are snooping around about the sex lives of students. I’m no fanboy of the honor code office but I personally don’t see them drooling at the possibility of suspending any student, let alone a star athlete. From what I understand Davies self-disclosed. Going forward perhaps adjustments can be made. As for me, I wonder if there is a way to better integrate ecclesiastical versus academic penalties when it comes to the confession of honor code violations, etc. Like I said, this player came forward on his own. If that’s true, I wonder if there was a better way to handle it or to reevaluate how these things are handled in the future. I’m reticent to play favorites with athletes, but I have to consider that his mistake is going to get a ton more publicity than, say, your fornicating math major would. And that’s part of the point. Davies knew better. Suspensions have occurred before. I certainly don’t see it as clean cut as you, with the evil BYU facing off against the poor wayfaring man of grief. It’s just not that simple to me.

    These things aside, I hope this post can be a discussion about the rhetorical approach of the NPR report and more specifically, the implicit charge of racism.

  • LuluBelle

    I’ve posted this elsewhere but I’ll do it again here. Does the punishment (in addition to the suspension, add the public humiliation that goes along with it) fit the crime? I vote to brand both he and the girl with either a BIG SCARLET LETTER A on their foreheads (or an F for fornicator), force them to march around the quad at BYU for all to see, and conduct a public stoning. If they survive it, he plays again and she’s just a whore anyway so who cares. Would that be good enough for y’all? Something stinks here.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    LuLuBelle: do you have anything new to add to the conversation based on the actual blog post here? Thx!

  • Clark

    I don’t think we really know too much about the Davies situation. Was it like last year’s situation? I don’t know.

    I think the racism charge is a bit overblown albeit somewhat understandable. I don’t think it’s true but I think the conception goes back to the football team under Crowton and some of the events that took place then.

    The big issue is the self-disclosing one. I have a hard time believing it was self-disclosed to his Bishop and then he was kicked out if only because I’ve known way too many people who’ve done the same thing with nothing happening. I am glad that there isn’t a double standard with athletes like there was in the 90′s where they seemed able to get away with a lot others didn’t.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Thanks Clark. I really know next to nothing about the circumstances of confession, etc.

    (was LuLuBelle referring to my mad MSpaint skillz re: scarlet letter?)

  • http://loydo38.blogspot.com the narrator

    I think BYU deserves the praise for sticking to their principles despite the threat it made to the team. I also recognize that because of his place in the team the school had to announce his dismissal. A missing star player from the team won’t go unnoticed.

    My disdain with the matter deals with the enforcement of the Honor Code in general. While I recognize the need and value for the HC, I’m wondering if immediate suspensions and/or expulsions are the Christlike way to deal with those who have made mistakes.

    I like what Gordon Monson had to say about it: “I have interviewed student-athletes at BYU who have run afoul of the honor code, student-athletes who have worked, on the one hand, with an LDS bishop, and, then, on the other, with the honor-code office. In some cases, they said they felt as though their bishop was there to help them, and honor-code officials were there to prosecute and punish them.”

    Though to be fair, how the HC deals with transgressions is, in many ways, an extension of how discipline is handled in the Church today–something that I have problems with as well. But the Church does have scriptural basis for it: John 8:11-12 “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Go, and sin no more, and don’t take the sacrament for a year, and feel like crap, and meet with me weekly, and lose your calling, and don’t speak in Church, and don’t pray in meetings, and read Miracle of Forgiveness, and get kicked off the basketball team, and we’ll let everyone in the world know that you had sex, and hopefully stay active through all of this, and if you are still around in a year we’ll decided whether or not God has forgiven you.”

  • Clark

    An other interesting take was given in the Deseret News by Vai Sikahema. It was a take I hadn’t considered before.

    Since we’re friends and his question seemed ridiculous to me and knowing Missanelli’s love of movie quotes, I responded with a line from his favorite film that kept the mood light with a little variation: “At BYU we use the words HONOR, CODE, TRADITION, SPIRIT. We use them as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a dang what you think you are entitled to.”

