On the Honor Code

Let me state my priors on the honor code. I think it’s an important set of rules that really sets BYU apart from most other top universities. Yet simultaneously I worry the honor code office has been poorly run for decades. At least it sure seems that way from many reports I’ve heard over the years since I attended. While I think discussion of the honor code office and reforms is important, I think that far too many have muddled the difference between the rules of the honor code and the enforcement tactics of the honor code office.

The honor code itself has frequently been revised. When I was at BYU they made significant changes to the dress code. So the idea that the honor code itself is sacrosanct seems silly. That doesn’t mean we should get rid of all the rules. It does mean that students may have a point that there at least ought be a debate about elements such as the no beard rule.

For many people the strength of BYU is two fold. First off it’s a location where there’s an actual space to discuss our faith in a critical fashion where critics and skeptics don’t form the baseline. There’s not a presumption of secularism and a distrust of religion such as you find at many and perhaps most major universities. That freedom is invigorating especially for many who come to BYU from outside the “Mormon Corridor” in the west. That said I know that there have been many critics of this space even from within BYU faculty. I personally hope it always remains a place where academics and religion can merge. To me if there has been a failure it has been in not merging the two enough — not, as some maintain, too much merging.

BYU’s second strength is providing a place where one has at least a reasonably good chance of living in an apartment where one can have the spirit and avoid the stresses of finding apartments in other cities. I’ve had my share of apartments both at BYU and elsewhere. BYU’s rules don’t guarantee a good experience and you don’t always have bad experiences elsewhere. However BYU’s rules make it much more likely you’ll have a good apartment situation even if they aren’t perfect. Contrary to some, I think there’s a huge difference between a roommate who doesn’t do their cleaning versus one who watches pornography openly, has sex is the room and so forth. Yes roommate conflicts happen to everyone. No they aren’t all the same spiritually. And yes, luck of the draw roommates outside of BYU are a bit more risky.

What the BYU honor code in theory ought be providing is that space for a safe and spiritual environment both on campus but also in ones apartment. It should be helping remove sexual predators from the campus area. It should also be helping students live the gospel and repent if they falter.

The reality unfortunately is that parents sometimes send kids who don’t want to go to a religious school like BYU. While ideally Bishops in their home wards should help prevent this, it still happens. The idea is that they’d be active good members if the patents only got them out of their current environment and into an active Church environment. Many of those kids while at BYU have no intention of following the rules. Sometimes they act out in a way because they’re angry at BYU and the rules because of what their parents are pressuring them to do. Some simply decide they don’t want to live the rules once they’re away from their parents. While I can appreciate the conflict there, especially given the practical issues of transferring to an other school, I don’t think that justifies in the least abandoning the honor code. There’s simply a huge difference between people who might make a mistake and those who show no desire to live the rules.

I transferred to BYU from an university in Canada. I’m all too aware of credits that don’t transfer, differing requirements, all of which added at least a year to my college length compared to friends. The reality is though that transferring schools just isn’t the intrinsic evil some make it out. Saying that we should abandon the honor code because people fear having to transfer simply makes no sense. People have a choice. If they decide transferring isn’t worth the difficulty then live the rules. If the rules are too hard then accept the extra year of school transferring will entail. University students are adults. Further they’re among the most educated of adults. Figuring this out shouldn’t be hard even if changing ones plans can be scary.

While the honor code is a good thing it sometimes seems like the honor code office can be anything but. There are many stories of what seems like horrendous decisions by the office. Even if the majority of those tales are exaggerated or are leaving out crucial facts, the reality is that almost no one is saying the honor code office is focused on helping students repent and change. As critics have argued, the effect is not just damage to student careers but often unnecessary driving people from the church. Whatever changes happen at the honor code office, more love, more mentoring, and more appeals and oversight seem needed.

