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Beard ban at Mormon schools getting stricter, students say

Published November 25, 2014 8:51 am

Facial-hair permits • Apparent crackdown might be in response to recent national news media attention.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Paolo Quezada didn't mind applying for the right to wear a beard on campus at LDS Business College. But having to wear the school's approval on his chest last week proved too much.

"It was like a beard badge of shame," he said, referring to the school-issued permit he was required to wear on a lanyard.

Brigham Young University also has toughened its no-scruff policy, some students say, refusing to renew beard passes for some students who had them in years past.



Students who had been pushing schools owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to loosen their beard bans worry the recent crackdown is in response to national news media attention after a September protest on BYU's campus.

"If it isn't a reaction, then it's quite a coincidence," said Shane Pittson, the 23-year-old international-relations major who led a BYU "Bike for Beards" rally in September.

But BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins counters that the school has not changed its policy.

"It's the same process that's always been in place," she said. "It's just how we've chosen to represent ourselves."

Jenkins said she doesn't know why a student who had a pass one year might come up short the next.

At LDS Business College, school officials last week briefly required anyone with school-approved facial hair to don beard badges.

Quezada, a 23-year-old student from California, stopped shaving in recent weeks to be an extra in an upcoming LDS Church film about the Bible — an allowable exception to the school's beard ban.

Last week, however, he learned would have to wear the new identification on a lanyard, an honor code officer told him, along with a shirt and tie "to compensate" for the beard.

Quezada thought the new requirement was overkill, but agreed, knowing he could shave after the film in a few weeks. Then other students starting snickering.

"They literally stopped, they pointed and they laughed," he said. He went home and shaved that day. "I couldn't take it anymore."

Goodbye, film appearance.

Quezada said the requirement to wear a beard permit has since been lifted. An LDS Business College spokeswoman did not return calls for comment Monday.

At the faith's flagship university, some BYU students who previously had permission to wear beards have been rejected for renewal in the past few months.

Garrin Schlink, a 25-year-old history major, went to the school's honor code office to renew his exemption, which is good for one year. He was told he no longer qualified and that only more serious skin conditions would now make the cut.

"I was pretty surprised," said Schlink, who has a job overseeing shipments to a campus dining center.

For its part, the LDS Church overall doesn't ban facial hair. Male missionaries are known for white shirts, ties and clean-shaven faces, but no tenet forbids mustaches or beards for members. Even BYU allows neatly trimmed mustaches.

That apparently doesn't stop students on campus from shaming bearded students.

"I just thought it was a little ridiculous," Quezada said. "I got a lot of hurtful messages like, 'you're a shame to returned missionaries.' "

He has heard no word on when filming will happen, and had planned on not getting paid for the part.

Quezada would like to see the ban overturned at his college and at BYU, he said, but won't be the one to draft a petition.

"I'm just honestly over the whole thing," he said. "I just wanted to apologize to anyone if they've been offended by me."

But the BYU men — and a few women — behind Bike for Beards say they have no regrets.

"You can be bearded. You can have a man bun," said Schlink, referring to the popular hair style, "and still be professional."

Female friends have told Schlink that a neatly trimmed beard makes him look more handsome. "You can bet that's why I like beards so much."

Not everyone agrees.

"I'm curious, what is the point of this campaign?" a student wrote on one of Pittson's recent Facebook posts.

Few faculty or staffers enforce the beard prohibition. It's only at the school testing center that students need worry, said Logan Tatham, a 23-year-old math and economics major, who also was turned away from the beard exemption when he went to renew his. He razors all but a "creeper mustache" come exam time.

Tatham likens the beard ban to the school's policy of not selling caffeinated colas on campus — even though LDS leaders repeatedly have stated that the faith's health code (no tobacco, alcohol, coffee or tea) says nothing about caffeine.

"Frankly, it gives them a bad name," he said. "I don't know why they feel the need to live all these rules that aren't based on church beliefs, but they do. And it makes them seem off and not very accepting."

Pittson has stayed clean-shaven this semester. He says he has spoken recently with a BYU official who promised to take his case to other faculty members.

"Just because it's trivial," he said, "doesn't mean it shouldn't be revisited."

aknox@sltrib.com

Twitter: @anniebknox —

In their own words:

"Unlike a lot of other things in the honor code, a beard has nothing to do with church doctrine or morality or anything like that." — Garrin Schlink, BYU student

"The policy has not changed and the process has not changed." — Carri Jenkins, BYU spokeswoman

"It speaks to a bigger problem that exists, and that's if someone has a beard, some people will look at them and judge them." — Shane Pittson, BYU student and Bike for Beards founder

"I was never a fan of having a beard. It's kind of implanted into me that if you have a beard, you have problems — you're inactive or you want to be rebellious. But after having it, I decided that I liked it." — Paolo Quezada, LDS Business College student

 

 

 

 

 

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