In compliance with the school’s rigorous honor code, Brigham Young University suspended star center Brandon Davies from their nationally ranked basketball team because he admitted to having violated the provision that forbids premarital sex. His situation is under review by the Honor Committee, although he has been allowed to remain in school. The decision is a blow to BYU’s successful season, and undoubtedly detrimental to Davies’ self-esteem, although his teammates say that they are “reaching out and trying to help him get through this.”
Brigham Young University, which is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, has a strict honor code, which apart from regulating dress (and facial hair) and forbidding consumption of alcohol, coffee, and tea admonishes students to “live a chaste and virtuous life.” Davies apparently confessed his sexual transgression freely, but the question of whether BYU should be lauded for sticking to its principles is up for debate.
Happens to girls all the time
The New York Times points out that Davies was probably well aware of BYU’s stringent regulations, since he grew up in the town that is BYU’s home. Writing for Jezebel, Irin Carmon finds a “strange equal opportunity” in Davies’ suspension. “There is a long history of girls,” she explains, “who get pregnant being punished for their ‘crimes’ while the male half of the conception goes on with his life.” At least, her logic goes, Davies was also penalized for his behavior.
Principles or hypocrisy? According to a transcript of an interview with an “anonymous BYU alum,” who says that the suspension is “hypocrisy,” sexual interaction on the BYU campus is “private” – unless you’re an athlete. This means that there’s a double standard for people like Davies, who are held up to greater scrutiny. “Let’s say I’m fooling around with a girl and I feel bad about it,” explains the alum. “I’d go talk to my bishop the way someone would go to confession. You’d never think about the honor code office. You’d never interact with it.” Speculating that Davies was turned in by another member of his team, the alum adds, “When I was in school, I didn’t know anyone who lived the honor code as it’s written down.”
Although I’m skeptical of some of these accusations (for example, why would a teammate want to turn in Davies, who was leading their team to an incredibly successful season), it does raise the question of exactly how many students are breaking the honor code, and why Davies is being so publicly branded for admitting his infraction. Another question is why Davies went to the honor committee in the first place (my hunch is that someone must have turned him in). Another interesting question here is what honesty means: by attending an institution, do you agree to abide by every part of its honor code? Or can you refrain from confessing to violating an element that you genuinely find offensive?
Lots of questions Regardless of what happens to Davies in the future, the BYU basketball team’s season isn’t likely to improve anytime soon. But the fallout from this incident is raising some fascinating and difficult questions about the nature of public and private sexual decision-making, particularly within semi-sealed religious communities.
What do you think? Should Davies have been kicked off the team, and should he have confessed his transgression in the first place?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.