The skinny on a supposed jeans ban at BYU-Idaho

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 7 2011 11:04 p.m. MST

Students walking the sidewalks at BYU-Idaho between the Manwaring Center and the Smith Building Sept. 13, 2010. Betty Oldham, assistant to the president for planning and budgeting, said while the physical campus has changed since she went to school there 40 years ago, the feeling around campus has not.

Michael Lewis,

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News of an apparent ban on skinny jeans at BYU-Idaho unleashed a torrent of Internet stories Wednesday, spurring bloggers and news outlets alike to comment on the university's Honor Code and unique culture.

Several students recently were turned away for wearing the form-fitting jeans by BYU-Idaho testing center employees who stretched their interpretation of the university's dress and grooming standards too far.

The media frenzy began when The Student Review, the off-campus student-run newspaper at BYU-I's sister school BYU, in Provo, published a story about the alleged ban on skinny jeans at BYU-Idaho campus.

"I think it is pretty ridiculous," BYU-Idaho student Zach Cooper told the Student Review. "We already aren't allowed to wear shorts or flip-flops, so I wouldn't be too surprised if they banned skinny jeans as well."

However, there was no university ban on the popular fashion. The official university statement in the BYU-Idaho Dress and Grooming Standards states, "Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing. It should not have slits above the knee or be formfitting."

The basis for the policy comes from the a pamphlet called For the Strength of Youth, a guidebook for teenage members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on issues like media, dress and grooming, language, etc.

The Student Review isn't the only publication that viewed the ban as newsworthy.

The story blew up on Wednesday with the Houston Chronicle, International Business Times the and the Atlantic Monthy Wire all citing the story in the Student Review and almost making a joke of the idea. Even the Huffington Post put a story up but had a hard time discerning between BYU and BYU-I, referring to BYU cheerleaders as attending BYU-I.

Gawker's Maureen O'Connor went one step further and emailed university Vice-President Henry J. Eyring, who referred her to his colleague Kevin Miyasaki, the Student Services and Activities vice-president.

"The Testing Center has not made any new standard, nor has there been a ban of a particular piece of clothing," Miyasaki said in the email response. "The effort of the Testing Center as well as with other employees and students is to encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code."

The school's newspaper, the Scroll, wrote its own take on the issue.

The article told the story of Rachel Vermillion, a self-proclaimed curvy girl who went to take a test in the BYU-I testing center close to the end of hours.

She went on to say that a testing center employee told her she couldn't take the test because her pants were too tight.

"I had just come from a meeting with my bishop, but I couldn't get into the testing center," Vermillion said.

She said she felt the decision by the testing center was subjective and said she would have been more likely to comply with stricter standards, as long as those standards apply to everyone else.

The article also addressed a power struggle within the testing center over the criteria for students coming in to take tests.

While trying to establish that order, a sign was put up in the testing center that said, "If your pants are tight enough to see the shape of your leg, your pants are too tight." It went on to read, "If your clothing or attitude does not meet the commitments you have made to live the Honor Code, will you please go home and prayerfully visit with your Father in Heaven and recommit yourself to be a true disciple and abide by the Honor Code that defines your commitment to be a disciple."

The sign came down three days later.

"If a student prays and they think that the tight, 'form-fitting' clothing is accepted by the Lord, they have not asked, or have not asked the right question, or they have chosen an answer for their own gratification," testing center manager John Dexter said. "I don't believe the Lord would give approval to anyone to be disobedient to the CES Dress and Grooming Standards."

EMAIL: sgambles@desnews.com

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