Many people have frustrations with the honor code office. Most of the press has been focused on false charges, sometimes due to retribution from disgruntled roommates or ex-girlfriends or boyfriends. There certainly ought be consequences to false charges. Second there have been charges that the office is unwilling to work with people who have fallen. While I’m sympathetic to the difference between continued breaking of the law of chastity over time versus a few cases of failure, it does seem like the honor code office should work with people over time much like a Bishop does. The goal should be to get people to live the gospel and turn to Christ. It should not be punishment as retribution. Punishment, when it is metted out, should be to provide a safe place for others to live the gospel. We also have to recognize the many people who want to attend BYU but can’t because of enrollment caps. It’s unfair to those people to keep people here who have no intention of following the rules.

I’d add in an additional problem I’ve seen with the honor code which I’ve not seen reported. People report problems, particularly worries about individuals who are a threat to others safety, yet it seems like no serious investigation takes place. The reality is that there are sexual assaults at BYU. In at least some cases I know people were reported for honor code violations yet nothing was done. This can be extremely frustrating because it seems like the honor code office gets focused on trivialities to the exclusion of real dangers. The focus should always be having a spiritual experience at BYU. I can imagine no great threat to that than the presence of predators.

It’s easy to criticize, but what are the solutions?

First off looking at schools with honor codes and enforcement, several such as West Point, have a trial with other students deciding the case. This can avoid issues of generation gap as well as providing several voices in deciding issues. Contra some, if there is a worry I think it would be too much punishment with such cases. I think some assume students would be overly lenient. I rather doubt that would be the case.

Second, for single infractions, the office should work with students to try and get them to repent and change. How much of that is going on now I’m just not in a position to say. Some of the anonymous reports in the media suggest it’s not, but it’s hard to know how many of those reports are exaggerated or at least more complicated. If even a few of them are accurate though it suggests a problem with enforcement. There’s simply a big difference between someone who screws up versus someone who is actually damaging other people’s education, spirituality or even safety.

Third, I think there should be an appeals process with an emphasis on evidence rather than the opinions of people at the honor code office. People should be able to dispute reports and know about reports. Anonymity is a tricky issue because of the safety of those reporting. It’s not hard to imagine a roommate reporting an other roommate and facing violent retribution for the report. However the ability to make anonymous reports with no fear of consequences also leads to some weaponizing the honors code office for revenge.

Finally, I think we should be careful to not return to the era of the 90’s when there seemed a double standard between athletes and regular students. The stories from the Lavell era of football are troubling even if some of those opposing the current system are well known former players. At the same time, I think we should also be aware of the problem of opiate addiction among athletes. While administration of painkillers is more closely monitored now, I’ve known enough athletes who became addicted to pain killers to recognize the problem both at BYU and at other universities. Again the focus should be on healing and repentance not retributive punishment. But neither can BYU allow double standards.

* Jonathan put up a post yesterday on the same topic. We have somewhat different takes and thought it would be interesting to put up both.

24 comments for “On the Honor Code

  1. I commented on the post yesterday and I have to say that my thoughts line up much closer to your thinking. No disrespects to Jonathan. Glad that more than one view can be discussed on the site.

  2. Repentance for sins is between the individual, God, and the bishop when necessary. A yearly endorsement from the bishop should be sufficient, with an appeals process when bishops withhold their endorsement of someone who appears not to belong at a BYU. Let campus officials focus on reports of dangerous conduct, academic misconduct, and complaints of housing regulation violations (which should result in extremis in eviction, not expulsion). Involving people without priesthood authority in the repentance process will never work because it is not the pattern God has established. Perhaps it is difficult for student ward bishops to know everyone in their flock very well, but they certainly know more than the bureaucrats in the ASB.

  3. “Cougars,” while repentance is ultimately between the individual and God, the question of change is very much a question for those involved with an individual. A significant other who is unwilling to stop berating or verbally abusing someone is probably doomed to a change in the relationship, for instance. So to say that sins are purely individual seems incorrect. Our sins affect others and if a person refuses to stop sins that affect others then a change in that relationship is frequently necessary.

