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Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.
 

Monday, June 19, 2006

"So....Are you headed to BYU next Fall?"

Through most of my senior year of high school, I heard this question from family, friends, and members of my ward.

Turns out, I was much more worried about pleasing those around me and living up to some subjective ideal of a young mormon woman than doing what was right for myself. I tried to make the best out of my four years at BYU and I certainly received a quality education. But if I speak honestly from my gut, I can only say I hated the place.

When my own kids are preparing for college and get this question, I would be very proud to hear them say: “No, it's not really the right college for me.”

Here are some reasons why:

1. Lack of Diversity Among Students and Faculty. Here is a current look at diversity at BYU. The numbers really haven't changed much since I was a student, or even since my parents attended the school in the mid 1970's.

I was especially disappointed with the lack of female professors on campus. I do admit I missed some opportunities to have some highly accomplished women professors, such as Valerie Hudson in the political science department. No matter what discipline my children pursue, it is important to me that they learn from both females and males and have classmates of all races and social classes.

2. Lack of academic freedom. Here is the most recent example of BYU professors gunned down for voicing their opinions. I have no idea why any self-respecting academic would want to teach at BYU.

3. Strong LDS culture clouds spirituality. When I attended BYU in the mid-1990's, EVERYONE wore a CTR ring, toted Franklin Planners to class and owned a mini-triple combination scripture set with their name engraved on the cover. Women checked potential dates for "g-lines" (the line cut across their legs that confirmed they were wearing their garments, thus had served a mission and therefore qualified as marriage material). Most all of the women wanted to date the executive secretary in their ward...what they perceived was the highest priesthood calling given to a student. This student was thought to be the most spiritual and trusted...a man who was definitely going somewhere in life. Maybe this was just the case in the wards I attended, but probably not. You can see where the lines between culture and spirituality get fuzzy in such a homogenous place.

I had to laugh when I spotted a former executive secretary from an old BYU student ward in a Georgetown bar after we had graduated (we had both ended up working in Washington, D.C.). He was drinking and groping a woman sitting at his table. After an initial laugh at the irony of it all, I was sad as I thought about the pressure he probably felt at BYU to uphold his "title" and also sad to think how unhappy he must have been to put himself in such a situation.

4. BYU Guilt. BYU Guilt is administered during Tuesday devotionals by church leaders and professors giving heartfelt and teary talks, as well as in class, at firesides, even in church meetings, and goes something like this: There is a poor farmer in Guatamala paying for your education with his tithing money. You are extremely blessed, and really not good enough to be here. So DON'T EVEN THINK about skipping a church meeting, or arguing with a professor, or walking on the sacred BYU campus lawn, because when you do any of those things...you dishonor that humble farmer.

And you know what? It worked...at least the guilt part. I didn't want that farmer to put my middle-class white a** through college. I wanted his tithing money to go to the church for CHURCH THINGS and for him to be able to support his family sufficiently.

I have never really figured out how much of the BYU admin's tale is true or exactly how much tithing money is used to support BYU. That is better left for another time, another blog, written by people more knowledgable than myself.

5. Lack of independence and privacy. My parents gave me more freedom in high school than I was ever afforded at BYU. DH still doesn’t believe me when I tell him how small my dorm was in Deseret Towers or how I had to live with other women, even when I lived off-campus. Or that men couldn’t have facial hair. Or that my shorts and skirts had to be to my knees. Or that…I could go on and on.

I hope (am I being over-idealistic here?) that I will be able to trust my kids to make righteous choices without making them sign a contract or putting up roadblocks to their free agency. And if they are anything like me, their “rebellious” gene will kick in the minute they walk onto that campus, so it’s probably better if they avoid the scene altogether.

6. The BYU Social Scene....which is limited to a single activity: Dating To Marry. Actually, I have this social scene to thank for my high collegiate GPA. I was seventeen years old when I entered BYU and in no hurry to grow up. Quickly disillusioned by the dating scene, I spent a lot of time at the library studying and up in the mountains skiing, often by myself. Really, though, I’d trade in some of my GPA points for some better college memories.

7. Religion for grades. Religion classes at BYU are graded and count towards your overall GPA. I hated the extra grade stress (some religion classes were a breeze, others notoriously difficult). I learned more and had a much better spiritual experience taking Institute classes during my years in grad school.

There seems to be a pervasive belief throughout the church that if parents don't send their kids to a church-sponsored school, they will "find the ways of the world" and fall into inactivity. It also seems to be a status symbol among LDS parents to send their kids off to the "Y".

I find this very unfortunate. My graduate school experience showed me that studying away from BYU can lead to a much more balanced "real world vs. church world" life. That Institute programs are strong and not inferior to a BYU religious education. That college singles wards can be a positive spiritual and social experience for students.

Can we be the LDS generation of parents to change this perception? Can we send our kids off to good colleges throughout the country and watch them thrive... spiritually, socially and academically? Or am I simply being shortsighted and unfair to BYU, its mission and the lives of many that it has shaped?


86 Comments:

  • Personally I loved BYU. Truly did. Half of what you HATED about BYU I LOVED.

    With that said, I agree with you that our children can go anywhere and probably do fine. You don't have to go to BYU to get a quality education and keep a strong testimony. But for some people, BYU is the place for them. It was for me.

    I just feel sorry for you because you seem to think your 4 years there were a waste. You probably should have left sooner (for your own sake...)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 6/19/2006 09:01:00 PM  



  • It's too bad you were so young when you made that choice to go to BYU. Unfortunately, it WAS a choice you made....obviously with regret. I had an amazing time at BYU, LOVED my years there and feel totally opposite about my experience. I was also a BYU athlete which I'm sure you had "issues" with too. Maybe that made things a bit different, but I truly loved and still love all that place has to offer. I am so grateful my kids will have BYU as an option (hopefully). Of course, I will support them 100% in whatever they choose, I just pray they'll enjoy their college years as much as I did at BYU. It's an amazing institution!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/19/2006 09:09:00 PM  



  • Did you appreciate ANYTHING about BYU??? I struggle to think you're happy being LDS if you hated that much about the "Lords university". No, I'm not questioning your testimony or really looking for a response...just a bit shocked that you went to BYU with your eyes so closed.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/19/2006 09:25:00 PM  



  • Cheryl -

    You are correct. I should have transferred and that is my own fault, not BYU's. I just couldn't bring myself to quit. I don't really think my time there was a waste...I learned a ton and had opportunities to study abroad and do a Washington internship. It just wasn't the college experience that I wanted. I'm sincerely glad that your experience was a good one.

    Anon-

    I have no issues with athletes. I would have loved to play basketball for BYU...that was something I gave up to attend BYU despite working VERY HARD to play at a collegiate level. Again, my choice. Once again, I'm glad your experience was a good one...although I think I would have still felt these same frustrations if I had been a BYU student-athlete.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 6/19/2006 09:25:00 PM  



  • Jen - I didn't go to BYU and I don't really have an opinion about the school because I don't know much about it (although I did have a blast at a BYU football game last year). I tend to hope that my kids will go to a college that they're really excited about and that will be a great school for whatever area they want to study. I guess a benefit for my kids going to BYU is that it seems pretty inexpensive, other than that I hope they open their minds to all of the options out there, and I DEFINITELY don't believe that BYU is the "safe" choice and the only place to keep a testimony strong. I do agree with you, though, about the lack of diversity. I, too, come from an interracial family and grew up (and now live) in areas that are VERY diverse. I have seen the benefits of being exposed to many different cultures, religions, etc. I went to Indiana University for my freshman year of college and it wasn't a very diverse school or town for that matter. I guess it's just personal opinion, but I hope my kids grow up to appreciate diversity because of what dh & I have tried to expose them to. Plus, it's just a little creepy when everyone around you is the same.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 6/19/2006 10:24:00 PM  



  • I totally agree with this statement: "When I attended BYU in the mid-1990's, EVERYONE wore a CTR ring, toted Franklin Planners to class and owned a mini-triple combination scripture set with their name engraved on the cover . . . You can see where the lines between culture and spirituality get fuzzy in such a homogenous place."

    It's these same things that bother me about the whole Salt Lake City/Utah area. My husband and I are considering job opportunities in both Salt Lake and Denver. And I have to say that I prefer Denver 1000% simply because of the non-mormon atmosphere.

    "And if they are anything like me, their “rebellious” gene will kick in the minute they walk onto that campus"

    I don't know about BYU, I never attended, but this is definetly the way I feel towards living, or growing up, in Salt Lake. It's good to be different. To be able to stand out in the crowd by saying you won't drink, instead of having to drink to make a statement.

    Oh and by the way . . . totally agree with number 5. If your old enough to get married, to vote, you are definetly old enough to choose whether or not you want to shave, or where you want to live. What happened to free agency???
    posted by Blogger Trivial Mom at 6/19/2006 11:40:00 PM  



  • Jen, though I could not articulate like you did in this post, at the age of 17, I had a sneaky suspicion of all of your points and despite the peer pressure of my mormon friends (and all previous cousins) attending BYU, I did not even apply (and I had the grades to get in). There was a great mormon community where I grew up, but all of my best friends and boyfriends were not mormons. I did not feel comfortable in the homogenous environment, despite my strong mormon values, and I was also afraid I would just get married my freshman year and lose all my hopes and dreams. And it was WAY far away from Chicago, where I grew up.

    Instead I went to DePaul University and was the only active mormon. There was temptation, but I did ok. And I did get married a few short months before my sophomore year (whoops, put my foot in my mouth with that one), in the temple TO an RM, who graduated from BYU.

    Now here is where it gets tricky. DH loved BYU. I might have loved it. I am (sort of) open to our girls going there, but I am looking forward to significant changes in the cultural diversity that currently doesn't seem to be there. I hope in the next 15 years, the new expectations on GPA's will change the landscape a bit.

    As for the rules...there are rules on every campus, but I guess not as strict as BYU, and I personally felt great about choosing to live righteously on my own, not because my school dictated it.

    As a side note, with the whole dating to marry thing. I hope in 15 years the culture of the church has become more open to the "old maid" age being raised from the current 22 to 52! Though I got married at 19, I do not recommend it, and I hope to raise strong ambitious girls who are attending college for more than a dating opportunity.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 6/20/2006 05:58:00 AM  



  • You know what bites my butt is when people say that you have no free angency when you go to BYU. That somehow, by choosing to sign the Honor Code, you are signing your life away. Seriously, if you don't want to sign an Honor Code (like they do at Notre Dame and other places), then you choose to go somewhere else. That's angency right there. But please don't say that because BYU expects and wants its' students to maintain the highest standards possible that they are somehow the Gestapo. I was sick of hearing it when I went to BYU and I really hate it now. Because, you know, people could say the same thing about Temple covenants. (as I'm sure some do)
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 06:07:00 AM  



  • I avoided BYU because I knew, even at the young age of 17, that the things you outlined were going to be a problem for me. I wasn't able to articulate them well, but I was stubborn enough to fail to get my BYU application in despite parents threatening me within an inch of my life.

    My convert at age 19 mom is currently highly pressuring a younger sibling to go to BYU. Sibling feels it is not the place for her, but struggling to articulate why without been labeled someone who is seeking after the world. It makes me want to cry when I think about it. I fear her love of learning, or worse, testimony, will be lost if she is forced to go.

