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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- The bared bellybutton is under attack at church-owned Brigham Young University.
First-year BYU President Cecil Samuelson devoted a campus address Tuesday to telling students that bare midriffs violate the school's dress code, which requires modest dress and lists revealing clothing as inappropriate attire.
Meanwhile, it has been disclosed that the school has been doctoring photos of athletes.
"We have touched up photos for years -- as far as removing tattoos, covering up bellybuttons, just things like that," said Duff Tittle, associate athletic director for communications.
Samuelson said he has fielded complaints about bare midriffs since he was selected for the post last year by President Gordon B. Hinckley, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Some believe they are expressing newfound freedoms, when all they are doing is expressing ignorance or disdain for things sacred and significant, while being trapped with the milling hordes of degrading conformity," Samuelson said.
Samuelson has addressed the issue with students more than once, but it was one parent's reprimand that "penetrated me like a sharp dagger" and prompted the full-length response Tuesday.
Samuelson said the mother told him "she was trying to help her daughter dress more modestly.... Her daughter said something to the effect that her professors and even on one occasion the president himself had seen her and not said anything critical of her dress and appearance."
Samuelson also read from a letter he received from a former BYU student. "It shocked me to see so many tummies on the campus while I was attending my 50th-year reunion in October," the letter said.
Brian Shelley, a junior from Alpine majoring in business, and Elizabeth Crane, a freshman from Salt Lake City majoring in culinary arts, said male students must play a role in encouraging women to dress appropriately.
"Modest girls get upset because they're trying to get attention in other ways besides their bodies," Shelley told the Deseret Morning News. "When they see immodest girls getting all the attention, it discourages them from dressing modestly."
Meanwhile, questions about the school's alteration of photos came up when the school's media guide showed basketball star Rafael Araujo without the tattoos on his arms.
Tattoos are not deemed as serious a violation as smoking, drinking or engaging in premarital sex, but s a tattoo or bare midriff is grounds for counseling from the Honor Code Office.
Tittle told The Salt Lake Tribune that there have been plenty of cover-ups in athletes' photos.
"I really can't tell you, when I was a publications guy, how many times I had to cover up a midriff," he said. "Let's say one of our athletes was a high jumper. Inevitably when they go over the top of the bar, the shirt comes untucked and you see a little bit of the woman's stomach... So a lot of times we'd extend out the shirt and make it look like it covered up (the bellybutton) in the photo."
Tittle said it's easier to doctor photos than deal with irate callers demanding to know why athletes are being immodest or wearing tattoos, the newspaper said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)