  4. Sure, Clark. Does that somehow mean to you that the bureaucrats in the honor code office qualify as significant others? If so, they play the role of the abusive boyfriend in the analogy, as any number of people who have been involved in that relationship can attest.

  5. The problem is, that all the roommates who want a spiritual space, all the people who want to come to BYU and are willing to keep the rules, and in some cases those who suffer because of these peoples choices suffer as well. If the honor code office isn’t working well, then the issue should be better procedures, better oversight, and better staff. Not getting rid of the idea of enforcement. You need some sort of mediation. It’s interesting that criticizing is easy, while finding solutions that work isn’t. The “easy” choice is to just get rid of the honor code office but it’s fairly easy to see where that would lead. If reform is wanted, then clear arguments for reform are necessary.

  6. When I was at BYU, there were some people I knew who openly admitted to me (thinking I was “one of them” being an English major who read The Student Review on occasion) that they were there to work from the inside on helping bring down the honor code. They felt it was their solemn duty to reform the church and BYU to be less conservative/orthodox in religious matters, and the honor code was often target #1.

    After reading the book “Wayward Saints”, I realized that basically the Godbeites are still with us (the Godbeites had a policy of hiding their true beliefs from anyone except each other and to outwardly present as a believing member of the church while working to bring about radical change from the inside).

  7. Ivan, I think that’s what many — with perhaps some justification — fear in the current protests. It’s become rather well known for instance that the woman in the SL Trib story on the protest was not just not a BYU student but not even Mormon. Further prior to the protest she was posting on exMormon reddit sites and that site was encouraging people to go. It’s hard not to be suspicious of some of the honor code criticisms given that reality. (I’m not saying they are the majority, but it does tend to undermine portrayals of it as a popular upswell at BYU) As I mentioned there’s also clearly some people who dislike BYU being a Church school with religious overtones. In our secular culture but most significantly in the assumptions of many within academia, religious is fundamentally at odds with academics. Further, as is fairly well known, a certain type of politics is often mixed with parts of academia which sees most of religion as not just incompatible with academics but fundamentally an immoral endeavor. Particularly religions whose norms are at odds with the norms of people within the academy.

    So I definitely agree there’s reasons to be suspicious of criticisms of the honor code. That said, I think we should separate the arguments from the aims of those making them. As I said, I think there have been legitimate concerns. The very lack of transparency of the honor code office ironically makes it unable to refute the stories that have built up around the honor code office over the decades.

    BTW – I’d second the praise for Wayward Saints. I think it’s one of the must reads in Mormon history. I wish it were available as a Kindle version. And I fully agree that in many ways we’re seeing events that parallel that history in contemporary Mormonism.

  8. Clark, are you referring to Sidney Draughton, the woman who news reports identify as a BYU alumna who started an Instagram account and flew in from New York to protest? Among whom is it well known that she is not a BYU alumna? Or are you referring to someone else?

  9. So…having a spiritual environment means casting sinners out? Yes, I get the issue with problem roommates—I had them and probably had my moments of being one—but Christ still dined with sinners and publicans. And the people we’re talking about are by and large struggling LDS kids, not wolves at the gate. And are you ready do declare that the violations the honor code office deals with are categorically worse and more offensive to the spirit than the blistering pride, racism, and misogyny that dwells in the hearts of so many BYU students? That the young man who has sex with his girlfriend is worse than the one who looks on her to lust after her? Seems like Jesus said something about that… You seem to think that the Spirit is some kind of shrinking violet.

    We have a system for dealing with sins. It’s called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its officers who deal with repentance are called bishops. Every student has one assigned already. Violations of academic rules and housing codes? Sure, refer it to an office on campus. Violations of commandments? Not a job for bureaucrats. Policing beards, hair, and shorts length? Grow the heck up.

    And don’t kid yourself that problems with that one protest mean that discontent about the honor code/office is not widespread among the student body and the faculty.

    But I wrote for Student Review, so you can ignore what I think.