    I really am displeased with the fact that my tithing money goes to the Y. Yes, I know overall that it is a good education for cheap for 80% of the population who attend. But, the diversity and academic integrity issues are something that bother me. A LOT. I would never apply for grad school or for a job at a AAUP censored school; yet I give 10% of my income to a church which gives at least a portion of that money to a school that is horribly disfunctional in those two areas. Sadly, I don't see either the diversity or the academic freedom issues changing anytime soon.

    While my comments are very negative, I am pleased that people are thinking about this and writting this. It gives me hope that it might eventually change.
    posted by Anonymous NE at 6/20/2006 06:21:00 AM  



  • For your #2, please read Here

    I find it interesting that diversity is something people are so upset about, even though BYU has students from 150 countries and all 50 states. Hmmmm....most of these people are Mormon...I guess that's wrong somehow? That Mormons are going to a Mormon University? Why aren't we also questionning BYU -Idaho and BYU- Hawaii? Aren't those schools also like BYU?

    So my question is this...is it wrong for the LDS Church to have private Universities? Or just private Universities that they ask to respect/follow their Religion?

    ne-
    BYU's policies have pretty much been the same since it started...expecting them to change is like asking the Church to change...it's very doubtful that it will.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 06:40:00 AM  



  • I guess I missed out. I was the ward executive secretary, but I can't say all the girls in the ward wanted to date me.

    Now you tell me, years later, that I missed out on some action. Damn.

    Then again, I've never groped a woman at a bar. Guess not all executive secretaries are created equal.
    posted by Blogger Eddie at 6/20/2006 06:51:00 AM  



  • "Lack of Diversity Among Students and Faculty...I was especially disappointed with the lack of female professors on campus."

    Less than 5% of elementary, middle, and high school teachers nationwide are male. Are you disappointed with that fact? Or had you noticed?

    If every university became "diverse," then there wouldn't be any diversity, would there? They'd all be the same, which is not very diverse. Diversity seems to mean that there are choices - i.e. that a black student would have the option of going to an all-black school or not, etc. What if some people don't want to go to a diverse school? Shouldn't everyone have the same freedom of choice? If diversity is forced on people who don't want it, isn't that somehow contrary to the First Amendment and its enshrinement of freedom of association?

    For anyone who wants a diverse school, there are plenty of choices out there, without forcing every last university to change to suit their multi-cultural desires. Easier for one person to change their course than an entire college, no?
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 06:53:00 AM  



  • Re annonymous above:

    Just because you (and others) claim that BYU's policies are relatively stable doesn't mean they are the right thing to do. Choosing a career in higher education is not about falling in line with an employer. It is about being paid to think and teach others to think. And when you can't express those thoughts in a fairly respectful way without losing your job, you are no longer in higher ed.

    If the church and the Y want to run a fundamentalist version of higher education, then fine. But please stop spending my tithing $ on it. Run it off alumni donations or something. That way we can call it what it is and stop telling everyone that as an institution it can compete with the elite institutions of higher education and therefore any self respecting Mormon who has good or great grades is lucky to be there.
    posted by Anonymous NE at 6/20/2006 06:59:00 AM  



  • That last post was meant as a reaction to 2 anonymouses (can I pluralize that?) above.
    posted by Anonymous NE at 6/20/2006 07:01:00 AM  



  • NE, don't read into where your tithing is going so much...you can stop paying if you choose, a chance for agency. Besides, it's a darn good chance unless you're just raking in millions that your tithing is finishing the reconstruction of some chapel in your stake. Darn!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 07:30:00 AM  



  • Part of me says this is not even worth the effort of responding. Some people will never see the the problem as I see it: squelshing ideas discourages personal and institutional growth.

    However, I will point out that it is my understanding that tithing is pooled and then divied back out. This implies that a percentage of my (and everyone else's) tithing money is being spent on an institution that does not allow professors academic freedom allowed at nearly all US universities. I understand I cannot have full control over every cent of my tithing, however it doesn't mean I have to like everything it pays for.

    The irony that the reply to my comments stating I am very uncomfortable with supporting such an institution which squelshes freedom of thought and action in a way that most universities in the US do not contains agency as the comeback is quite rich. I acknowledge I have a choice in the matter of paying tithing. However, we all know what the major consequence of standing united with fellow academics would be: loss of a temple recommend. That is a fine choice: support for freedom to express ideas or full fellowship in my church and family. Hmmmm....

    And that, my friends, combined with nearly every point Jen makes in the original post, pretty much sums up why I join Jen in saying that I would be proud if my (hypothetical at this point) seminary graduating, active church member, straight A's child had thought this through and said "BYU is not the place for me."
    posted by Anonymous NE at 6/20/2006 07:58:00 AM  



  • After reading all the comments, I just feel sad that so many of you are sooooooooo uptight about the university that is set up by the Lord (or maybe you don't believe it is), which would also be sad. I really don't believe that if we all get super verbal about the "rules" and tithing etc......that things will change. It will only change if it's what should happen as directed by inspiration. So much in the church AND BYU is effected by PEOPLE and choices, but the underlying hopes and guidelines are within the guidelines of the Gospel. I think it's pretty easy.....make a choice to go somewhere else if you HATE so much about it, but maybe also step back and look at where you are personally with rules and "agency". From experience attending BYU and being involved in some faculty duties, it's a great place and directed by leaders THROUGH inspiration from the Lord! "He never said it would be easy (or liked), He only said it would be worth it!"
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 09:01:00 AM  



  • I've a good friend who will be teaching at BYU this fall (her husband just told me). I'd have to say I disagree strongly with your implicit criticism of her.

    My daughter chose BYU. I enjoyed the law school, though not the undergraduate program (and moved to Cal State Los Angeles to get my BA).

    Guess everyone's experiences differ.
    posted by Blogger Stephen at 6/20/2006 09:11:00 AM  



  • Very interesting. I, like Cheryl, loved BYU. I am not from Utah and was one of the few LDS kids in my high school. Going to where there was a larger LDS population to choose friends from was a bit of a relief to me after years of being in the minority.

    Of course there are silly things about BYU that we like to laugh about, but there are really wonderful things about it too - great professors (the majority of mine were amazing women), wonderful facilities, affordable tuition (I had to pay my own way working on campus, often in janitorial positions), lots and lots of language classes to choose from, and I felt a wide variety of people to associate with. I had never before known that Mormons could be so different from each other. I never heard about the whole executive sec. thing. Funny observation. Your BYU ward sounds strange. Also, I never felt pressure about dating/marrying. I know a lot of people do, but I was really busy with school, working and having fun and didn't worry about that.

    Having said all of that, I think you get out of anything what you expect of it. If you go into a situation expecting to be disappointed or to hate it, then that's what you'll get. If you feel like you are being pressured to go, then you will resent it.

    I don't know why all of the BYU bashing exists. If you don't like it, don't go, don't send your kids, don't worry about it. There are great schools everywhere and there are plenty of other people wanting to get into BYU instead.
    posted by Anonymous Mary at 6/20/2006 09:38:00 AM  



  • I also started BYU at 17. I went to BYU because my parents threatened me with being completely cut off financially if I went anywhere else. I decided to take the money and run.
    I hated my first semester...literally hated it. And then I got used to it; I suppose you could say I became complacent. I never felt guilt about my half-@$$ed activity rate in devotionals, BYU sponsored events, student ward activities, etc., and as a bonus I now have this amazing ability to absolve myself of guilt for not attending meetings that I deem utterly unnecessary. I also found the other cynics, so it worked out well for me - i.e. study film. It's alreay the bastard major, so everyone is a bit jaded and the professors like to try to keep the more orthodox students on edge. It was great! I did do some rebelling in Utah, purple hair, multiple earrings, etc., but no one in my department cared. (I even went on to work for the church for a year and a half and had a 'fauxhawk' at one point.)
    I did my graduate work at a southeastern school, and was grateful for both experiences. I think that I benefitted from my Mormon-centric experience as well as from my liberal-arts based experience (where porn is considered worthy of academic study.) It's helped me achieve a balance in my academic work and I feel quite at place in both Mormon and non-Mormon circles.
    (Against my personal philosophy, I did get married while attending BYU, at the age of 23 post-mission and post-study abroad with one semester left.)

    A girl in my current ward is going to BYU in the fall and isn't terribly thrilled, but financially it is her best option. We've talked about it in detail, and since she's set on grad school, it makes sense to save the loans, etc., for that time in her life. Plus BYU study abroad is fairly cheap. I think if you look hard enough, you can find like-minded people; it's just more difficult on the surface, and it also helps if you have a car so you can do stuff in Salt Lake since Provo is kind of a cultural vaccuum.
    posted by Anonymous VirtualM at 6/20/2006 09:57:00 AM  



  • So....re-reading my post the morning after, I still stand by my statements. However, I should have softened the academic freedom thing. I would be proud of any of my friends who accepted a teaching job at BYU, especially if they were working towards institutional change. I should have also left out the executive secretary thing...it sounds like it was unique to the wards I attended...but a very quirky and true experience.

    A note to those commenting: Feel free to punch away at my statements, but please don't question my (or any other commenters) testimonies.

    Also, I'm getting a little tired of the line, "If you don't like BYU, you don't have to go." Virtualm made a great point...that LDS kids often don't have a lot of options for colleges when their parents won't support them financially anywhere else. This is one of my main points of this post....that we as parents need to give our kids choices outside of BYU and trust them to make the right choice for themselves.

    Ok..a final point and then I'm done. I should have clarified this in my post...but as far as the rules at BYU go...I had no problem following the rules of an LDS-based institution if they had doctrinal significance (i.e. no drinking, smoking, fornicating)... I DID have problems obeying rules that were cultural/superficial...(i.e. facial hair -- ok that wasn't a problem for me), length of my shorts, limitations on when guys could be in my apartment or my dorm, etc. etc. etc.

    I'm sorry I haven't addressed everyone's questions, but most probably weren't waiting for an answer anyways. Plus I have kids to take care of.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 6/20/2006 10:26:00 AM  



  • BYU, as sacred as it may be, is still run by very mortal people who are very subject to mortal flaws. I had all kinds of run-ins with silly red tape while I was there.

    That said, I believe that these problems are NOT unique to BYU. You will find what you look for, and fault-finding has never made anybody any happier. I do believe that a careful analysis of different universities is important before someone makes a big commitment like choosing a university. But after you've chosen it's up to you to make the most of the opportunity and look for the best it has to offer. While I'm sure I encountered a fair number of plastic people as complained about above, I also sought out the best professors (and had plenty of awesome female ones, thank you very much) and the best, most interesting and dynamic colleagues. And I found them! I found what I was looking for and got what I wanted out of my BYU education, but I had to WORK at it, it required EFFORT.

    I have a hard time believing that those who would comply with these complaints would have had a much better experience elsewhere.
    posted by Blogger Em at 6/20/2006 11:28:00 AM  



  • The secret to BYU success is to make friends with someone who spends a lot of time in the HFAC.


    My first roomate was a film major. Worked with a comedy group, made cartoons, and would discuss at length the technical processes that created the virtual first down line for the BYU football games. Totally spiritual, devoted LDS guy, but provided a depth of experience that eased my way into BYU.
    posted by Anonymous jay s at 6/20/2006 11:37:00 AM  



  • One thing that seems to be "cooler" than CTR rings and Franklin planners is dissing BYU. I can't tell you how many hipsters and other cool kids I meet who openly trash BYU yet remain there all 4 (or 5) years and can't seem to pull themselves away from Provo after graduation. (I myself stayed in Provo for years after the fact, but I wasn't a hata'). I'm not trying come out with both fists swinging here, but I really don't get diatribes like this and I'm rather tired of the endless criticisms.