    I think that in the past, especially during a certain period of the 90′s, there was a double standard. Athletes were allowed to be smoking weed at parties, drinking up a storm, even working as bouncers at various night clubs. When Bronco came and tried to remake the football team one of the big things he changed was the whole concept of discipline. There was an expectation of these sorts of things that just wasn’t there in the past. I think a compelling case can be made that because of Bronco’s changes he has been able to get far more out of his recruiting class than the talent would suggest.

    So if BYU is moving to place where more is expected from athletes rather than less, should we expect anything less?

  • Zack

    I didn’t see any problem with the NPR report. Especially when taken as a whole, the implication of racism (which I feel you are overstating) hardly stacks up against two interviews that consist of very little other than congratulating BYU.

    It seems silly that the honor code office will disclose whether there was any illegality involved but not disclose the crime itself. If they’re going to be tight-lipped about it, why offer up that much? If it still weren’t known what Davies’ infraction is, I imagine that many observers would guess that he’d gotten in a fight or had some alcohol or broken a law but that no charges were being filed. Or that he was caught cheating in a class or something. All told, a cloud of uncertainty about what Davies’s sin was could only make it more difficult for people to speak on his behalf. Certainly no one believes that the Honor Code Office is an infallible entity whose decisions we shouldn’t be able to question.

    That Otterson piece typified what I think is the most disgusting aspect of this whole story. The self-congratulation among the Mormon and LDS community on this issue has been thoroughly embarrassing to someone whose relion holds as its chief figure a man who refused to condemn a woman taken in adultery and proceeded to discourage any other person from condemning or punishing her. Otterson’s acknowledges that he first worried about how the basketball team would fare and second felt pride in the University. Shouldn’t his first reaction have been to feel bad for the kid. That was my reaction. And no one is happier to see the BYU Men’s Basketball team lose games than I am.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Zack: How am I overstating it? Fatsis directly implies that athletes were targeted because of their race. He says it is “worth noting that Brandon Davies is African-American, and the last two athletes who left their BYU teams for the same reason are of Pacific Island descent. And this is a campus that is overwhelmingly white.” Why exactly is this worth noting if he wasn’t saying race might have been a factor? Was he actually saying it’s “worth noting” because “African-Americans” and those of “Pacific Island descent” are more likely to have premarital sex at BYU? Was he implying that BYU acted with a bit of racism in the back kitchen? He brought up race and called it “worth noting,” which is an implication of something. What do you propose he was implying?

    Certainly no one believes that the Honor Code Office is an infallible entity whose decisions we shouldn’t be able to question.

    If anyone does, they’re wrong.

    Shouldn’t his first reaction have been to feel bad for the kid. That was my reaction.

    That was my thought as well. Ending by discussing Davies was nice, but his first thoughts were for the institution (which he has more direct ties with, seems to be a pretty human reaction, not unusual). But Otterson was discussing what thoughts struck him. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time controlling every thought that flashes through my mind, or directing the stream of consciousness when I hear startling news. What is more interesting to me is where the thoughts are ultimately directed, and in Otterson’s case they seem to be directed toward Davies in the end, which is nice to see.

  • Zack

    The reason that I believe that you are overstating it is because everything he said is true. I feel that it is worth noting. Sure, the mens basketball team and football teams have a lower percentage of white people on them than the student body as a whole, but it is odd that three consecutive people kicked off their teams for honor code violations weren’t white. If something is “worth noting,” that’s really not saying all that much. And if an African American rights advocacy group had spoken up about this issue, you can bet that a lot of the coverage would involve speculations about possible racism. The NPR story did not level an accusation of racism. It simply stated that something that’s worth noting is worth noting. That element had possible negative connotations. They then proceeded to interview a university spokesperson and a university alum. It’s not like this was exactly a witch hunt piece. If the reporter was implying anything about race in the brief synopsis of the story, it seemed more likely to me that he was implying some people might wonder if the move was racially-motivated than that he was claiming that himself.

    But Otterson was discussing what thoughts struck him. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time controlling every thought that flashes through my mind, or directing the stream of consciousness when I hear startling news. What is more interesting to me is where the thoughts are ultimately directed, and in Otterson’s case they seem to be directed toward Davies in the end, which is nice to see.