  10. Wow thanks Ivan. Although I’m not quite to the stage of buying Kindle versions of existing books since I’m so far behind in my Kindle reading stack. But that would be one of the first I’d do that for.

    Cougars, again I think roommates and effect are the big issues. If you read the OP you’ll note that I advocated working with students. It’s the students that refuse to comport with the rules that I think are the issue. Your comments seem to suggest that there shouldn’t be rules for that. I’d just humbling disagree both for some of the reasons Jonathan outlined and the ones I did.

    As for the spirit, the relation of the spirit to environment is probably worth its whole post. I’d just say that while one can go into bad environments in the spirit if one is following the spirit, one also needs a home port where one can relax and be empowered. There’s a big difference between being in that sort environment non-stop and being in there occasionally. Further I do think the spirit is affected by such environments as are individuals ability to feel and recognize the spirit. That’s not the spirit being a shrinking violet.

    The dining with publicans misses the issue I think. I’d hope that BYU students don’t only encounter BYU students but do social work in the community like I did while at BYU and in the years thereafter. Your comments suggest a false dichotomy I think. It’s not like in the community there isn’t an other even larger college that those who don’t want to follow the honor code couldn’t attend.

    PS – while I never wrote for the Student Review I was in the same circles and worked on that journal they put out for a while that had the same figures working on. And of course not everyone at the Student Review were socially or politically liberal. At least when I was there. The whole Bill Orton – Karl Snow battle was affected in no small part by a conservative writer, Eric Schulzke, at Student Review who noted issues with Snow. While I know there’s a perception that the whole Student Review crowd was the BCC of the pre-internet era I think it a bit more complicated. Although undoubtedly my memories of the era are distorted by age – sadly the archives aren’t online.

  11. Clark, BYU is not a top university. Middle of pack, maybe. The Church has a very educated membership, but many of the top academics won’t consider working at BYU. The reasons are numerous: lack of real academic freedom, poor salaries, tattle-tale environment, mixing of religion and education (frequently wrapped with an ultraconservative political spin), non-academic leadership, the honor code, emphasis on marriage, discrimination against the LBGTQ+ community, lack of female leadership, etc. So BYU problems are much bigger than just the honor code. There is a real misunderstanding of the aims of higher education.

    Jonathan seems to think the function of BYU is to provide indoctrination so our venerable children remain faithful to the cause. I would argue, that the goal of education is to provide knowledge and even more important: critical thinking. If a student loses faith, that is not a reason to kick them out, or to rat on them, or to ostracize them. They should remain in full fellowship with students and faculty. No university organization should stand guard on a student’s faith or faith crisis. I would hope that BYU bishops are understanding and empathetic shepherds of theirs flock.

    It took BYU at least 6 months to try and straighten out their ridiculous rape policy (punish the victim). The administration will only change when there is enough pressure. And then they will likely muck it up.

  12. Cougars, I was a section editor for the Student Review, so I guess that means you have to believe everything I say.

    It’s probably a mistake to think of honor code proceedings as being about repentance and forgiveness, just like a bishop who’s also a police officer still cites and arrests people who he forgives, or a bishop who’s a banker still has to make sure outstanding loans get repaid. You can dine with a publican and still decide he’s not a good fit for the university. Also, your message is a bit muddled; you say that BYU students’ hearts are filled with racism and misogyny, and also with discontent about the honor code. I’m highly skeptical that you know other peoples’ hearts that well. I’ve spent some time talking to BYU students and faculty members, and the honor code was not exactly the first issue on their list.

    Roger, you should be able to tell the difference between a “dual academic/religious mission” and “indoctrination.” You are certainly welcome to believe what you want about the aims of higher education, but there is no agreement in the U.S. about what these are or should be. Should a university be a free market of ideas that are subject to critical inquiry? If the ideas or critiques might harm at-risk or marginalized students, then many people would disagree. Should a university develop the whole person, train future scholars, or prepare students for the workforce? Every institution is different, and that’s actually a good thing. It makes no sense to argue that BYU’s mission must conform to some external ideal when every other university defines its mission differently.