    I'm the ONLY child in my family who attended BYU, I transferred 3 times (ended up at BYU--GRATEFULLY), and paid for school myself--so what I'm saying is, if you're not happy there (and not everyone will be) please explore other options--it's easy to transfer and if you want it bad enough, you'll figure out a way to pay for school and the fam will learn to deal with it. I think it's wonderful that you will encourage your children to explore other Universities, but I hope you don't taint a natural desire to attend BYU with your bitter experience.

    I wasn't a cookie cutter type (I had pink hair for a while at BYU for crying out loud) and I never dated the exec. secretary or wore a CTR ring--and I don't know who did?!? I knew of kids like that, but they weren't my close friends, so perhaps it was your choice of friends/social scene. I maintain that BYU (like life) is what you make of it--same with any other school. Chances are you would have had as many issues with another place as you did with BYU.

    Now I'm not saying we don't have the right to want to improve our communities/neighborhoods/schools etc. and amend policies we think are out of date, but this type of criticism seems to have little constructive value and not only undermines a great learning institution but also the leaders of our Church. If we are to remain set apart from the world as a Church, and certainly BYU as a church school, we must accept the fact that our standards (weather or not doctrinally based) will always need to be a step above the rest.
    posted by Blogger miggy at 6/20/2006 11:44:00 AM  



  • I have some thoughts about this. First of all, I always cringe when I hear "BYU is the Lord's university." I just don't think that's true. That statement suggests that the highest learning that can be attained in life is only available at BYU and not in any other institution. And that's simply not true. Both high-quality spiritual and secular learning can take place in many other venues, many of which, of course, aren't church affiliated. The temple is the institution that comes closest to being the Lord's university, and even then, it is still a somewhat mortal institution, designed by fallible humans (I don't think it's perfect and expect there to be more changes in what happens there).

    As to your point about diversity Jen. I agree that there is a definite feeling of homogeneity at BYU. One of the most important purposes of university diversity in my opinion is, as a student, to be exposed to different viewpoints, life experiences, and perspectives. Collegiate education, which most often takes place when a student is leaving home and making the transition to adulthood, is an important force for shaping thought and opinion, and diversity is important in providing students with a range of viewpoints and ideas. That can occur through many types of diversity—through geographic as was mentioned above, political, racial, and class, as well as diversity of religious experience (converts and pioneer families, Eagle scout suburbs and inner-city branches).

    I want my kids to have female professors and black, Hispanic, and international classmates. But, more than that, I want their college experiences to be a place to debate ideas and forge opinions and to broaden their worldview. And I think that diversity is an important part of that.

    In some ways, I feel like BYU doesn’t do a good job developing critical thinking skills in students. Ok, so let’s not debate about the veracity of the church. But, let’s talk about economic policy in critical ways, rather than assuming that all government “hand-outs” are wrong, for example. (I have a good friend who was shouted down by classmates and professors in a lecture in an economics class about poverty.)

    All in all, I feel like it’s hard to be different at BYU. I felt tremendous pressure to think a certain way, feel a certain way, look a certain way. I also feel like there are a lot of problems with the BYU social scene, many of which you discussed.

    My feelings about my BYU experience are mixed. My biggest regret as an undergrad is that I only applied to BYU, that I didn’t even consider other institutions. To me, as a high school student, it seemed like a utopia. And my parents didn’t encourage me to look into other options. I had many good experiences there, but I don’t want to send my children there without helping them see a broader range of options.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 6/20/2006 12:11:00 PM  



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    posted by Blogger Michelle at 6/20/2006 12:11:00 PM  



  • It appears that most of the posts so far have been from young married folks who are basing their comments on their own personal experience at BYU. I'm an "old married", BYU alumni that has also sent 3 children so far to BYU. So I have a little different perspective. I enjoyed BYU - met my husband there my freshman year. We have encouraged all of our children to attend BYU. Why? Probably the biggest reason is that it is the best educational buy for the money. When you are looking at trying to put 5 children through college - finances is a BIG factor. None of our children were as excited to go to BYU as I was - but they understood that without some big time scholarships - their options were limited. Did we cheat our kids out of a quality education because we are cheap? (We have one son that thinks so.) My husband is out in the "professional world" and is often approached by employers looking to hire BYU graduates because of the quality of the students that come from the school. His own firm currently has 5 attorneys that are BYU alumni. So, if the education is lacking, I guess the environment is making up for it. Another reason we put BYU at the top of our list for our kids was the environment. We felt our kids would be "safer" there than other schools that had co-ed dorms, drinking, fraternities, etc. If that seems like an unreasonable, over-protective, naive statement - wait until you are preparing to send your 17-18 year old away from home for the first time in a world where "porn is worthy of academic study". For those who have a problem with a small percentage of their tithing dollars going to support a unversity that squelches independent thought - try writing a check for $25K (a year -just for tuition)to a school that is going to give your child college credit to study porn. Bottom line - when you are a parent you are looking at a lot of factors when it comes time to choose a school for your kids. My husband and I are both very grateful for the education that we received at BYU. As parents, we are even more grateful that the church has provided a quality university located in a beautiful place with opportunities for our kids to learn, grow and feel the spirit all for a bargain price.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 12:19:00 PM  



  • THANK YOU ANONYMOUS!!! It would really be interesting to find out how many "BYU bashers" end up encouraging their kids to go there when push comes to shove.....I would guess the number will be great. I also hope all the negative (most obviously Jens)opinions don't taint the kids desires to go to BYU. Is it even possible to be excited for them if they choose that route when you've got such issues?
    posted by Anonymous cc at 6/20/2006 12:41:00 PM  



  • K Jen the whole dress code, no boys in dorms etc...is getting old too. So in the church we are taught to be modest in dress, we teach our youth to be modest in dress, some youth activities do have dress codes blah blah blah. So, now that you've been taught that all these years you really think a university run BY the church is going to just forego all of that for "free agency" purposes??? You missed that boat by CHOOSING BYU. Seriously, most young adults going to BYU are closer than ever to missions, marriage and going to the TEMPLE. Is it THAT confusing as to why BYU would have a dress code that coincides with wearing garments??? I'm not that smart, but it sounds so right-on to me. And the whole "ok, now I'm on own so I can have co-ed sleep overs that my parents never let me have as a kid" thing is hilarious. Another "oops" when choosing a college if you were looking for that. BYU wasn't the place. Do you seriously think that portion of the honor code is wrong for a church institution? Seriously??
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 12:54:00 PM  



  • It seems like the best thing we can do for our kids is "advertise" BYU for what it is: a private university that subscribes to certains ideals and standards that obviously aren't for everyone. And then we can advertise for other universities as well.

    As a teenager in a small east coast HS, the eastern universities were my dream for most of my HS career. In fact, I was very vocal about the fact that I didn't want to go to BYU. And I never felt anything but support from my parents should I have chosen to go somewhere else.

    But by the end of my senior year I was so tired of explaining myself and being different that I wanted to be the same. And I have to say that I loved BYU. I loved it because I was free to focus on my academics rather than worry about finding friends who were willing to have a safe, alchohol/drug-free time on the weekends. I didn't get married there; didn't date a lot there; didn't even find my husband there. I spent most of my time with great roommates and friends who valued the education we were getting and knew how and loved to talk about and think about everything critically.

    I think part of what made BYU great for me was taking honors classes (although I wasn't one of those hard-core honors studenst who graduated with honors and literally spent all their time in that silent tomb of a room, the Maeser building study hall--I preferred and did my best thinking in the Wilkinson cafeteria). But honors classes were small, taught by incredible professors (my favorite of which were women), and filled with students who also valued academics. I LOVED my classes. And I learned to think critically in them because I took classes that allowed for it: Mormon History and Culture, Women's History, an honors "colloquium" that attempted to read about and discuss every controversial topic out there at the time (LOVED this class and LOVED watching most of the students get upset over our professors' attempts at challenging their testimonies--a challenge I came up against every day in HS).

    And I have to say, I even loved the devotionals and firesides. I took notes in all of them, because I really felt like I had something to learn from the speakers. Granted there were the few odd ones who said things I hated: like the seventy who advised us young women to wear make up, because "we have to admit, even a barn looks better painted." Those few quirks aside, I thought BYU was great for the most part.

    And although I value diversity (my favorite part of living in Queens), I find a flaw in the thinking that just because people are of the same race, class, geographic area, religion, etc. they're all the same--and lacking in diversity. I met some pretty different people while at BYU, like my good friend who had hair like Elvis, drew the most incredible doodles in his notebooks, was one of the most brilliant people I've ever known, and was from Kodiak, Alaska a town with only one stop light. A most random and wonderful person.

    The idea I find really problematic on the part of many parents (including my own) is that attendance at BYU will keep kids from going wayward. I think it encourages waywardness in some kids--like my brother, who lost his testimony while living in Provo. I think he should leave BYU. But my parents are afraid of how he'll end up if he's not around all those "good influences." The way I see it, his youthful need to rebel might just propel him back into activity if he's in a place where being Mormon is different.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 6/20/2006 01:02:00 PM  



  • I loved BYU. It was probably the funnest four years of my life. But, any experience or place is only as good as the friends you have around you, I think. The guys I dated weren't anxious to just get married and no one I hung out with were Franklin planner types.

    I was coming from Minnesota, where there weren't many Mormons and it was wonderful to be normal and wonderful to have a wide variety of people to meet.

    I didn't have to deal with a lot of crap that my friends who went to regular colleges did (roommates with boyfriends who basically move in, pressure to drink and have sex - not that there was none of that at BYU, but it was less). I want my girls to go to BYU. Of course, they'll make their own decisions, but I think it's a great environment.

    I'm sorry to see some people are so defensive about BYU and took this post as an attack of some sort. I'm also sorry you don't have better college memories.
    posted by Blogger lchan at 6/20/2006 01:07:00 PM  



  • As a college admissions consultant I know that members of the church are not the only ones unsatisfied about their college choice. Additionally, diversity issues are an issue at almost every college. I love my profession because it allows me to help students make informed choices about college and find the right fit. Some factors to consider before making your choice or helping your children make their choice are: activities, academic programs, location, cost, prestige, size, campus culture, climate, and politics. I love this article on how to think like a cultural anthropologist to find the college that’s right for you and this article discusses additional factors as well.

    As a parent and consultant I have to say that BYU provides a solid liberal arts education for an amazing cost. However, BYU is not for everyone, so those looking for a diverse/liberal experience should look into Reed or UC Berkeley.
    posted by Anonymous thetrimama at 6/20/2006 01:57:00 PM  



  • When I was 17, I was all ready to go to BYU with my friends from Connecticut. But, fortunately, while visiting the campus, I realized it wasn't for me. I went to Ricks and had 2 amazing years there. I then transferred to BYU, and spent 4 years there.
    My advisor told me when it was time to look for a new school that he thought I could handle BYU and that he didn't recommend it to everyone. When I got there, I could see why. It was a hard transition.

