On Monday, a story came out of controversy surround a testing center at Brigham Young University in Idaho, which forbade students to wear skinny jeans into a testing environment. A posted flier echoed what a testing center administrator told a student as she prepared to take a test;
“If your pants are tight enough for us to see the shape of your leg, your pants are too tight.”
The posting goes on to explain that shirts are too tight, if the shape of a belly button is visible. BYU in Provo, Utah has no specific limitations regarding skinny jeans, or tightness of clothing. The flier, again:
“If you don’t understand the Dress and Grooming standards, we invite you to go to the Lord ‘and ask in faith, nothing wavering’ for approval of the clothing you wear. The Spirit will tell you whether what you are wearing is appropriate or not.”
Clearly, Brigham Young University has religious priority in presenting this sort of requirement (to be precise, BYU itself hasn’t imposed this; only the testing center has). But it does convey a wider message of a few things: they wish to uphold a certain standard of modesty, perhaps they want to remove any possibly “distractions,” especially in a testing environment, or they value controlling the student body to maintain some sort of dress-code-like consistency.
Modesty and appropriateness are surely to be acknowledged and upheld, but are they going too far in overtly branding it as a spiritual issue only? Seeking God’s direction in decisions big and small is a clear biblical mandate and a joy for a disciple of Jesus. Why wouldn’t someone organizing her life around Christ want to follow and obey him?
My concern is this: there must be standards and action based upon personal conviction and relationship with God. When institutions impose on a personal conscience issue, does it promote blind obedience, heartless rule-keeping? My legalism-o-meter is going off a bit here.
This reminds me of my experience in a Christian college (although not a Mormon institution, such as BYU), wherein we were required to sign a “Lifestyle Statement” to affirm that during our collegiate tenure, we would neglect use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs, promise to dress modestly and use discretion when choosing entertainment options, and of course, not partake in any “dancing” other than wholesome, formal wedding reception dances. While I appreciate the “safe place” mentality and not providing offense to other well-meaning Christian students, I had personal disagreement with their imposition of these convictions on ALL students. This leaves out the Christian’s individual choices based on the conscience issues which Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and elsewhere. What does it say about the institution’s trust of students and their decisions as God’s Spirit personally leads and works in them? Paul reminds us to love each other, deal with each other in grace, because we’re all rough around the edges. Although, in modeling a life after Jesus, we are called to holiness (which goes far deeper than a dress code or outward actions).
For further consideration, BYU’s mission statement:
- Build testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its principle.
- Provide a quality education for students of diverse interests and abilities.
- Prepare students for lifelong learning, for employment, and for their roles as citizens and parents.
- Maintain a wholesome academic, cultural, social and spiritual environment.
By allowing the testing center at BYU Idaho to impose this ban on skinny jeans, doesn’t it short-circuit the opportunity for students to “prepare students for lifelong learning…and their roles as citizens and parents”? Doesn’t it deny students the chance to make their own actions based on their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus and, for themselves, “living its principle”?
Would you ban skinny jeans?