    It’s also silly to say that BYU isn’t a top school; the top-ranked schools are all research-focused universities with extensive graduate programs and undergraduate student bodies below 10,000. Compared to universities of similar size and focus, BYU does quite well, comparable to a decent Big 10 school or University of California campus. It’s as nonsensical saying the University of Minnesota, Texas A&M, or the University of Maryland (all similarly ranked) are not top schools; they’re all eminently respectable places to work or earn a degree. Whether you hate or love BYU, it’s simply untrue that it’s a bad university. Many universities would love to be in its position.

  13. Roger, BYU has several top ten programs particularly its MBA and Accounting. I think for a general undergraduate program you’re right that it’s usually ranked around 60-70. It’s certainly no MIT, but I don’t think anyone thought that. But of the 300 colleges US News ranks it’s at 66 which puts it around the top 20%. By way of contrast the University of Utah is ranked 119.

    I think though you definitely present the position I mentioned in the OP. And yes, I just disagree with you on what BYU should be. And yes, what higher education should be too. But heaven knows there are many even at BYU who agree with you.

    John, her name was Zoe Calcote . In the aftermath of the protest many people on Twitter posted her comments on the exmormon subreddit. I thought it ironic that the student who was in all the photos of students protesting in major media wasn’t Mormon or a student. This is a knock on the media, btw, not the protest. Although were I a protest leader for effect I’d want to make sure people were unambiguously students as now there are reasons to doubt how many were. Especially when the protest was hyped on exmormon reddit prior to the protest. Again to reemphasize this says nothing about those students who were there protesting.

  14. Jonathan, I never said the BYU was a bad school. I said it is a mediocre university. And that it will be difficult to attract top-flight academic Mormon and non-Mormon talent without making changes. If they don’t want to make those chianges, then it will never be anything but mediocre. If that’s what the Church and university aspire to, that’s fine. Just don’t claim to be a top-flight university.

    Universities aren’t designed to protect “at-risk and marginalized students.” They are made to assist students in moving forward and being productive in the real world. Students are adults. They are old enough to serve in the armed forces. BYU’s student body is probably older than average (because of missions). Being overly protective is counterproductive. Let religious leaders and counselors assist at-risk students. Not the honor code enforcers. If a student is having a faith crisis it none of the university’s enforcers business.

    And then there is the religion department(s). They continue to embarrass the Church. I went to BYU 50 years ago. The religion department then was a joke. It was heavily involved with silly right-wind conservative politics. My BoM teacher compared social security to the gadianton robbers. I did enjoy and learned a lot from one religion teacher: Burt Horsley. I really enjoyed his classes and he was an asset to the department. Today I see instructors like McConkie, Bott, Mageby, and Peterson, and wonder if things have improved. The religion department needs to move off campus, and religion classes shouldn’t be manditory. That way instructors would need to improve the courses. And not have a captive audience. Let’s have religion classes in ethics and dealing with real-world problems in a Christ-like manner, and less about politics and homemade doctrine.

  15. Roger, would you call Clemson, Texas A&M, and the University of Minnesota mediocre universities? It’s an odd definition of mediocre that would apply to a school in the top third or so of universities, depending on how you look at it. #29 out of 142 national universities with enrollments above 13,000 isn’t a bad place to be in. Certainly room for improvement, but nothing to justify the kind of catastrophizing you’re engaging in. Like any school with a specialized mission, not everyone’s a good fit, but BYU doesn’t seem to be having any trouble attracting faculty. There are a lot of people out there working with less-prepared students and fewer resources who wouldn’t at all mind the conditions BYU offers.

    To clarify, the mention of protecting marginalized students doesn’t refer to my own views, but to a widespread view in the current discussion about free speech on campuses. The point was that your personal view of what a university must be is not universally accepted in secular academia today.