    But I think the idea behind BYU is outstanding- a university designed to allow LDS people the opportunity to come together and excel. I love the idea that as you study a piece of literature or a scientific principle, you can actually add that knowledge to your spiritual view on life and discuss it with other people.
    I discovered the whole world of Mormon Literature and the author Virginia Sorensen. Until then I thought Lex de Azevado, Jack Weyland and Carolynn Pearson were the only LDS authors out there besides General Authorities. It inspired me to pursue my creative talents and find a way to make my voice heard.
    As a Theatre Education major we were encouraged to get out in the world and tell our stories. We were told that the world needed us. I loved my education and the professors in my major.

    However, I hated the social scene. But I remedied that in two ways: I married a guy who was going to the University of Utah and I moved to South Salt Lake and took the bus to school every day for two years.

    I've now had the opportunity to visit all three BYU campus'. I have to say I am partial to Idaho and Hawaii. I can still feel a great spirit when I walk on those campuses, which I don't feel in Provo. When my girls are looking for somewhere to go, I will probably suggest they look at those options. Of course as long as they can participate in an Institute program, I don't really care where they go.

    I actually don't mind my tithing contributing to BYU because I'm glad the Church is providing higher education opportunities not just in Provo, but throughout the world, and that it has remained completely afforable for most families throughout BYU's history. Most public universities can't even say that anymore.

    As far as diversity is concerned, there are students from all over the world at BYU. My brother befriended a Sikh man from India. Just getting to know him changed my view of the world. It only takes one person from another perspective to help you learn that the world is a lot bigger than you. I don't believe BYU has to have a certain percentage of this or that to create a great atmosphere of cultural acceptance.

    Ricks will always have a place in my heart for many reasons. I'm not sure BYU really has that great a hold on me, but I am so grateful that I received an outstanding education from people with a lot of professional experience in my field.
    I know I was hired because of the reputation of BYU's education program (which seems stronger now than even in 1996). So I'm thankful, but not blindly allegiant.

    A Normal Mom
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 02:01:00 PM  



  • I agree with most of what you said. But you signed the honor code, and knew what to expect. If you wanted more free-thinking professors, BYU is not where to go. BYU is a very distinct experience, and you should expect all that goes along with it.

    As for female professors, it depends on the department. I'm in the Art History & Curatorial Studies major. The majority of the faculty are women, I think there are only three men versus maybe seven women. They are strong and very intelligent, and with surprisingly open minds to creative or "worldly" academic points of view.
    posted by Blogger Shelley at 6/20/2006 02:03:00 PM  



  • Jen, I have to agree with your concerns about gender diversity in schools.

    My kids go to a K-6 elementary school that has not a single man teaching a class or in the administration. I went to a school assembly to honor the month's good citizens, two per class. Out of the more than 30 students honored only four were boys.

    I went to a high school graduation last week. There were 17 valedictorians (don't ask me how they got so many) and only 5 were boys.

    I agree that gender diversity is sorely lacking in our schools...
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 02:11:00 PM  



  • If it makes any of you feel any better, my kids will be attending the local community college for two years before transferring to any 4-year university.
    posted by Anonymous Susan M at 6/20/2006 02:14:00 PM  



  • Wow, this is a hot topic! I haven't read through all the comments yet, but I agree with Michelle that it is not correct to call BYU "the Lord's university". The Lord's university is the temple, the home, etc. It's as incorrect as when older Utahns call anything outside Utah "the mission field", as though no missionaries serve within Utah.

    Anyway, I went to BYU when I was older (25) but lived in Orem away from all the kiddie stuff. Here's what I got from BYU:

    1) BYU is almost as bad as singles wards -- i.e., a poor place to meet your eternal companion, but I went there to learn and not to date, necessarily, so no biggie.

    2) You will NOT be protected from worldliness and pressure to sin at BYU. There are avid gay/lesbian groups, even if not school-endorsed. I met an English professor (maybe assistant prof.) there who was growing pot in his basement. There is pressure to break the law of chastity, which is worsened when you have your guard down, telling yourself, he's LDS, so he won't try to push my limits.

    3) I actually did have some wonderful professors and classes, and worked harder and learned more than when I went to NYU for a Master's. I liked that I was free to discuss my religion and apply gospel principles to any subject.

    If you are mature enough spiritually/emotionally to not succumb to the guilt, you can find cool friends at BYU (I met many from all over the world) and get a quality education. And it's cheap.

    President Hinckley has said he does not want everyone to go to BYU, but good LDS should be scattered throughout the world to influence for good.
    posted by Blogger Squiddy at 6/20/2006 02:37:00 PM  



  • First, completely off subject, I take issue with children expecting their parents to pay for college and then getting mad when that parent says what they will pay for. If someones folks wanted to pay I'd be at the Y in a heartbeat. Get off your duff and find a way to pay for another college like the rest of us.
    I took a summer workshop at BYU when I was 16. While there I was told that I obviously didn't have faith in the gospel....because I was wearing striped tights under my knee length shorts. Load of crap? Hell yes. It shook my testimony and faith to be told that I wasn't worthy because of how I looked, and by an instructor who was supposed to know such things.For me it was another straw on my back leading towards inactivity, but was certainly not the only straw.
    As far as the academic bent towards the conservative, well, it's like choosing to vote for someone. If you like what they stand for, you vote for them. If you prefer BYU's perspective to other universities, then you encourage your kids to attend. I would prefer that my children be exposed to values I relate to at such a crucial time in their lives than to attend a university where organized religion is seen as a crutch and a farce, created by man to keep other men weak. If given the choice of something I think is total crap or the Y, I'm leaning towards the Y.
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 6/20/2006 04:46:00 PM  



  • btw sunny,
    ALL us alaskans are like that, random and wonderful ;)
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 6/20/2006 04:55:00 PM  



  • Bitterness does not help situations. Forgiveness might. I would encourage all those (which seem to be very few) that are so in "hate" with BYU to just forgive, forget, and move on.

    By the way--my favorite professor at BYU taught my history class and SHE was French, a Catholic, and taught at MIT. Diverse enough for you? :)
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 06:23:00 PM  



  • Although I didn't attend BYU my parents did,and in no way did they pressure me to go there. I am thankful that I have parents who taught me right from wrong and how to live in the world rather then shelter me from it. They trusted me to make my own decisions, rather then rely on an institute.

    The problem I have is the prideful parents and members of the church who really do believe that BYU is the only institue that is worthy of attending. I wasn't sure if my inlaws would allow for me to marry their son becuase I didnt go to BYU. I really think members and parents need to let the question "Now are (did) you attend the Y?" As though only the most righteous members attend there.It just gets old. I thankfully didn't attend "the Y" and I still turned out ok. Happily married in the temple to a RM. And I did it on my own with nonmembers and worldly influences around me. I thank my parents and my testimony for trusting me to stand on my own two feet.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 06:30:00 PM  



  • I always wanted to go to BYU and went in with the best possible attitude. (My 3 older siblings all loved it.) However, I was very unhappy. People often ask me why and I can't realy say for sure. I think your reasons # 1, 5 and 6 probably have a lot to do with it. During a phone conversation with my Mom one day I realized that I COULD TRANSFER the very next year. I did and am so glad. I completed my schooling at Oregon State University. Was very active in the Institute program and LOVED my college experience. (I enjoyed the female proffesors, diversity, research opportunities and the feeling of uniquness. Plus I was "forced" to get close with the student ward because we were the only Mormons there...(and there were still plenty...hundresds of us.)

    I don't understand the BYU bashers etc. who stick around. It is the way it is. If that isn't for you, don't go. And if you do go and don't like it...you don't need to stay. I try not to bash BYU, but I also try to let people know that you can have a great experience elsewhere.
    posted by Anonymous enna at 6/20/2006 07:21:00 PM  



  • I don't even really know where to start here....I appreciated Michelle, Sunny, LeeAnn, NE and a few others' even-handed and respectful comments...even when they didn't agree with what I wrote.

    I also appreciated the anonymous comment from the parent putting multiple kids through college. Its easy to think ideally now about sending my kids off to great institutions. I know that reality (finances and rejection letters) will eventually happen, but its nice to get a small dose of that now. Really, I should mostly be focused on getting my kids out of diapers and into kindergarten.

    For whatever it's worth, here are a few clarifications, comments from your comments:

    * I never stated anywhere that the BYU faculty was weak, only that I didn't understand why they would subject themselves to such strict censureship. I also stated that there (overall) isn't enough female professors on campus. I never made any explicit or implicit comment on their competence. Most of my professors were really outstanding and their passion and rigor helped get me through my BYU experience.

    *I would not describe myself as bitter, but rather anxious for change.

    *CC- I would be very proud if one of my kids attended BYU....AS LONG AS they understood where they were going and they knew they had other educational options. I like Sunny's reference...to "advertise BYU for what it is." I would be equally proud if they found somewhere else to go.

    * I would love to hear MORE opinions about my original question....what role we have as parents in guiding our kids towards/away from BYU and what consequences being open to other schools could have on their future in the church.....and LESS on whether or not pink hair should be an honor code violation and how I should repent for "dissing" (who even uses that word, anyways?) BYU.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 6/20/2006 08:17:00 PM  



  • Let's just put it this way...we had stake conference last week and BYU was all but preached from the pulpit. Someone got up and went on and on about a girl from his ward that was going to BYU and how great it was. It almost made me gag. It is touted as being more holy, etc., oftentimes, a choice for those who are more righteous, and perhaps in our stake, more economically advantaged (which is sometimes equated with a higher level of righteousness.) The majority of youth in our ward most likely won't get to go to college due to economic and social disadvantages.
    I also never expected my parents to pay for college...but were I to go to my first choice school, I would've had to pay $15k in tuition alone each year on top of the scholarship the school offered me. Even if my parents didn't help, I hope that they would've discourage me from racking up that kind of debt when BYU offered me a much more lucrative package overall (and scholarship money is so easy to procure at BYU.) However, after I'd been at BYU for at least two or three years, the truth came forward that my parents actually DID send me there to get married, not to get an education. I felt hurt and betrayed.
    (And also, for what it's worth, I doubt anyone is writing a $25k check for their kids to study porn. I only mentioned it because it was a 1 week component of a course I took as a graduate student, which incidentally, some generous alumni paid for. The university wouldn't dream of putting such material in front of undergrads, and no one was forcing anyone to take the course, although the professor did put some undue 'pressure' on me to work with her. But despite our differences - she wrote her dissertation on Basic Instinct- we became quite good friends and I even had the opportunity to discuss why I'm a Mormon with her.)
    posted by Anonymous VirtualM at 6/20/2006 08:21:00 PM  



  • Anon: (one of the many--don't know why since nothing seems very controversial)--I don't think that Jen holds a permanent bitterness over her BYU education that she needs to let go of. In fact, I'm sure that she is long past that.

    But, if BYU can be improved, to make it a better institution of higher education, why not talk about it? Why not put energy towards thinking about how it could be improved? I don't see anything wrong with that.

    I've been thinking a little bit about this post today and the responses, and a lot of people seem to be saying, "Well, BYU was a great place because I made it that way." By taking the initiative to find the right kind of friends, to take certain kinds of classes from certain kinds of professors, by making it a great place for "me" as an individual.

    I do not discount what an individual can do to shape their surroundings and make what they take from it better. But, I wonder about those others who because of whatever the reasons don't or aren't able to do such a thing. Yes, honors classes are great, there are quite a few wonderful profs who make you think and question, there are groups for you to fit in, but not everyone will have those opportunities or even know that they might be interested in having these opportunities. Honors classes are rare--the majority of BYU students will not be taking them. I wonder about how the overall climate of a school, independent of any individual student, can shape all students' experiences. So, I'd like to know how the "average" student experiences BYU and what the outcomes are for BYU students overall.