    I don’t have a lot of control over my the order in which thoughts pass through my head. No. But if I write something for publication on the Washington Post‘s website, I do have a great deal of control about what I include, what I omit, and in what order I present them.

    The real point though, is that if someone’s primary concern is for Davies’s spiritual and emotional wellbeing, that person wouldn’t use his removal from the basketball team as a chance to brag about the University’s moral superiority to other schools.

    My university had an “honor code” that basically said “You can’t cheat on any of your work. If you do, you’ll be in deep trouble. We are trusting you to do that. (We’re putting you on the honor system.) If you promise, on your honor, not to cheat, we won’t go out of our way to make sure you’re not cheating. We respect you and hope you’ll respect our institutional integrity in return. Sign here.” BYU’s honor code, to me, reads like an almost complete inversion of the honor system.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    The reason that I believe that you are overstating it is because everything he said is true.

    I suppose we will have to agree to disagree, Zack. I think it’s a pretty ridiculous charge. Any other problems of racism at BYU aside, this circumstance simply doesn’t qualify in my view, and inflating racial elements in this case diminishes all actual instances in my view.

    The NPR story did not level an accusation of racism. It simply stated that something that’s worth noting is worth noting.

    You’ve contradicted yourself here. First, you defend the charge of racism as being “true” by noting how “it is odd that three consecutive people kicked off their teams for honor code violations weren’t white.” You make this comment without really addressing the questions I raised in the blog post. After this you go on to say there was no racism charge implied to begin with, they were just mentioning something “worth noting.” From a journalistic standpoint, merely saying something is “worth noting” is completely weak. It’s a total filler phrase that is intended to do the legwork (sometimes the dirty work) for more substantive claims. Rhetorically it is a very weak (and I argue, inaccurate) comment to make. I realize you disagree and appreciate the conversation.

    Parenthetically, your university’s honor code sounds interesting. What university was it and where can I read this code? It sounds like one of the loosest codes I’ve ever heard of, it only discusses plagiarism, and only self-disclosed plagiarism will be pursued?

    Also interesting is your continued lack of recognition of my perspective holistically. I’ve noted my own qualms with the honor code/procedures, etc. yet you seem to think I personally represent BYU, or that my intention here is to defend the institution at any cost. That’s frankly not the case and your responses are bothersome for that reason.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    I do have a great deal of control about what I include, what I omit, and in what order I present them.

    So Otterson should have lied about what he originally thought?

    The real point though, is that if someone’s primary concern is for Davies’s spiritual and emotional wellbeing, that person wouldn’t use his removal from the basketball team as a chance to brag about the University’s moral superiority to other schools.

    First, you act as though you understand every bit of the circumstances here. How do you know what Otterson has and hasn’t done? Or what he understands to be going on out of public scrutiny?

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Time for FPR’s challenge of the day!

    Zack: I challenge you to say one legitimately positive thing about Brigham Young University. No tricks, no veiled insults, no lame responses like “they have nice buildings and drinking fountains.”

    Just to be clear, certain aspects of the honor code and its enforcement wouldn’t be high on my personal list. But let’s see what you’ve got.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Actually, the drinking fountains are not that great.

  • Clark

    Some are. They manage to avoid the problem besetting so many drinking fountains in Provo and Orem of having too much mineral taste to them. I also have never found a drinking fountain at BYU with that misadjustment so the water barely comes up and you have to risk touching the metal with your mouth that probably everyone else has touched! Nor have I once been splashed in the face by an over-adjusted drinking fountain. Something I can’t say for the drinking fountains in far too many chapels!

  • Clark

    Regarding honor code violations, it might be more accurate to say the only high profile cases of the last three years were non-white. I’d be frankly surprised if those were the only cases. Is there a list anywhere?

    Anyway, the highest profile honor code violation remains Jim McMahon who technically never graduated.

  • http://loydo38.blogspot.com the narrator

    “Regarding honor code violations, it might be more accurate to say the only high profile cases of the last three years were non-white.”