    Your experience as a student in 1969 is perhaps not 100% relevant to the situation of the university today. That’s also true of my own student experience from 25 years ago. Although if you’re still seeing R. Bott, you’d better empty your cache and reload the page, as he was eased into retirement 7 years ago. I’m not sure what the rest of the names you mention are supposed to signify; “Mormon Theologians Teach Mormon Theology at Mormon University” is not exactly headline news.

    If you only notice the university when you’re embarrassed by it, it’s impossible to get an objective view of what the university’s strengths and weaknesses are.

  16. Roger, again, you’re talking of an university with several top ten programs in the country. Things have changed in the half-century since you were there. The religion department has changed dramatically since I was there. I wasn’t happy with most of the religion department then – although fortunately the honors department had great religion classes – but I wouldn’t make any claims about how it is at present based upon my experiences.

    To list a few of the places BYU is tops. It’s accounting program was ranked 2cd in by US News & World Report, 3rd by Public Accounting Report, and 3rd by TaxTalent. The Princeton Review ranked the undergraduate entrepreneurship program 4th in the country. Bloomberg ranked BYU 18th for undergraduate programs. USN&WR ranked it 20th for International Business and 35th for undergraduate programs and 36th for Finance. For graduate programs The Princeton Review ranked its MBA program as #1 in the country. Bloomberg ranked it #1 for best trained graduates. USN&WR ranked it 4th for MBA-accounting. Princeton Review ranked it 6th for MBA-operations and 10th for MBA-entrepreneurship. The Economist ranked it 16th for EMBA. The Financial Times ranked BYU’s MBA as 78th in the world and 41st in the US. The law school is ranked #39 by USN&WR (up from #41 last year).

    Now of course that is a bias towards business and law oriented programs. I’m sure some might say that doesn’t count as real education. Other departments weren’t nearly as high (although that’s partially due to BYU’s not focusing on graduate programs in say the sciences – although they are there) Still Speech Language Pathology is ranked 53rd, Public Affairs 59th and Chemical Engineering 61st.

    Again, I’m definitely not saying BYU is the Harvard of the West. That’s a silly claim. But it is a good school – as I said fairly consistently around the top 20%.

    To the idea that religion classes should just deal in ethics – well there is a philosophy department for that. They even like people taking their classes. That said when I was there I think a problem for too many religion classes was they were warmed over seminary classes or equivalent to a freshman introductory class on the subject. There weren’t much for upper division type classes. However I know enough to not say what it is like now based up 25 years ago.

    As to the faculty issue – there’s a severe oversupply of people seeking professorships everywhere. Yes BYU might have trouble keeping top professors who are apt to be attracted to the very best colleges for their specialities. So say Paul Cox, rather famous in ethnobotany and evolution and former dean at BYU ended up in Sweden at the Swedish Agricultural University. (Related to your religion class comments, he actually taught one of my religion classes while I was at BYU) Likewise Mark Wrathall, the noted Heidegger expert, ended up at Oxford after teaching philosophy at BYU (and then going to Riverside). I’m sure there’s lots of other great professors BYU had trouble keeping. However as I said it’s ridiculously hard these days to become a professor with a lot of people who want to be one. There’s even people who I know didn’t much like BYU who end up becoming professors there because it’s a fairly well known respected university that was hiring. I have good friends who are now professors at BYU who got their graduate degrees at very respected top graduate programs in their fields. While BYU is far from tops in the sciences, look at the faculty pages and where the professors went to school and look at their publications. I think that very much undermines your argument.

  17. From a Australian perspective, 3 of my 4 daughters have degrees, all from local Universities. All this talk of sheltering students, protecting them from un LDS ideas etc, and all the honor code enforces is a priveledge/problem that LDS kids overseas just have to manage. It sounds a bit like a sheltered workshop, where some people are exercising power they shouldn’t have whatever their motives.
    Whether the Church should be subsidising this when it is only available to a limited portion of members is worth asking?
    The Church provides very little in my area. We have a stake with 7 units and 1 ward sized building, we do have a temple 20 minutes away, but thats it. No subsidised camps, or schools.