    What are the most important parts of a BYU education? I am too lazy to look up their formalized aims, but suspect that they combine testimony stregthening with secular learning. I'm sure they want to improve the marriage market for young LDS as well--find a spouse and get married in the temple, whether formally stated or not. Maybe the powers that be think that very little besides new buildings are needed to improve BYU. I don't know. But, I can't help but think that we can have constructive discussions about BYU as an instituion of higher education and the ways that the concept of a church sponsored school could be improved on without regressing to somewhat mean-spirited discussions and without discounting someone else's equally valid BYU experience.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 6/20/2006 08:44:00 PM  



  • The problem with discussions on how BYU, as a church-sponsored school, should be improved limits us to the extent that the school is owned by just that --THE CHURCH. Any private institution of learning is limited to the thoughts and actions of its Board of Directors. BYU's Board of Directors just happen to be the leaders of the LDS church.

    Okay, you want to make Spring Fling more fun? Perhaps have more dances in the quad? How about asking a political figure to come speak to the political science majors? No problem. Maybe the Music Dept. would like to go to Russia this year instead of Europe.

    But what I understand is that the collective question from those that had negative experiences at BYU is this: Change what I didn't like:
    --Allow all professors freedom to criticize the Church (although they are your employers)because if they can't, they are being stifled academically; initiate affirmative action (if it already hasn't been) to ensure racial diversity; apply that affirmative action in a gender-based-way in order to have more equality on the doctorate level; get rid of the Honor Code, or at least those parts in which one may feel their personal decisions are taken away (i.e. agency); Get rid of student wards; Abolish devotionals, but keep the forums where non-LDS scholars come to speak; Marriage should never be spoken of in a way that would pressure single young adults to move towards that institution; and get rid of that "Utah" culture standard which annoys all non-Utahns.

    If BYU succeeded to create any of the above mentioned changes, it would cease to be BYU.

    I doubt those that had such negative experiences will think I have thought of this in sincerity. I just think that anyone, regardless of the University in which they attended, needs to know --without question --the type of University education they will recieve for the amount of money, time, and efforts they will put into it. BYU is BYU just as Stanford is Stanford and Harvard is Harvard --the only difference is that BYU is run by the LDS Church, which, contrary to some opinions, was begun and maintained through revelation.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/20/2006 09:39:00 PM  



  • I grew up in the Washington DC area, a very diverse and culturally aware environment. I had EVERY intention of attending The Cooper Union in NYC (as an art student) or auditioning to get into the NYU theater program after HS.

    I auditioned the summer before my senior year for a theater scholarship out at BYU...and got it. Whoops. It paid my tuition and so it was a no brainer that I would go there. Uh...whooops. My parents told me to stick it out a year and if I was miserable I could transfer somewhere back east.

    I stayed. And I actually liked it.

    I received a GREAT education in the performing arts (I was an MDT major for 2 years and they work you HARD), made lifelong friends and strengthened my shaky young adult testimony. I changed my major after 2 years in MDT (I could see I was on a dangerous path if I continued to perform - another post...)and gave up my scholarship - but I stayed at BYU.

    I found all of those things that Jen has mentioned annoying...but I made the decision to stay. That's the thing: if you stay through your own volition you kind of give up the right to bash.

    And for those who think that all is pristine and spiritually perfect at BYU, think again. I fell into a number of destructive behaviors - all I had to do was look around a little - it's there at every university. I briefly dated a professor (a BIG no-no at BYU and most other institutions, I'm sure), found my share of abusive men and was tempted at every turn. But I'm glad I had those experiences and I'm glad that I had them at BYU.

    To answer Jen's original question (and we should spend some time getting back to that) about what role do we have in shaping where our children attend school, my dh have already had conversations about that even though our children are young. We plan to make ALL choices available to them, and that includes church sponsored schooling. One of our requirements is that they attend school in another state (or at least several hours away) from where we live - you've got to break free from the family unit during the college years! We would encourage them to get scholarships and to look at ALL schools and their programs and try to find the right fit based on THEIR needs and less on OUR needs for them (if finances permit, of course).
    posted by Blogger chloe at 6/20/2006 10:04:00 PM  



  • I went to BYU just a few months after turning 17. It was a little difficult at times - sometimes I didn't feel like I fit in. I also got really bored in most of my classes. I attended 3 years - I am still trying to finish independent study.

    I had some really great experiences and some not so great experiences while I was there. I never got asked out on dates and didn't have that many friends. I guess that was the biggest thing was that I never really felt like I fit in, which is weird - I felt like I had very fleeting friendships with people at BYU. I never really kept in touch with anyone other than my family who attended at the Y. I did have several good friends at Ricks and always loved going up there to visit.

    The wards at BYU were very social and people were too in and out and seemed a little flakey to me. I loved my single adult ward back at home in california that felt much more constant and where I felt like I had people that really cared long-term about me.

    The one thing I disagree with your post is on the religion classes. From my experience, Institute didn't come close to the BYU religion classes. I can truly say I loved and learned so much from the religion classes. I really miss these classes the most! I missed countless days of classes because they were boring or I didn't want to go, but I don't think I ever missed one of my religion classes.

    I hear people say that BYU is really strict but I didn't really find it that way when I went. I had pink hair for a little bit and had my la beret (chin pierced) and everybody was nice to me and didn't do anything about it. Maybe thats changed now, i dunno.

    I'm glad I went and had the experience. Theres definately some things I don't miss and some things I really do miss.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 6/20/2006 11:37:00 PM  



  • I know I made the very first comment, but you are right Jen, we should go back to your original and intentional question: Where do we send our kids and why? I really think that chloe said it all: give our kids the choice to go where they want. Not all universities will have the the best programs for what my children want to major in...they may even (gasp!!) go to the U!

    What's ironic to me is that I think the whole idea of everyone being pressured to go to BYU is slowly fading. Yes, there will be some parents (mostly alumni) that will encourage their children to go there (I probably will, too), but here in Provo (Grandview area) I've seen a lot of parents encouraging their children to go to BYU for only one reason --financially. BYU is down the street, and so the kids can live at home if they want and attend an inexpensive college. But a lot of these kids are choosing UVSC, BYU-Idaho, and others. I think the trend is shifting, and not because they hate BYU (most people here work there) but because they see other options as favorable, too.

    BYU really is a great place, but I would never force my kids to go there. I really wouldn't. But I doubt most of these BYU lovers would force their kids to go, either. But for the same reasons you wouldn't want your children to go there are probably the same reasons why we would want them to...AH! Which reminds me of The Wiz's post over at MMW...it's hilarious --everyone go read it. :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 6/21/2006 06:39:00 AM  



  • Jen, to answer your original question and some of the comments-

    My husband and I are both in higher ed and put a premium on the college experience. While I would like to hope that I would never tell my child who strongly desired to attend BYU "no," we have decided that such a desire would warrant a serious discussion about some of the drawbacks. You've seen my earlier comments, so everyone probably has an idea as to what we feel those drawbacks are.

    I do feel you can go to other institutions and get a great education, combine it with a great institute experience, and thrive as a very well rounded invdividual. I do hope that this "BYU is the Lord's univeristy" and the prestige (and conversely, the pity for those who do not attend the "Y" despite going to great higher ed institutions) will start to subside soon. In order for that to happen, our young people would need a viable set of options which included BYU but didn't naturally exclude all others.

    I think that the existance of large institutes attached to large state universities around the country really weakens the position that you can only be around a significant amount of LDS (and potential spouses) if you are at BYU. Schools in mountain west have HUGE institutes. Amazingly enough, most of the flagship state schools outside the mountain west also have large institutes. I'm in the midwest near such a school that has 2 LARGE singles ward, 1 LARGE student married ward and still over 40 individuals/couple/family units in the regular family ward that encompases campus. There are plenty of ways to be spiritually fed via these institutes if you are willing to put even a tiny bit of effort into it.

    Many people have and will site that BYU is just too good of a deal to pass up financially, so I will say this is the 2nd biggest reason parents highly force BYU attendence. (I got around this issue by getting a full ride elsewhere.) I think one of the interesting things that has happend with the current 20-35ish generation and is actually unique to the Mormon/BYU experience. As high ed costs have skyrocketed, BYU has remained affordable. That in and of itself isn't a bad thing (although I think we should all remember that it is not affordable because it is more efficent... it is affordable because members subsidize it... probably to the tune of $10,000+ per student per year). Where it gets sticky is that many LDS families are large and were started before or as a bachelors became almost necessary to stay in middle class. Thus, combined with a pervasive attitude of self-reliance (kids should pay their own way) and frugality (don't go into debt for anything), a lot of kids have no other choice than BYU or it's sister schools if they want a college degree, regardless if mom and dad pay (and worse, will only pay if you go to the Y) or kid pays.

    It seems to me if BYU is to take it's appropriate place as a church sponsered school that your child would choose if their number one preference in a college experience was to integrate religion into classroom experiences (as opposed to a great institute programs that are available at a ton of schools which provide a religious/social experience side by side with an academic one), then we must be prepared as parents to think about the financing of education and how to prepare our children for said financing.

    And since this has turned into a huge comment and I have work to get done, I'll close with that (at least for now).
    posted by Anonymous NE at 6/21/2006 06:45:00 AM  



  • For future reference Jen....don't be surprised when your audience comments just as you have posted. Attack (or give fierce opinion)and then ask a worthy question...you will most likely get in return...attack (or defend) and then MAYBE answer your question. Especially on a "mormon" blog when talking about BYU! The question is great, lots of other wasted junk before though.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/21/2006 08:32:00 AM  



  • Jen--I may have been strong in my comments, but I don't think I was disrespectful. I'm sorry if it came off that way, however, I feel like my comments were rather twisted and now I'd like to clarify. I didn't say anything about pink hair and the honor code and I definitely didn't tell you to repent for dissing BYU (sorry if that word is little old school for you). Maybe you were talking to someone else, but I was the only person to use "dissing" . . . Anyway, my POINT with those two issues were 1) You can still be an individual (ie. pink hair) at BYU and 2) I think your rant was unfounded and I'm fed up with BYU bashing, but there was no mention of repentance. I would address your initial question but I don't have time right now. . .
    posted by Blogger miggy at 6/21/2006 08:44:00 AM  



  • I bleed blue. I loved (unexpectedly) BYU. I went there expecting to hate it and ended up leaving with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for being afforded the opportunity to go there.
    Jen, I have to admit I was surprised by your original post just a bit. As someone with a graduate degree from a University far better than BYU, did they not teach you about generalizations? Really, EVERYONE wore a CTR ring and looked for g-lines? Maybe everyone who spent their waking hours in the library.
    I do agree that graded religion classes are not good. I had two very different experiences with religion classes at BYU. There are people like me who thrive on every word Brother Bott says about the D&C and learn an incredible amount about that book in one semester and a grade was an afterthought (to student and teacher). And then there are those who thrive on (NOT me) spending countless hours of studying to get an A in Bro. Benson's Book of Mormon class...again NOT me. BYU offers both.
    Question: Does anyone out there truly feel that BYU is the Lord's University? Isn't that just a joke that unfortunately gets repeatedly told everytime the Y plays the U? No one seriously believes that, do they? It's a JOKE. Maybe not a funny one, but it's a joke people. At least I hope it is.
    So BYU isn't racially diverse. I think it is still a diverse place. Jen and I for instance are probably as different as a Mexican and a German. You don't need different skin colors to be different, or diverse.
    I definitely think our parental role is to encourage our kids to go to whatever school they feel they should go to. As their parent, can't we guide them and help them understand what different schools have to offer? What if they want to go to BYU because their parents did? Will that be considered a thoughtless, mindless decision? There are families all over the world that send their kids to the college they went to. It's celebrated, called tradition. Here, in Mormon culture, we call it a horrific, pressured, forced decision.
    Ultimately, I would like my kids to go where the best football team is, and that is...
    GO COUGARS!!!!
    Great post Jen.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 6/21/2006 09:27:00 AM  



  • "Jen and I for instance are probably as different as a Mexican and a German. You don't need different skin colors to be different, or diverse."


