Pressure mounts for BYU to end beard ban

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brigham Young University has banned beards for most students and faculty since the 1960s, when they were seen as a symbol of anti-authoritarian rebellion. But attitudes and enforcement of the policy at the Mormon church-owned school have relaxed in recent years, but some want even more change.

Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition to end the school’s beard ban, The Salt Lake Tribune <a href=”” target=”&mdash;blank”>reported</a> .

The school approved beards on campus in 2015 for Muslims, Sikhs and other students to honor their non-faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS.

The school further has deemed that “full-time or part-time non-LDS faculty who are employed at BYU for one year or less may wear a beard, unless it is intended that they continue their employment with BYU for longer than one year.”

Since affiliate faculty, visiting scholars and cooperating professionals “are not university employees,” the rule says, “they are encouraged, but not required, to be clean shaven.”

There are “certainly more bearded fellows here now than there were four years ago,” BYU sophomore Kelsey Canizales said.

BYU chemistry professor Matthew Asplund would like to see the Mormon school scrap the beard ban.

“It is so ironic that we have fully reached the pharisaical position that we think the way a person wears his hair can somehow make him dishonorable,” Asplund said.

Political science professor Kelly Patterson defends the school’s Honor Code, including the no-beard policy, as a tool to guide students in their quest for “beauty and meaning.”

School spokeswoman Carri Jenkins says, “Nothing has changed.”

There are three categories for beard exemptions: medical, theatrical or religious.

Students with scarring or sensitive skin must get a note from a campus doctor. Non-LDS students who wear beards as part of their faith must secure the blessing of the university’s chaplain. Student actors in film or theater roles (including movies for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) requiring facial hair must get a note from the theater department.

A photograph of every approved bearded man is posted on the school’s website, which is open to all students and faculty.

There are a little more than 200 right now.

Asplund doubts tossing the beard ban would change the campus into a haven for the unshaven.

“I am OK with expecting faculty and students to dress professionally but not requiring conformity,” the professor said. “In general, the simple standards for haircuts has worked out pretty well. If the campus made a similar set of recommendations for beards, most men would treat it responsibly.”

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