Colledge: Part Two

And now, the saga continues...

The College of Non-Liberal Arts

On our most recent Sunday trip to my parents’ house, my mother seized upon an opportunity to have a serious discussion with me about the things that I write on this blog. “Cameron, I don’t believe that the term ‘douchebag’ should ever be used in proper conversation.” Though I tried to explain that what I put on my blog was never meant to be either proper or conversation, her disgust at the perceived foul mouth that she raised and was alone responsible for came brooding to the surface. “What if your kids ever read your blog?” she questioned and then added the ultimate retort, “What if Jesus read your blog? And he is reading it!”

This line of questioning proves that Mormon mothers are just as capable of wielding guilt over the heads of their children as mothers of Jewish and Catholic persuasions. I would hope that anything that I write to fill up the vast void of the internet, otherwise full of rather puritan idealism, would not delve into blasphemy. I find that my selective choice of dirty and curse words, when compared with my malaise and disdain for most things around me, are a mark of my significant restraint. My mother’s comments, however, brought me back once again to the life I lived in a college that seemed to be run by a vast committee of Mormon mothers who accepted tuition checks as payment for administering guilt.

Brigham Young University is a private educational institution which means that they are perfectly able to enforce their dogma on anyone who enters their massive Provo compound. Its students are either of the Mormon faith or are non-Mormons who are capable of playing football. Now, lest ye think me overly critical, I will have you know that I was at this time, as I am today, a devout believer in my faith. But, one thing you must understand is that when several of these devout believers, let’s say 25,000 or so, gather together, spiritual reasoning gives way to the gospel of the masses. If these masses want to make Christina Aguilera a member of their faith, it shall be truth. If they want to make attendance at Monday night prayer meetings a saving ordinance, so let it be written. And more often than not, these masses would dictate and enforce the policies and procedures put in place by the university.

As a Freshman who had recently doled out the whole of his life savings for a semester’s tuition, room, and board, I had no other real option available to me other than going to the dorm cafeteria for my three squares, which often ended up being more parabolic in shape. One groggy-eyed Saturday morning when I made the rare decision to stay on campus instead of taking the long bus ride home for the weekend, I stumbled into the cafeteria with my dining card. The student-worker at the door, decked in her blue and white t-shirt and premature mom jeans, took my card and held it up so it was in the same line of sight as my face. She looked back and forth between the two and I half expected that I was being carded since they finally had given up and put beer in the soda fountains.

“Um, I’m going to have to ask you to go back up to your room and shave before you come down for breakfast, m-kay?” Though I am admittedly a hairy individual, Wolfman I am not. I had shaved the previous morning and was sporting something much less impressive than a 5 o’clock shadow. But, you see, Brigham Young University has a strict “clean-shave” policy despite the fact that its namesake had facial hair that could house small animals during the winter months. To have facial hair of any kind or for any reason requires you to carry a “beard” card which is given out after an interview performed by a specialized “beard committee". The card must be shown as proof of the legitimacy of your beard if a school officer or fellow student should question your loyalties. The card could also conveniently be worn in a white band around the left arm. I ended up going hungry out of defiance until I made it back to my parents’ house, blasphemously unshaven.

Currently suffering eternal damnation.

Though I value the education that I have received, both emotionally and somewhere around $40,000, I can’t help but think that it is a little bit skewed, like when one suspiciously looks at a diploma on a wall from the University of Success or Jindřichův Hradec Community College. Because the University was a religious institution, all of the curriculum needed to be drawn back to some part of the gospel. This wasn’t too difficult in some courses, like the required religion courses, or even some literature and history lessons. Far be it for me to discount the spiritual truths found in Beowulf or Candide or Louis Lamour. When it got slightly awkward was in classes like molecular biology, film studies, or bowling where teachers did their absolute best to keep their jobs which hinged on the development of their students’ testimonies of God. In my film class, the Professor showed us a clip from the movie Dead Man Walking. In the clip, Sean Penn’s character mumbles a lot of words, the only one of which was understood by the mass of students being a casual F-word. A collective gasp spread out over the audience, which caused the professor to stop the clip, apologize for missing the foul word when editing the clips, and plead with us to tell no one so that he could keep his job. I am not sure what happened for the rest of the semester, but the T.A. that taught the remainder of the class was pretty cute, but only showed us filmstrips about paying tithing.

Nowhere can the Orwellian magnitude of the institution’s grip on its students be better felt than in the infamous testing center. The building rested on the edge of campus and looked like where the Count of Monte Cristo spent time plotting his vengeance. You pick up your test and, after having your backpack searched for some type of contraband, you are corralled into a room the length of 8 desks and the width of 8,000. Along the walls of the massive room hung two alternating pictures of an equal intimidation factor. First was the standard picture of Jesus Christ that the Church uses, only with the pupils cut out to make way for rotating spy cameras. The second was a picture of the on-campus statue of Karl G. Maeser, one of the early founders of the University. Next to that regal statue is listed a bold quote that he is famous for issuing and which was requisite to have branded into our brains. To paraphrase, it said, “If you cheat, you will burn in hell next to rapists!” Along with seniors who got paid $4 an hour to pace the narrow aisles and scan your frantic efforts to finish the test in time, and the rumored snipers hidden in the crossbeams, the Honor Code was effectively enforced.

In retrospect, I am honestly grateful for many of the strict policies that were enforced by my chosen facility of higher education. If I had lived through many of the same experiences in a different college, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have been the guy at the bottom of the beer bong, upside-down sucking Pabst through a garden hose. Instead, I had a case of Dr. Pepper taken away from me by a dorm mother which lead me to recreationally use Excedrin tablets not exactly as indicated on the label. Now that restrictions to my mischievous deeds are dictated only by my own conscience, I occasionally let a word not befitting a BYU graduate slip from my lips or my typing fingers. Brigham Young himself was known for his sharp, and sometimes irreverent tongue. But, he also said “I take liberties in speaking which I do not allow when I commit my sentiments to writing.” So maybe I should take this lesson from a great spiritual leader and start to clean up my act. To Billy, as well as to the sea of thousands of other douchebags that I attended college with, I hope that you no longer are complete douches and have instead improved yourselves to simple dirtbags, motards, or fetchers.

So, Karl. G Maeser, that is quite a beard you are sporting there.

I know another "Karl M." who also had a distinguished beard.