    Why hasn't the rest of the world figured this out? And why is racial diversity held out to be some sort of Holy Grail? And why do some of you attack BYU for lack of racial diversity (in other words, too white) when it's the only such school left in America?

    I grew up in a very diverse place - SoCal. It is a sick place where no one trusts anyone, and it's tearing itself to pieces at an accelerating rate.

    Those who really crave racial diversity can have all they want. It's in every large city. But a greater number of city folk are leaving for the country, or the upscale suburbs. They are tired of diversity.

    So again, I would appreciate if someone could give a clear, honest, factual, perhaps scientific, answer to my question. Most people merely accept the concept without question. Just exactly what is so wonderful about racial diversity?
    posted by Anonymous Mike in CO at 6/21/2006 10:05:00 AM  



  • Okay, I guess I'll jump in here. As far as the whole "hatah / lovah" argument, I didn't go to BYU, I wasn't a member when I went to college, and I went to a liberal east coast school (co-ed bathrooms should say it all). My husband went to BYU for a year, didn't like it, and transferred, despite the fact that it meant giving up his "free education" (full scholarship) for debt. So I don't have much of an opinion on BYU. I appreciated Gordon Smith's Culture Shock post at T&S a little while back, as it touched upon what would be my major concern with my child(ren) attending BYU. It can be the best thing in the world for a young person who has grown up being a minority, but it can also be a testimony-rocking experience. So I'd like to think that I'd have my child look at BYU to see if they were interested, but I'd have them look at many other schools as well. I think I'd treat it as I would any other school.

    That said, I specifically wanted to respond to Mike in CO's question about racial diversity. Here's my thoughts. If you've spent your first 18 years in a mostly white or latino or black community (or in discussing other types of diversity, urban or rural or lower-class or upper-class or southern or midwesther or whatever) it's very easy to rely on our cultural stereotypes when interacting with people who are "other" than us. Do I really need to list any of these? And the thought is that by spending 4 years (or more for some of us!) living with, studying with, and debating with people who are "other" than us, we learn that they are people too, and do not fit their stereotypes any more than we fit our own. So that when you leave the "protective bubble" that is college and move on to the next phase in life, you bring your experiences with the other with you, and hopefully leave some of the natural fear of the unknown behind. I think what you say about SoCal is a perfect example of why our schools need diversity - people distrust what they do not know.
    posted by Blogger marian at 6/21/2006 10:40:00 AM  



  • I haven't read all the comments yet, but wanted to add mine.

    I did not go to BYU for my undergrad--I graduated from Boston University. Initially, BU was extremely tough for me, and there were only 7, yes 7 active LDS students at BU. We bonded, yes, but with such small numbers, that meant, of course, that most of our time was spent with non LDS folks.

    And most of the time, that was great. I am still very close to my 3 non-LDS roomates from that time, and love them all dearly. But a lot of the time, it was tough. I didn't realize how tough until I spent a summer at BYU, brushing up on my German skills before taking a semester abroad with BU. Some guys showed up at my apartment, looking for my roomate to go rollarblading with. I told them, virtual strangers, that she wasn't there. They then said, "Oh, hey, you're her new roommate. Wanna come with us? We are going rollarblading, then we'll get some ice-cream at Hires after."

    My first gut reaction was no way, you are strange guys, who knows where the night will lead, what will we REALLY be doing, and what you will expect of me by the end of it. And then I realized that these were not BU guys-they weren't expecting ANYTHING from me, other than a few laughs and maybe some shared ice-cream. I decided to go with them, and we actually (gasp!)just went rollarblading and got some ice-cream after.

    My point is this--BYU felt like a very, very safe place for me, especially after living on my guard for 2 years. I'm sure bad things happen at BYU too, and I'm sure somebody can quote me about the rape statistics, etc, etc, etc. But not having to worry about anything else besides "Hey, does he think I'm cute? Will he ask me out again?" seemed a lot easier to handle than, "Hey, if I talk to this guy, will he pressure me to do something I don't want to do, will he hurt me, will I be in a situation out of my control, will he slip something in my drink, even if I only ask for water?" It may sound paranoid, but I saw LOTS of bad things happen at BU, and there was always a low level hum of stress whenever I went out with my non LDS friends, and if I wasn't with them, there was a low level of loneliness. I was free from both of those things at BYU. I saw all of the things you were talking about, but they didn't bother me at all. When you work at a restaurant that tells you never to leave the restaurant in your uniform because there are so mnay people who have been mugged in the square where you work, and your manager tells you to walk in the middle of the street so that nobody can sneak up on you from the alley, and when an armed guard stands at your dorm 24/7, girls checking for g-lines seem pretty innocuous.

    There are plenty of things to complain about Salt Lake and BYU. And those complaints are probably legit. I've made them myself, and have my own issues with Salt Lake and Utah. But there can be a lot of wonderful things about being surrounded by people of the same faith.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 6/21/2006 10:49:00 AM  



  • AMEN Heather O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/21/2006 11:09:00 AM  



  • I have not read all the comments on this post, which seems to have brought out some very strong feelings, but still I must comment on a couple things. And sorry, Jen, I just can't agree with your assessment of BYU.

    1. Yes, I agree that BYU's honor code is often stupid. I went to take a test once and hadn't shaved in a day or two. After studying all morning to prepare for the test, and then waiting for an hour in line, the person at the testing center told me I had two choices: (1) go home and shave and then come back, or (2) take the test and be reported to the honor code. I chose the latter option. When I had to go meet with one of the honor code counselors I just had to laugh when they asked me (very seriously) why I went to take a test without shaving. My response, "uh, you want me to tell you why I didn't shave one morning two months ago? Probably forgot, I don't know." Ever since I graduated from BYU, I have had a beard. I like it.

    BUT, I actually have no problem with these types of rules. Any private University can set up its own rules and many have similar rules to those of BYU (Westpoint, Notre Dame, etc.). It just doesn't seem worth complaining about. BYU is very up front about its rules from the get-go and they really weren't that onerous. Sometimes the BYU culture turned those rules into true moral norms (probably something to do with the fact that those rules are contained in an "honor" code), but hey, if you can't laugh at people like that, then you're going to have troubles as a Mormon no matter where you attend school or choose to live afterward.

    2. I have never understood the knock on BYU's "diversity". Yes, I get that most of the students there are white, but that is a very poor standard by which to judge the type of diversity that one ought to strive for in a university setting. I found the studentbody at BYU to be quite interesting and diverse ideologically. Perhaps this was my unique experience as I spent most of my time in the philosophy department, but it was, nonetheless, my experience. Moreover, what other university in the world will produce the kind of right-wing nut jobs that come out of BYU - yes, that too is diversity! : )

    After graduating from BYU, I attended an elite law school in the East that prided itself on its "diversity." There is no doubt that in racial terms those students were more "diverse." But I think BYU provided at least as many different viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences as my law school colleagues (after all, the law students were all well-educated, upper class, etc. - despite the color of our skin).

    If you were unable to find students/friends/professors at BYU that enriched your life and broadened your experience, then you simply were not looking hard enough.

    3. I also don't think academic freedom is the problem most make it out to be. The philosophy department was full of professors that (if people understood some of their beliefs) might be considered heretic.

    4. The BYU social scene is not what it used to be. In fact, I think the biggest complaint about the social scene today is that noone is willing to actually date. They all just want to "hang out." It got to the point where Elder Oaks (I believe) had to go tell the men at BYU to grow up and start looking to actually date girls. Oh how times have changed.


    Jen, I absolutely believe that we can send our children to other schools and have them thrive socially, spiritually and academically. But when it comes to my children, I will strongly encourage them to attend BYU for the following reasons:

    (1) BYU is the cheapest, quality education you can find. You simply can't beat the price of education at BYU. Let's face it, even today, undergraduate education is probably not the last step in many people's educational career. I have loads of debt from law school, but at least I got through undergraduate university relatively unscathed. (BTW - I believe the price of attending elite schools contributes to the lack of true diversity; you simply can't afford to attend if you didn't grow up with a background similar to the rest of the studentbody - upper class!).

    (2) Academically, I found BYU to be a strong university that challenged me in many ways. I will forever be grateful for my undergraduate education. The professors were smart, interesting, and challenging. I don't believe I would have gotten a better education anywhere else - and that is ultimately what college is for.

    (3) BYU was a great springboard for law school. The year I started law school was the first year my school gave full-ride academic scholarships. Two of the eight scholarships available that year went to BYU students. Since then, BYU has almost always had students get those scholarships.

    (4) I also think there is great value to attending BYU to help you work out your own beliefs about Mormonism. Yes, everyone at BYU is Mormon. No, they don't all have the same religious beliefs. BYU is a great place where you can study and experiment with your faith while being surrounded by people who share your same CORE beliefs. I have a great appreciation for my BYU professors and friends who helped me develop my own religious identity. I was constantly challenged at BYU to understand more fully/deeply what it meant to be Mormon. I was confronted with interpretations of doctrine that I wouldn't have had exposure to at any other university. I took religion classes from McConkie and Stephen Robinson (very different). I was taught in my Book of Mormon class that God was omniscient b/c he had actually seen the future; my philosophy professors helped me understand the implications for such a doctrine and questioned its scriptural validity. Can you create these types of experiences in the institute programs? To some extent, but not entirely.

    (5) Did I mention BYU is cheap?
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 6/21/2006 11:57:00 AM  



  • You are right on Todd, and BTW Elder Oaks' talk is again in the Ensign this month regarding dating. Totally off, but just thought it interesting that you mentioned it. Thanks for your insight.
    posted by Anonymous kimi at 6/21/2006 12:39:00 PM  



  • I always thought we called BYU the Lord's University the same way Mormons at the U called the U the School of the Prophets (i.e., Pres Hinckley and several other GAs attended).

    Kinda thought that was a little bit funny?

    So I do laugh when people call it the Lord's U in total seriousness.

    I loved BYU too, for lots of reasons, and laughed at it for lots of reasons, but I knew/know people who didn't. I've heard that the Rex Lee years were not everyone's fave (I was there for the MJBateman era), although admittedly university presidents don't often win popularity contests, so maybe that doesn't mean anything, and it's hearsay anyway.

    And as for $$$...I agree with everyone who said that no undergrad debt is great! Now that I'm done with grad school (U of Washington) and am facing a decade of paying those loans back, I can't even fathom undergrad debt on top of that!
    posted by Blogger Eliza at 6/21/2006 12:58:00 PM  



  • I think, first and foremost, with our children, we need to help them pick what is right for them and their intended profession.

