In the days after Brandon Davies was dismissed from BYU’s basketball team, which was ranked 3rd in the nation at the time, BYU’s Honor Code, along with Davies’s personal life, became the talk of the sports world. I graduated from BYU in 2008 and I’ve had to think about the Honor Code more in the past week than I have in the past three years.
I never thought that the Honor Code was worthy of such a big stir. Honestly, it was the main reason that I chose to attend BYU, and even though portions of it caused a few inconveniences (my friends and I once had to take my TV and DVD player outside to continue watching the first season of LOST after midnight in mixed company) I valued and still value the spirit behind it. And because of the Honor Code, I had some of the best times of my life at BYU.
Some writers, though, most of whom were probably completely unaware that such a thing as BYU’s Honor Code even existed at a fully accredited university, have disparaged its every existence. A writer in the Boston Globe wrote that the Honor Code “is repressive and treats students like sterile instruments rather than human beings,” and that it “flies in the face of our society’s respect for privacy–and our separation of church and state.”
I never felt like a sterile instrument rather than a human being at BYU. In fact, as I said earlier, I chose to attend BYU because of the Honor Code. I was already living its standards and wanted to attend a university where my peers would be living those standards as well. And as a private university (“separation of church and state”? Seriously?) BYU has every right to establish the rules that all students must abide by in order to attend and participate in intercollegiate sports.
Many people want to make the Brandon Davies episode into an ecclesiastical issue when it is in fact a legal issue. The Honor Code is the law of BYU. It doesn’t count outside of BYU, but it is the law that all students must abide by. And unlike our state and federal legal codes, every student at BYU pledges to abide by the Honor Code by signing it every year. And by signing it, students agree to accept the consequences of breaking it. One of those consequences is that a student will not be able to participate in intercollegiate sports.
A writer in the Salt Lake Tribune admonished BYU to “let the man play basketball while he addresses and corrects his missteps.” He says that the school should offer “an open, helping hand,” not a “clenched iron fist.” However, being merciful does not mean forgoing the legal consequences of your misdeeds. God, and his church, can forgive for any crime, but he expects that I go to the proper legal authority and accept my legal punishment. Law’s purpose is to punish misdeeds. And in this case, the violation of the Honor Code carries this specific punishment.
There are, however, other aspects to this issue. There is an ecclesiastical aspect and a social aspect to it, and these should be treated differently than the legal aspect. From an ecclesiastical standpoint, Davies’s church leaders have the responsibility to help him through the repentance process so that he can enjoy all of the blessings God has in store for him.
From a social aspect, everyone in the BYU community needs to respect Davies for coming forward himself with his Honor Code infraction and facing the consequences bravely. We need to do our best to respect his privacy as he goes through the repentance process, and we need to support him no matter what happens in the coming weeks. Would we have won the Mountain West Conference Tournament with him on the team? Maybe. Would we have been seeded higher than 3? Maybe. But something more important is at stake here than a few basketball games. It is a man’s relationship with his God. I think that the BYU fans demonstrated that when they greeted Davies as he
cut down a portion of the net.
That makes me proud to be a Cougar. Much more proud than a Final Four appearance would.