    When BYU is finally starting to become more non-white like the rest of the college sports world, and athletes violating the honor-code are the most high profile cases, isn’t it inevitable that the most high-profile cases will dealing with non-white persons?

  • Clark

    Narrator, that might be true however if there is a large disproportional punishment of non-whites I think there’s call for question. I think the mitigating factor might be the ratio of non-Mormons to Mormons. It can be quite the cultural change to come to BYU for non-Mormons. I believe that at least at one time many of the non-whites tended to have a higher proportion of non-Mormons who ended up in trouble. Once again the unfortunate events during Crowton’s tenure at BYU being the obvious example. I think that sort of recruiting did nothing but harm both BYU as well as those students who honestly would have been far, far better off at an other school.

  • Jeremy Clark

    I know the entire staff of the honor code violation personally. I never went there in consequence of a violation nor to report anyone. Their first thought in these situations is how to get the person on the road to repentance, broadly defined. Be careful writing off the office simply because you find their actions reproachable.

  • Jeremy Clark

    Bah. Edited the comment too quick. I know the entire staff of the honor code [i] office [/i]

  • Zack

    I did not contradict myself. I just never agreed with your assertion that the NPR story was accusing BYU of racism. I just agreed with Fatsis’s claim that the last three prominent student athletes removed from teams for fornication were not white. If Fatsis actually accuses BYU of racism, that accusation does not appear in the quoted text. I interpreted Fatsis’s mentioning of Davies’s race as a prediction that allegations of racism could shortly become a part of this debate. I don’t see how interpreting an NPR commentator/reporter’s comments differently than you did in a post about “journalistic rhetorical structures” constitutes self-contradiction. (It’s not in any way relevant to my interpretation of Fatsis’ eleven-sentence commentary on the story, but I do not believe BYU had any racist motivation in suspending Davies.)

    I am sorry that my comments are bothering you. I just disagree with your interpretation of the quoted text — specifically that “directly implying” an accusation is a possible phenomenon rather than a paradox — as well as the arguments in a piece to which you linked. I was going to step away from this thread since it’s quite clear that I am getting under your skin (which was not my intention at all). But since you gave me a specific challenge, I will reply to a couple more comments and then respond directly to that challenge.

    So Otterson should have lied about what he originally thought?
    No. He shouldn’t have mentioned what he originally thought if that’s what it was. There are plenty of ways to construct a column without writing “First I thought this and then I thought this.” In fact, that’s just about the laziest and least effective opening paragraph that a column can possibly have.

    First, you act as though you understand every bit of the circumstances here. How do you know what Otterson has and hasn’t done? Or what he understands to be going on out of public scrutiny?
    I don’t understand why you are accusing me of “act[ing] as though I understand every bit of the circumstances here.” Re-reading my comments, I simply don’t see where I made a claim that could warrant your interpretation. I do not pretend to know everything that Otterson thinks or understands about the situation outside the column. But I do know that I take issue with the content of his column. And I sincerely believe that the Christ-like reaction is not to congratulate BYU for punishing a kid.

    Zack: I challenge you to say one legitimately positive thing about Brigham Young University. No tricks, no veiled insults, no lame responses like “they have nice buildings and drinking fountains.”
    How about two:
    1) I have a couple cousins and friends who have gone to BYU. The ones who have told me anything about it had overwhelmingly positive experiences there. Satisfied alumni are some of the best signs that a school is providing a positive environment for its students.
    2) I have read some truly incredible academic papers written by BYU-associated academics.

    I don’t really see why that was necessary. As someone who didn’t ever attend or consider attending BYU, I don’t see why I should be required to have any positive opinions about the University, but there you have it. This is fun. Your turn. Now you say something positive about … let’s say: the University of Toronto.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    One of my favorite profs. got her BA at Toronto. Also, C. B. MacPherson, one off the greatest political theorists of the 20th century (socialist…of course) taught there.

    This is fun game.