    I went to Ricks for 2 years - never wanted to go to BYU and Berkeley was too close to home. I had a great time and it was an inexpensive education when I was undecided on my major. By the end of my 1st year, I decided on majoring in accounting. When looking to transfer, I looked at University of Utah, Utah State, and BYU, amongst other schools. Why did I pick BYU? I dreaded going there but BYU's accounting program was ranked 3rd in the nation. So why not? I had a good time at BYU - I didn't get married, didn't look for g-lines, didn't wear a CTR ring or date the exec secretary. I did find my testimony, gain a lot of confidence in myself and my skills, meet a lot of life-long friends, and still remained myself, in a sea of khaki. Also, I left BYU with a masters and only 10K in debt and a job before my last year at BYU. Not bad - especially since my parents had 3 kids at BYU and 4 kids at home.

    So would I like my kids to go to BYU? Not necessarily but I will not discourage it if they want to go. I got a great education, all the other stuff was incidental. For my kids, I will stress education, value for the education, and what school has the best program for what they want to do. I will not tell my daughter to go to BYU (if she chooses) to get married as her first objective (yes, there are parents that do that). She will know that education is most important at the moment, just as I was taught by my parents.

    So IMO, how do we effect change? I think as Mormon parents, we change perceptions and expectations on our children. We raise confident children that thirst for an education at the best possible institution. We teach them about diversity within our own backyards and how to be individuals and be proud of it. Perhaps that is happening and we will see the effects at BYU and other universities in the future. But to me, that is how I plan to raise my kids and I feel that was how I was raised...maybe it helped that I grew up in a racial and economically diverse area in No. Cal. But I do know that my Utah Mormon mother definitely went out of her way to teach us to embrace individuality and diversity.
    posted by Blogger Elise at 6/21/2006 01:07:00 PM  



  • Someone asked whether there is anyone out there who truly thinks BYU is the "Lord's University." Uh, yes, I do. It's the Lord's money that pays for it (well, a lot of it). It is run by His prophets with specific goals to enhance His Church and His people. So, yeah, it's His University in a very real way.

    I agree that this statement DOES NOT imply that BYU is the only place to get a high-quality education (both spiritual and secular). Nor does that statement imply that one can gain salvation simply by attending BYU (yes, the temple is the place to gain that kind of knowledge). In fact, because BYU has a limited number of openings and can, therefore, play only a limited role in educating the saints, our leaders have recently been emphasizing the fact that BYU is not the only option for members seeking a quality education.

    But any discussion of BYU must account for the fact that it is a school that is intended to serve the Lord in very specific ways. And any criticism of BYU must consider BYU's unique role in the Lord's kingdom. Again, that is not to say criticisms can't be made. As the many comments to this post evidence, there are many things that BYU could probably do better. But simply treating BYU as any other school will not do.

    So, Michelle, cringe if you must, but I still say BYU is the Lord's University.
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 6/21/2006 04:04:00 PM  



  • I have a comment on the Honor Code. I went to BYU as a grad student, and at first I thought the Honor Code was an infringement on my free agency and ridiculous and so on and so on as others complain.

    Then I noticed that the Honor Code standards were standards that I lived anyway, so what was the big deal? It didn't cramp my style.

    And MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL the Honor Code meant that I didn't have to share an apt with a man. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to have your roommate's boyfriend essentially move in to your apartment? It happened to me at six different apts at my non-BYU majority-Mormon undergrad university (all my roommates were LDS). Yes, I moved to get away from the situations each time, only to find out that another boyfriend was moving into my new apt. The Honor Code keeps your roommates' boyfriends in their own apts.

    I love the Honor Code because it meant that I didn't have to share the fridge and the bathroom with my roommates' boyfriends. I would put up with any sort of inconvenience for the blessing of living with only girls. And to *heck* with my roommates' free agency!
    posted by Blogger Melinda at 6/21/2006 04:49:00 PM  



  • I never wanted to go to BYU, and never looked into attending there. The main reason was because there was this group of people in my home stake that made a big deal about planning to go to BYU to be around "people that have good standards." This group happened the most stuck-up, self-righteous, group of people who each had an "eye single to the glory of marriage." Obviously not everyone at BYU is or was like that, but they were my only exposure to the place so it never held any appeal for me.
    posted by Blogger Starfoxy at 6/21/2006 06:49:00 PM  



  • THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!!! TODD L!!!!!!!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/21/2006 07:09:00 PM  



  • For the person who said you should have the choice to go to a diverse college or not.... The problem isn't that you choose to go to a non-diverse college. The real problem lies in the reasoning as WHY you would chose a non-diverse college such as BYU. If you consciencly choose BYU for that reason, wouldn't that mean you are prejudice against other religions, races, etc.? If that is true, wouldn't that go against the whole "Love One Another" concept. You are actively choosing to not associate with those you claim to love. Strange way of thinking if you ask me.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/21/2006 07:30:00 PM  



  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/21/2006 07:41:00 PM  



  • My feelings for BYU, and encouraging them to go there, are the same as yours Jen. I had three older sisters who attended, both undergrad and grad, and they all hated it. One met her husband there, though none of them ever really dated. We lived overseas when they graduated, and with no in state tuition anywhere, that was the only option they were given. Neither of my parents went to BYU.

    When I was a senior (having grown up being the ONLY mormon most of my life) I lived in an area with TONS of mormons (not utah), and it was a status symbol to go to BYU, because it was very difficult to get in, and because you had to be "worthy". Most of my friends criticized me for not wanting to go there, saying I didn't have a testimony of the church.

    THe weird thing is, I was going to go to BYU Hawaii. Why is that less "the Lords" then BYU PRovo?? Anyway, I did go to BYUH for 4 wonderful years. It was the MOST diverse place I have ever been in my life. Ever. Its like being in a different country. And Im not just referring to skin color. I attended other universities after I left there, and trust me...BYUH was MUCH more challenging academically. It was tough. Not to mention, I had the experience of living in Hawaii, which will change you forever.

    THere is plenty to complain about at BYUH trust me. The corrupt security to begin with. Dont even get me started. But, overall, it rocked. Living with and getting to know all the UTah kids was the hardest for me...talk about cultural clash.

    But, I learned as much from my cheeleader roomate from Bountiful as I did from my 27 year old Samoan roomate who grew up in a house with mud walls. Neither of them were like me, and Im better from having met them.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/21/2006 08:09:00 PM  



  • for anon who thinks choosing BYU somehow makes you racist:

    NOT choosing BYU makes you a Mormon hater, didn't you know? Well, at least with your logic it does...
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/22/2006 05:40:00 AM  



  • Todd L. --
    Thank you so much. You articulate so well what I cannot. I'm glad I know you!!
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 6/22/2006 05:41:00 AM  



  • Jen, at least now you know what you'll be up against when you verbalize all your negative feelings about BYU.....I think I'd appreciate knowing if I were you. Fun post!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/22/2006 08:29:00 AM  



  • I agree with Todd L. on BYU being the Lord's University. With all its flaws, I consider it such.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 6/22/2006 08:47:00 AM  



  • Ok, Todd, so I agree with your points on why BYU can be considered the Lord's university.

    What jumps out at me more, though, with this title is the idea of a hierarchy in universities. "Are you going to the Lord's university or to some other one?" It implies to me that BYU is superior to other potential universities, and that students who can't attend will lose something very valuable and irreplacable. For, how can "not the Lord's" be able to match up? It connotes a bit of elitism to me, and with so many students not able to go to BYU, I don't like it. I think that the outcomes and effects of a BYU experience can be had other places as well.

    And another commenter made a good point: are BYU-I and BYU-H also the "Lord's universities"? What differences in mission are there, if any, between the three church owned universities?
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 6/22/2006 09:56:00 AM  



  • I attended Ricks BYU and the U of Arizona. There were things I really liked and disliked about each school. I'm glad I experienced each. I think many people have unrealistic expectations of what BYU or BYUI should be like and then they end of being disappointed.
    Ricks was a very friendly place BYU was much less so although there were good folks there. It was just so easy to get lost in a crowd in Provo with all the other beautiful and talented people.
    BYU's campus activities were much less accesible than they were at Ricks. BYU could do much better job in getting students involed in concerts, plays and other social activities. From my personal experience BYU's social life was not that great. I dated little and I knew other beautiful and talented women that dated even less. I'm not sure why this was so. Maybe that is what happens when a lot of LDS young single adults are in one place. My social life improved drasticly when I went to Arizona.
    However, after I left the Y I came to appreciate it more in many ways. I never realized how nice it was not to have to listen to so much bad language from other students. I also found out that your typical BYU student is very intellegent and hard working compared to many other students at other institutions.
    Only when I went to Arizona did I realize I had been missing out at BYU like Mr. Condom passing out devises during National Condom Week, National Coming Out Week and students showing me (a grad student instructor) pictures of X-rated Halloween costumes.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/22/2006 10:45:00 AM  



  • I totally agree with this post ... not neccessarily with the opinions about BYU - I didn't go there so I can't really say one way or another, but about the attitude that EVERYONE should go to BYU or another Church school or (unfortunately, in my opinion) UVSC if that is what the community college is called.

    I went to high school the last 2 years in Texas where there were many members of the church. Everyone had an opinion about where I should go to college - namely, BYU. And I applied there, as well as three universities in Texas and Northeastern University in Boston. I got scholarships from all, but decided to attend Northeastern University on a full ride scholarship for room and board. I loved Boston, I wanted to go the big city, I felt like BYU was very large and isolating when I visited and not a good fit for me.

    People where scandalized when they found out. They said I would never get married and would fall away from the church (wrong on both counts). They gave me a hard time and still give me a hard time when I go home to visit and I graduated a couple years ago. They were also very upset that I gave up a scholarship from BYU. They said that I was "stealing" the money away from others because I didn't go there. However, I called BYU and told them i wasn't attending and they could give the money to someone else - but I guess it doesn't work that way at BYU.

    And for me, in terms of my scholarships, attending Northeastern was cheaper than BYU.

    So, everyone can say what they will about BYU, but when an entire ward and community pressures young adults to go too a school that is wrong for them, even when they have made a different choice, I think they have problems.

    And, by the way, both of my parents are BYU alums and thoroughly enjoyed their experiences, but neither encouraged me or my siblings to try exclusively for church schools and are happy with our decisions.
    posted by Blogger Amanda at 6/22/2006 11:04:00 AM  



  • Michelle, I think you raise some very interesting points. A few of my thoughts:

    1) "are BYU-I and BYU-H also the 'Lord's universities'"

    I would say yes for the same reasons as BYU-Provo. Do they serve different functions? Probably, I haven't given it much thought.

    2) I think its a little funny that within the Mormon community there would be a kind of "elitism" in going to BYU. I don't necessarily disagree with you though.

    Still, I suspect that most of those who complain so vigorously about BYU could have had options to go to much more "elite" universities. So, who is BYU's perceived elitism harming? I am not really concerned with someone who attended (or could have attended) Harvard or Stanford being put down by an "elitist" BYU grad. The people who are probably most negatively effected by the sort of elitism you describe are those who value the very Mormonness of BYU but are unable to get admitted for academic reasons. And you are right that we need to ensure that such youth do not feel any less "Mormon" or less worthy because they were unable to attend BYU. (Can you tell I am thinking out loud now).

