Brigham Young University has been highly publicized over the past week due to the school’s decision to suspend leading rebounder Brandon Davies for his violation of the university’s Honour Code. This code requires all students to be honest, live a chaste and virtuous life, use clean language, and maintain specific grooming standards (including not growing a beard). In addition it prohibits alcoholic beverages, substance abuse, tobacco, tea, and coffee.
This strict Honour Code is not for me. To clarify, I would never attend BYU, as my day-to-day life conflicts with the code (I’ve already had two coffees, did not shave this morning, and I just made plans to go out for a beer this evening). Davies, however, like all other students at BYU, was aware of the Honour Code and agreed to it when he decided to attend the university. He made a commitment to follow the code, and by having premarital sex with his girlfriend, blatantly violated it. He was not blindsided by this news, as he was fully aware that he was committing an infraction. The university simply stood by their principles, and, in doing so, they sacrificed a top player and, potentially their ability to win a national title.
In sports, owners, general managers, and coaches too often turn a blind eye when their players commit infractions because acknowledging it would have negative consequences for the team’s performance or potential profit. Major League Baseball, which has spent the past few years trying to distance itself from the dark stain of the “steroid era,” is a prime example. During this time the obvious prevalence of steroids was ignored by coaches, general managers, owners and even the commissioner, because players hitting home runs made the teams better, and brought fans out in record-breaking numbers. Once the information about performance enhancing drugs became public, MLB had to face the music and clean up its act. It’s clear, however, that they failed to act even when they (and not the fans) knew what was going on.
BYU has been condemned for suspending Davies, with critics arguing that he was not in violation of any criminal codes and that his actions were consistent with social norms. I believe, instead, that BYU should be applauded. Finally, a sports organization has placed its values ahead of winning. The NCAA’s core values do not include winning, but they do include “the highest level of integrity and sportsmanship.” BYU’s actions represent the integrity that has been sorely lacking in the sports world. BYU could have swept this under the rug, and no one would have known. Instead they’ve shown that their principles are a genuine priority—and that these principles trump athletic success.
For students at McGill, such an Honour Code might seem ridiculous. Freshman students’ first impressions of university life come from Frosh Week where the two most emphasized activities are alcoholic consumption and promiscuity. To argue, however, that a restrictive Honour Code is unjust illustrates a lack of contextual understanding. BYU is a private university, and their values do not harm, and are not imposed, on others. Their Honour Code is based on Mormon religious values and it reflects the presence of religious freedom in the United States. Institutions are permitted to establish their own value systems and codes of behaviour, as long as they are within the law. It would be unjust to enforce this Honour Code if students were forced to attend the institution, but, as in the case of Davies, students choose to go and are fully aware of the code of conduct to which they will be held.
While it seems shocking that Davies will be suspended for the season just because he had sex with his girlfriend, his violation of the school’s Honour Code warrants such a punishment upon further review. If Davies is to represent the school as an athlete he has a responsibility to adhere to its principals, and failure to do so warrants suspension. Rather than being criticized, BYU should be commended for standing by their Honour Code and enforcing their principles. Davies’ suspension is unfortunate—but it is just.
We live in a world in which people are far too quick to turn a blind eye to athletes making mistakes and acting like morons because they’re famous and athletic. Despite this, suspending Brandon Davies for the entire season was the wrong decision.
Admittedly, Davies knew what he was getting into when he signed BYU’s Honour Code. If he didn’t want to live by those rules, he should have chosen another school. The problem lies with how BYU responded to the breach of their code. First off, their decision is devoid of any attempt to understand the personal changes that often occur during college. But in addition, the suspension has caused much more harm and damage than Davies’ actions ever did.
College is a period of transition in life. People change quickly and their core values change with them. An Honour Code is a noble idea, but it ignores the reality that a graduating student will be much different exiting than they were entering. There are things I have done during my last four years of college that I would not have thought I would ever do as a 17-year-old freshman. I could have signed an agreement about my conduct and actions entering university that I was very comfortable with that I wouldn’t be alright with now. Does that make me hypocritical? No. It makes me a normal university student.
The difference is that Davies actually did sign an agreement and he broke it. He should be held accountable for his actions. But does this act really merit a season long suspension and possible expulsion? He deserves to be punished but he also deserves a second chance. Suspend him for a game or two, but not the entire season.
Davies only “crime” is that he had sex with his girlfriend. Who was harmed by this? Davies? His girlfriend? I don’t think so; in fact I’m willing to bet they both had a pretty great time.
Davies committed to BYU two years ago. Sure, as a freshman he might have been confident that he would abstain from sex while at BYU, but a lot can change in a couple years. He met a girl, they started dating, and they had sex. Seems pretty reasonable. BYU should react with understanding, not dogmatic discipline.
Moreover, the suspension is harming many more people than the violation did. First, Davies and his girlfriend are being scrutinized, analyzed, and judged by the national media, which they don’t deserve. If BYU had dealt with the issue behind closed doors and suspended him for a couple games it would not have blown up nationally like it did.
Additionally, it dismantled the BYU basketball team. Some may argue that basketball is just a game, but the reality is basketball is not just a game to Davies and every other member of the team. The sport is their life; they’ve spent thousands of hours practising, playing, and training. At one point it stops being a game and becomes something much more important to each and every one of those students.
Davies’ suspension doesn’t just ruin this season for him, but for every single member of his team. BYU was ranked third in the nation and had a legitimate chance to win the NCAA tournament. Success is fleeting in college basketball as players graduate and turn pro very quickly. As a result, great teams only exist for a year, maybe two, before exiting players dismantle them. This season was the team’s chance to be the best; without Davies they’re still good, but not great. With this suspension, each and every player on that team will wonder for the rest of his life what could have been. More devastating is the fact that Davies not only feels responsible for ruining the season for himself, but also ruining it for his teammates.
Yes, Davies broke the Honour Code, but he’s a changing 19-year-old who admittedly made a mistake that harmed no one until BYU decided to suspend him. Does his girlfriend real
ly deserve to be nationally humiliated? Do his teammates need to feel cheated? Does he deserve to think for the rest of his life that he let each and everyone of his teammates down? These are the direct results of the suspension. Where’s the honour in that?
Winner : YES
When Davies decided to go to BYU he made a commitment to comply with the school’s Honour Code. It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air to see a collegiate institution choose their values over athletic success.