  • Paul 2

    In all this, my vote is for Terryl Givens. I thought he handled the questions very well.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/ BHodges

    Zack, I find your assertion that the comment did not imply a charge of racism to be unanswerable because it is denying what seems entirely obvious. Sorry. Interestingly you find yourself alone in your view. Not that truth always resides in numbers, but it would interesting to hear a coherent explanation of why the race comments were made if not to imply racism. You do not believe BYU had any racist motivation in suspending Davies. Awesome, we agree there. Why did it take so long to make that apparent?

    Your critique of Otterson as having written a poor piece is fine. I’ve seen lazier and less effective intros, I’ve written lazier and less effective intros myself.

    I do not pretend to know everything that Otterson thinks or understands about the situation outside the column.

    Excellent, same here.

    But I do know that I take issue with the content of his column. And I sincerely believe that the Christ-like reaction is not to congratulate BYU for punishing a kid.

    I don’t think that charitably sums up what Otterson wrote, which is odd since you are asking for charity on his part.

    You aren’t “required” to have positive opinions about BYU, but I appreciate your positive comments because they really help even out your criticism a little bit. Like you I’ve never really been interested in attending BYU as a student. As a visiting fellow there last summer I had a blast though.

    As for the U of Toronto I don’t know a thing about it. Is that the school with the really brief honor code?

    As for the drinking fountains, the ones in the JS Building are great imo.

  • Zack

    Come on, Chris H. You have to up the ante.

    The University of Toronto is doing some of the most incredible academic research out there on human-computer interaction.

    Next up: Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Go! (But no cliche praise for its “unusualness” or its more hipster tendencies like how students don’t get grades. Drinking fountain compliments are on the table for this one!!!)

  • http://thegooddemocrat.wordpress.com Dan

    BYU has good professors who teach well, and it is surrounded by beautiful mountains. BYU has talented musicians and dancers. BYU has an excellent library.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Nothing beats CB MacPherson. Implying otherwise is dangerous at my blog.

  • Zack

    My alma mater, beeteedubs, is the University of Pennsylvania. I can’t find and documentation referring to an honor code. But I know that I signed a document that was called that during freshman orientation. The university definitely would look into any case of plagiarism or other cheating. What it was saying was that it would go ahead and offer non-proctored exams, not monitor your internet activity, etc…

    it would [be] interesting to hear a coherent explanation of why the race comments were made if not to imply racism.
    I don’t know how much more clearly I can state that I interpreted that portion of Fatsis’s synopsis in much the same context that I interpreted the rest of his, frankly, uninteresting ramblings on the story. Fatsis is basically saying the following: Here’s a list of seven things I found out about Brandon Davies’s dismissal from the BYU Men’s Basketball team presented without context, clarification or cogency. You yourself complained that the report was so quick that it couldn’t possibly do justice to the nuances of the story. You interpreted his insertion of recent-fornicating-BYU-athletes trivia as a direct implication that he’s accusing them of racism (and I still contend that both “implied accusation” and “direct implication” are oxymorons).

    You are basically right when you say “From a journalistic standpoint, merely saying something is ‘worth noting’ is completely weak. It’s a total filler phrase that is intended to do the legwork (sometimes the dirty work) for more substantive claims” I just don’t agree with your interpretation that the phrase is necessarily doing the dirty work for more substantive claims. It could really be little more than a filler phrase which would make sense since this was such a filler piece.

    Claiming that something is “worth noting,” yes, is just about as lazy as starting your commentary “When I heard this news, I had the following two thoughts.” It’s precisely because of the general half-assery of the entire NPR piece that I have a hard getting worked up into a fervor about the reporter mentioning race. The reporter questioned BYU’s motives for about thirty seconds. He mentioned race once. The show then interviewed two individuals who did nothing but compliment/defend BYU for five minutes. When NPR says that it’s “worth noting” in that context, it seems more like they’re letting you know that you could be hearing more about the racial element of this story in the future.

    If Fatsis wanted to accuse BYU of racism, he could have shouted “J’ Accuse” over the airwaves. If they were accusing BYU of racism, they could have made much more interesting radio for the next five minutes than they did. He didn’t and NPR didn’t. He sleepily mentioned that the race of Davies (and other BYU athletes) is “worth noting.” If he’s accusing BYU of racism, this is probably the most benign accusation of racism that’s ever been leveled against a the Mormon Church.