    But if that is the goal, then criticizing BYU for its oddities seems an extremely bad means. Are we supposed to make everyone who attended BYU feel worse about their BYU experience so that others who don't attend BYU don't feel left out? Should we attempt to destroy the elitist perception by arguing that BYU is actually a terrible place to study and grow up (as many on this blog have done)? In fact, I think this is what many who criticize BYU are trying to accomplish, which is why you see so much defensiveness coming from those who (like me) enjoyed their BYU experience. This make-ourselves-feel-better-by-making-others-feel-worse attitude is simply the wrong approach. In addition to being un-Christian, it is counterproductive if I am right in believing that those who feel left out of BYU actually value the things that are being criticized here (and I think I am right).

    Which leads to my point #3:

    3) "I think that the outcomes and effects of a BYU experience can be had other places as well."

    Of course you are right in the most general sense - if by "outcomes and effects of a BYU experience" you mean strengthening of testimony and growth in secular and spiritual knowledge. But discussing at this level of generality totally discounts the uniquness of the BYU experience, which experience I think is incredibly valuable. I simply can't imagine another place where I could have discussed in depth with my professors how Nietzsche, Kant, or Kierkegaard influenced my beliefs about Mormonism. I think the same can be said of other fields of study. So in that sense, I don't think its true that the effect of the BYU experience can be had everywhere.

    Can we acknowledge that BYU has unique and valuable experiences that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere without resorting to the kind of elitism you fear?

    BTW - Jen, I think this has been an incredibly fun post.
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 6/22/2006 12:20:00 PM  



  • Now, I know that this topic has probably been exhausted BUT I thought that I could bring in a different point-of-view to the subject since I am 19 years old and a current BYU-Idaho student. I know many of you may think that BYU-Idaho is the "lesser school" (I never thought I would go there either), but in the end they are pretty much identical.
    Anyways, I guess the one thing I want to stress to all of you former BYU students, whether you enjoyed your time there or not, is that times have changed and so has the BYU Mormon culture. I’m not saying you guys are old but just remember that BYU is now filled with students who are hooked up to ipods, chatting in LDS chat rooms, and texting “this class is boring” messages to other students in the same classroom.

    1. DIVERSITY: Many of you may be unaware of the great racial diversity church schools are beginning to see due to the creation of the Perpetual Education Fund, which was announced in 2001. I met several students, some non-members, from India, Korea, Albania, Spain, France, and Nigeria who were able to attend BYU-I because of that program. Even though BYU and BYU-I are still predominately white, I completely agree with my Uncle Todd on the ideological diversity thing. I had five roommates, two from the west coast, two from the south, and one from France. That was enough diversity for me right there. Oh, and before I forget.....three of my six professors were women.

    2. ACADEMIC FREEDOM: I never once felt restrained in my school work and believe me, none of my professors felt retrained either. One of my friends actually wrote an essay about how she thought women should have the priesthood. It was for an English class and she actually got a decent grade on the paper.

    3. CLOUDED SPIRITUALITY: I never wore my CTR ring BYU-I. What’s a Franklin planner? Where can I get my named engraved on my scriptures? What’s dating? Never heard of “g-lines.” Can’t think of who the executive secretary was in my singles ward. I rest my case. Things are different now. BYU student’s lives now revolve around CTR rubber bracelets, palm pilots, online scriptures (several kids in my BOM class used their laptops instead of scriptures in class), “hanging out” (as Uncle Todd said), and now the EQP is the top calling to have as a student. Yes, you can still find those fake, stereotypical Mormons but I was surprised at all the very down-to-earth people I met at school.

    4. GUILT: I never heard a “guilt talk” at devotional. I do remember President Clarke saying something like, as students, we did not have a right to be there but that it was a privilege to be at a church school that was funded by honest tithe payers.

    5. LACK OF INDEPENDENCE: I never had a problem with the Honor Code because I pretty much already lived it before I went to school. The Honor Code didn’t take away my agency. I defiantly gained way more independence experiencing life away from home than living at home with less rules. ( I loved your story Uncle Todd!)

    6. SOCIAL SCENE: The few dating maniacs at BYU-I flock together and date each other, the anti-daters stay in their rooms and prepare for their missions, and the rest of us who don’t know what we want just “hang out.”

    7. RELIGION CLASS: It’s what you make of it.

    BYU is not for everyone but to all you parents, especially Jen, don’t make the decision for your kids. I didn’t think a church school was for me but after much prayer and talking to family and friends (Aunt Carrie helped me out a lot) I decided, not my parents, to go to BYU-Idaho. Keep in mind that the age of Mormon casseroles, barefoot women, and Dear John letters is nearing its end. I was shocked to find that there were many other young women at BYU-I, like me, who were there to get an education. Sorry I took so much space. I’m a big fan of this blog and appreciate everyone’s honest remarks.
    posted by Anonymous Mia at 6/22/2006 08:54:00 PM  



  • Mia said:
    What’s a Franklin planner?

    Oh, ouch. And don't try to sugar coat it--we ARE old. The things you are describing--Ipods, chatrooms, laptops, etc, didn't even exist when I started BU. Most of us didn't even have a computer--we just used the lab. My roommate had an electric typewriter--holy cow, are we ANCIENT or what?

    Thanks for your comments--sounds like a lot has changed, and all for the better.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 6/22/2006 09:52:00 PM  



  • I did my undergrad and graduate work at BYU, and I can easily understand your complaints, Jen. I think I can relate to most of them, too, but I still managed to really enjoy my time there and consider it a positive experience overall. BYU is made up of a lot of colleges, and each of the colleges has their own "flavor". Being in the biological sciences, I was very pleased with the faculty, the general level of academic freedom (we never got hushed up about evolution, despite what your average member of the church thinks--the church is NOT anti-evolution!), and our college was rather diverse--we had a number of S. & C. American students, mostly non-LDS. And the faculty in that department are excellent.

    I think you just have to find your niche. My husband feels a lot like you about his BYU experience, but once he found his niche (also in the biological sciences) he loved it. He just couldn't leave south campus! ;-)

    And I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion that BYU is not for everyone. But I do believe it can be a great experience for a lot of people if they are willing to put in the effort to find where they fit.

    (I haven't made it through all the comments, so I apologize if I'm obviously redundant.)
    posted by Blogger mindy at 6/23/2006 01:07:00 PM  



  • I should have known better than to tangle with Todd...

    And even though this thread is just about dead, a couple more thoughts in response.

    First, I agree that critizing BYU to make those not included in the BYU experience feel better would be inappropriate and counterproductive. (I don’t think I’ve done this, and maybe you are speaking generally here.) However, I don't necessarily agree that this is the reason people (above, for example) are critical of BYU. I don't get that sense. Rather, I see them as talking more about their personal experiences, as well as trying to place BYU with the larger framework of higher education in general. (ie, Diversity is a goal of many institutions of higher education. How does BYU match up?)

    And as to your point three. I think that the ability to mesh secular and sacred studies, as you describe yourself having, varies widely by department and by individual. I studied physics as an undergrad, and don't remember one single thing brought up by a prof that shed the light of the gospel on Maxwell's, Bohr's, or even Einstein's ideas. Andy had a similar experience in the computer science dept. I can see though that it could be different in other fields of study. For me, the main difference in my byu experience compared to another university was taking religion courses, which I do think can be imitated (to some extent) at institutes.

    The other main difference, of course, is attending a university with the vast majority of students sharing my religious beliefs, and we can discuss what sorts of outcomes that may engender.

    To reduce disparities between students (at BYU and between BYU and non-BYU students), then, I don’t think that criticizing byu only to complain is helpful. But, I think a healthy discussion about the aims of BYU (what they are, what they should be) and how they are distributed among students is important. I also think that strengthening and growing the institute program for non-BYU students is also important to make some of the benefits of a BYU education more widely available.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 6/24/2006 12:31:00 PM  



  • In response to #2 about academic freedom...I read the article in the Salt Lake Tribune that you linked. I totally agree with BYU's decision to fire the professor for disagreeing openly with the FIRST PRESIDENCY on this issue. If our tithing money (which so many of you commented on) is going to this institution I would prefer that the professors are teaching what the Brethren teach and not completely going against it. If this is considered not having "academic freedom" then so be it.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/24/2006 06:22:00 PM  



  • I leave for a week and I miss out on all sorts of fun conversation. Jen, I totally understand where you are coming from and had to chuckle at some of your observations. I am glad you were honest with your feelings even though they might not have been popular with some of the readers.

    Even though I had a good experience at BYU, I still wish I had felt like there were other options when I was making the choice. I think for my family though, money was a big factor. Sending 8 kids to college isn't cheap.

    I'm glad my niece, Mia, chimed in. I did talk to her a lot before she made her college decision. I didn't want to do a hard sell on BYU, but I also didn't want her to not go there for misguided reasons or have to go there with a bad attitude.

    When my kids come of age, I hope they will feel like there is a choice when it comes to higher education. And if there isn't - because of economic or fatherly situations (see comments from dh Todd L), I hope I can be straightforward and honest when speaking of BYU in all it's glory and quirkiness. It was presented to me as this utopia and it was far from it. I did okay there but I don't think it's for everyone.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/25/2006 05:43:00 PM  



  • I did not go to BYU. It was just as cheap for me to have in state tuition at USU. I did not want to sign an honor code. It is fine that BYU has it, but I personally would have rebelled against it. I also did not want to be required to go to religion classes. I wanted to take them because I liked them. Of course, diversity in Utah lacks at all schools, compared to other states. I moved out of Utah, and spent 3 years in NYC. Best three years of my life. It was great, in my mind, to be different. I loved going to parties where everyone else was drinking, and saying no. I got nothing but respect. The people that I worked with were often very impressed with my values and choices. I got more pressure from my LDS friends in high school and college than from any of my non-lds friends in NYC. I gained a testimony by learning that I was willing to live the standards of the church even if no one else was. And, because of the small amount of membership, I had the difficult yet wonderful opportunity of being a Relief Society President of a diverse Family ward in Brooklyn when I was only 25. Family circumstances have now brought me and my husband (who I met in NY in the family ward, and he is from the Philippines, having gone to college there) back to Utah, and I must say I miss every thing about the church in New York, and my associations with non-lds. I had many people tell me that not going to BYU and leaving Utah single would be my own personal downfall. BYU may be right for some, but it is not right for others, and had I been forced to go there, my experience would also have been bad.
    posted by Blogger Maren at 6/26/2006 09:42:00 AM  



  • This weeks postsecret (postsecret.blogspot.com),
    9th postcard down I think,
    thought it might be relevant...or at least interesting
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 6/27/2006 11:02:00 PM  



  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    posted by Blogger Mabel Maybe at 10/21/2006 11:52:00 PM  



  • I am a BYU student. I am from a very conservative and traditional family and extended family. I have grown up in Utah and with Mormon culture. It was planted in my mind at an early age that BYU was the only school for me. I came here. I served a mission but came home early. I am bipolar. Apparently. So now I am at BYU and both happy and unhappy. But I think I could be happier at the U and am probably going to transfer. BYU is the culmination of Utah Mormon Culture and it is condensed, rich, and overwhelming. I don't think by stuffing us all in a shelter we are adequately prepared for an outside world, I doubt most students here, form Utah, even know ther eis one. I hate hearing people say that BYU is as real as anywhere because that's ridiculous. I have lived in Utah and I have lived in Brasil, and traveled a lot. Provo is a one of a kind place. Personally it drives me insane.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 1/17/2007 11:13:00 PM  



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