Robert Bolt, "A Man for All Seasons"
Brigham Young University calls it the Honor Code. But the real honor shown in a recent disagreement was displayed by a man who refused to sign it.
U.S. Air Force Col. Timothy Hogan was assigned by the Department of Defense to lead the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment at BYU. An Air Force Academy graduate and experienced combat pilot, having flown the ground-support A-10 aircraft in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Hogan brings a lot to the job.
But, as a member of the BYU faculty, he was expected to sign a document pledging to hew to the school's Honor Code. That standard, among other things, forbids the consumption of alcohol, coffee and tea, in keeping with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the university.
Hogan refused to sign. He said he would abide by the school's standards while on campus and at any time when representing BYU and its ROTC program. But, he said, BYU had no business controlling his life in the privacy of his own home or otherwise off duty.
BYU would not budge on its requirement and, as a result, documents obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune indicate that the Pentagon is preparing to move Air Force ROTC Detachment 855 to the nearby state-owned Utah Valley University.
That is exactly what should happen.
The shift would not make that much difference, as BYU students could still be part of the program. It is common for ROTC detachments to be based at one college and include students from other schools.
BYU waives the Honor Code requirement for faculty on one-year appointments. But, because Hogan's hitch was to be three years, its officials refused to do so for him.
School leaders are entitled to their belief that such inflexibility is a sign of moral fiber. But, to the rest of the world, it smacks of mindless intransigence, an inability to make allowance for the fact that other people's standards can be no less ethical, even when they are not identical.
And if anyone is interested in a real lesson in ethics, consider: Hogan could have signed the Honor Code, just to be agreeable, then proceeded to violate it, perhaps on a daily basis, reasonably believing that nobody would ever know.
Nobody, that is, but him.