  • Clark

    Do you have an other blog Chris?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    I was talking about this one.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/ BHodges

    I guess I ought to be flattered that you appropriated so much of what I’d already said, Zack. Thanks!

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/ BHodges

    ps- i defy any of you to draw a better angel Moroni using MS Paint.

  • Peter LLC

    He begins his comments by announcing the actual violation, premarital sex, which BYU themselves did not comment on.

    Are “actual violation” your own words or your characterization of Fatsis’ comments?

  • Zack

    Interestingly, Fatsis joins NPR’s Mike Pesca for a sports podcast called “Hang Up and Listen” where they discussed the racial element of this story at the top of the show. Pesca mentions that Fatsis is one of the only people in the media who brought up race. They proceeded to spit-ball about potential angles from which a news outlet could analyze BYU’s history of race, the honor code and athletics.

    You can listen here: http://www.slate.com/id/2287059/

    Pesca, curious about the racial element of the decision, did some news archive searches for “BYU basketball + honor code + suspension” and “BYU football + honor code + suspension” or something like that and found twenty-something cases of BYU athletes being removed from one of the school’s two most prominent teams for honor code violations over the last 15 years. There were a couple of people whose race he wasn’t able to find out in that sample. This left him with a sample size of twenty athletes suspended from prominent BYU athletic teams whose race he could ascertain. Eighteen of those athletes were black or Polynesian. And one of the remaining two was Jewish. Obviously, someone should do a more thorough and formal analysis, but there’s something fishy about that.

    I still do not believe the honor code office had racist motivations for its actions against Davies, but there’s no way that numbers like that are just a coincidence.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    So we raise the hoary old issue of correlation versus causation, as well as the questionable collection of evidence from which to draw conclusions. And still, you’re not convinced that the honor code office had racist motivations. We’re agreed there. I’m certainly not against looking more deeply into the issue, but I’m much more reticent to draw hasty conclusions with the approach you describe based on that particular selected evidence.

  • kamschron

    The University of Pennsylvania now has a Code of Student Conduct and a separate Code of Academic Integrity, along with other codes that students are expected to follow. Proctoring apparently is allowed under the current rules and guidelines for University of Pennsylvania faculty. The honor code that medical students are expected to sign each year is available online but currently does not mention proctoring.

    An example of an honor code, currently in effect, with the same content that Zack described is the Honor Code at Stanford. Although Stanford has a much shorter honor code than BYU, this is not an apples to apples comparision. The Stanford Honor Code has a specific focus on honesty in academic work and is about as long as the Honor Code Statement within BYU’s Honor Code, but the code of conduct for students at Stanford also includes a Fundamental Standard, which is older and shorter than the Honor Code but broader in scope, and these two guiding statements are supplemented by written interpretations and other Stanford policies.

    BYU and Stanford both expect their students to behave honorably and to obey campus policies. Both forbid sexual misconduct, although they have different ideas about what this means. Both have rules about proctoring, but proctoring of exams is generally expected at BYU and generally forbidden at Stanford.

  • http://juvenileinstructor.org Joel

    It seems to me that there are two issues in these rather problematic comments that need to be discussed. First, I imagine that in the back of Fatsis’s mind are the the connections between the church’s ban on African Americans holding the priesthood and the athletic protests that exploded around those policies in the 60s and 70s. I would imagine that a memory of such events would make any discussion of BYU and race suspect in the eyes of the national media whether it truly is racist or not.

    The deeper issue is the lingering connections between African Americans and sexuality in the American imagination. Any observation or accusation connecting Davies’s race to his sexuality is playing on one of two tropes. Either BYU feels like Black or Brown sexuality is uncontrollable, or that the commentator feels like Black or Brown sexuality is uncontrollable and should be given a pass. I’m not sure that the evidence merits either reading, but Fatsis’s willingness to gesture toward this reading demonstrates its survival in modern racial portrayals and ideas.

  • Kari

    You may find this article, http://deadspin.com/#!5791461 in Deadspin interesting as it directly accuses BYU of applying the honor code in a way that harms African Americans disproportionally.

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