  18. I have worked with university students from other schools, received a graduate degree outside of BYU, talked at length with colleagues about their university experiences…. and in all cases I was amazed at how outstanding my academic experience at BYU was.

    Of course, the life-changing spiritual direction that resulted from my BYU attendance was of even greater value in my case.

    All this talk of complaints about BYU academically, or socially, is just sour grapes. It’s a fantastic school. They could triple the tuition and I’d still want my kids to borrow money to go there, and so would almost every other student’s parents. I’m not sure how you could consider that to be mediocre. And I’m not merely referring to the morality side.

    It has great education, great teachers, great students, a great campus, an amazing scenic backdrop. And Provo has gotten a lot better too.

    Yes, we could all point out one or two instances of “that guy” or “that professor”, etc. but if you think any other school doesn’t have those in spades, you’re kidding yourself. I’d much rather deal with a school that gives an overzealous religious professor a place to teach than one that takes porn studies seriously (other than for psychological addiction purposes).

    Computer science and EE was top notch.
    Langauge was effective.
    Humanities was solid.
    English was good.
    Sciences were great.
    Business classes were phenomenal
    Communications classes were lacking
    Math was good
    Religion was good

    So you’ve got some amazing experiences and the rest were all good. I don’t know what more you can expect academically.

  19. Libcon, again I’m talking about the 90’s and things may have changed, but while I loved my physics and math majors at BYU it’s really not in the top 100 schools there. Don’t get me wrong, unlike most top schools the professors are really involved with the students and willing to mentor students. There’s a level of help you just don’t see at most universities. There was a huge difference in experience for the better from what my friends and family experienced at schools much higher ranked for that major. In that sense it’s arguable that it’s a better education than one might get at top science schools. A lot of the top schools are top because they attract the cream of the students not necessarily because it’s a better educational experience. Yet my friend who transferred from BYU to Yale in physics said there was no comparison in the breadth and difficulty of the classes. BYU is a fantastic undergraduate program, but it probably deserves its ranking around 100 depending upon the particular type of science in question. That said, most of my friends from BYU went to top PhD programs (MIT, UTAustin, Berkeley, etc.) So I think there’s something to be said for the type of undergraduate degree BYU offers in the sciences. It’s also extremely good with internships at top locations. So, for instance, I was interning on fusion research at Los Alamos as a Sophomore and that became my summer job for the next five years.

    Geoff, I’m perhaps somewhat unique since I attended a different school in Canada before transferring to BYU. That lets me appreciate the problem of transferring schools that I mentioned in the OP. But I think it also shows the difference in social issues. If one already has friends and can get an apartment with other members one knows, there’s far less of an issue. When you can’t there is far more of an issue. Is it survivable? Certainly. Is it a big plus not to have to deal with it? Yes.

  20. “while I loved my physics and math majors at BYU it’s really not in the top 100 schools there”

    USN&WR ranks BYU’s graduate program in mathematics #86. The undergraduate program is stronger, arguably top 20. In the last decade, the Putnam team has placed in the top 10 twice and had several other top 25 finishes. BYU Math is widely recognized for its leadership in undergraduate research.

    In the last decade, BYU Math faculty have been named Sloan Fellows, American Mathematical Society Fellows, NSF CAREER recipients, DiPrima Award recipients, etc. The president of the Mathematical Association of America is at BYU.

  21. Thanks. I didn’t know that. I probably should again be careful and note the 25 years since I attended. Although there were some fantastic math profs while I was there. Even then there were a lot of great publications coming out from the math and computer science departments. I don’t know as many people in the math department anymore, although I have quite a few friends in the physics and chemistry departments. While physics arguably isn’t really top, I’d still say that for an undergraduate degree it may well be far superior to going to one of the top named schools. The resources at BYU as a practical matter are just better. (IMO) And in some areas like material science, there are some very good professors at BYU.

  22. Late to the party here, but I think you all really needed to find *actual* students to weigh in on this subject.

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