Students protest BYU beard restriction

Students protest BYU beard restriction

(Stuart Johnson/KSL TV)

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PROVO — The beard revolution in Provo has begun.

At least that's what supporters of Bike for Beards say. In fact, "Revolution" by the Beatles played as people donned paper beards, took selfies and signed a makeshift petition, with signatures scrawled inside the outline of a beard drawn on butcher paper Friday evening.

About 40 men and seven or so women gathered outside the Provo City Library, 550 N. University Ave., to send BYU administrators a message.

"A playful one that we'd like to see beards," said Shane Pittson, who organized the rally.

The BYU Honor Code, created in the 1940s, says "men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable."

Pittson and other students would like for that to change.

According to BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins, the university is merely following rules originally set in place by BYU students.

"It's not that we have anything against beards. It's just this is how we've chosen to represent ourselves at BYU," Jenkins said.

Pittson said he supports the Honor Code and likes many aspects of it. He just wants the beard restriction to change.

I don't feel like there's a proper channel for students to voice what changes they'd like to see.

–Shane Pittson, rally organizer

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned university has a student advisory council that discusses matters of concern to students and regarding policies, and to Jenkins' knowledge, allowing beards on campus has not come up.

"I don't feel like there's a proper channel for students to voice what changes they'd like to see," Pittson said.

Two of the protesters, who showed up on unicycles, were sporting some scruff on their faces, something that would likely keep them from taking a exam in the school's testing center.

One young man, with hair slicked back into a short bun behind his head, hugged Pittson before leaving.

"I believe in beards, but I have a mission reunion," Mikey Caplin said.

Caplin took a moment before leaving the crowd to take a selfie while wearing his paper beard.

Protesters on bikes and skateboards and wearing roller blades circled on the west side of the library before heading north on University Avenue.

Several minutes later, ambient sounds were all that could be heard on campus until the bike gang made its way toward the administration building, cheering and blasting music.

A young woman in a black formal dress walked quickly past the group as they yelled, whooped and circled the plaza area on the south side of the Abraham Smoot Administration Building.

Pittson, with the makeshift petition rolled and sticking out of a satchel on his back, placed his bike on its side and strolled alone to the doors of the building and tugged.


He returned to the crowd.

"We won't let this dream die!" Pittson yelled, holding the unfurled petition.

The 30 or so protesters who actually completed the trek cheered in response.

A clean-shaven statue of Brigham Young stood just beyond, facing away from the crowd.

According to Pittson, weddings and other commitments kept more students from attending the protest Friday.

He has received a lot of online support, he said. A website he created last week garnered about 400 visits on the second or third day and continues to have about 40 views per day.

A letter to BYU from "Beards" is on the group's Facebook page. It laments the falling out between the school and most facial hair.

"When some of our mutual friends tried to sneak my little brother, 5 o'clock shadow, in with them to take a test, you made them go home and shave … again. That hurt," a part of the letter said.

One Facebook supporter posted a picture of Mel Gibson in the movie "Braveheart" and expressed his regret for not being able to attend the rally.

"They may take our bikes, they may take our (testing) rights, but they can't take our freedom!," Kendl Hansen wrote above the "Braveheart" picture.

Pittson said he hopes to continue his "playful discussion" by making and selling T-shirts with the Bike for Beards logo and hosting another activity in the spring.

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