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Question #7493 posted on 08/30/2004 4:04 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

What's up with the beard cards? I don't attend BYU but I live south of campus so I hear a lot of strange things about your school. Can you really get into the testing center with a beard now because it's against some privacy law or something to card?

- Heather Angela Hawks

A: Dear Heather Angela Hawks,

BYU is a private university and can therefore impose restrictions on its students that might not be acceptable at state sponsored schools. One of those things is the Honor Code.

The Honor Code addresses many issues including academic honesty, housing standard, and dress and grooming requirements. For men, one of these grooming requirements is that they be clean shave, with the only possible exception being a neatly trimmed mustache.

For some men, this poses a problem as shaving may exacerbate skin conditions or other problems. In other cases, for non-LDS students, wearing a beard may be a religious matter. In these cases, the University makes exceptions to the grooming standard and allows them to wear a beard, but it must be well kept.

To facilitate these students in being able to access University services, including the testing center, that require its patrons to adhere to the Honor Code, the University established a "beard card" that these men can use to identify that they have indeed received the exemption.

They decided that the easiest way to do this was not to have a seperate card, but to make use of the existing student ID card. Normally, men would not be able to have their picture taken for their ID card if they are wearing a beard. When a male student provides evidence of need for an exception (a letter from his doctor or spiritual leader), the Honor COde office prints a letter on their letterhead that instructs the office that issues student ID cards to allow this man's picture to be taken with a beard. His ID card card then will show him wearing a beard and will also have the date the beard card exemption expires printed on it. This is what the "beard card" is. The process is nearly identical for University staff and faculty, except that it is conducted through the benefits office and there is not expiration date.

I am not familiar with any laws that would restrict this. Again, the University's status as "private" allows them to impose this restriction.

-Pa Grape