Brigham Young University will be without its annual Miss BYU pageant during Homecoming activities this fall.
The executive council of the Brigham Young University Student Association recently abolished the pageant, saying such a decision had been considered for several years.Mark Crockett, 1988-89 BYUSA president, said statements by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints played heavily in the decision to eliminate the campus contest with roots tracing back some 40 years. BYU, the largest privately owned university in the nation, is sponsored by the LDS Church.
Crockett concedes the decision - made earlier this month but announced just last week - has drawn a mixed response. While some people are disappointed to see the demise of a campus tradition, others are supportive of the decision, "particularly when they understand our reasoning."
Citing counsel given by LDS Church leaders and church handbooks about discouraging beauty contests, Crockett referred to a 1975 Young Women's handbook, which calls for the avoidance of crowning "kings" and "queens." According to the handbook, a beauty contest "appeals to vanity," he added.
Another source Crockett pointed to is a 1978 address to BYU student leaders by late LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball, who asked the leaders to come up with alternatives to beauty queen-type contests.
The replacement being offered by Crockett and his peers is a Student of the Year award to honor four students annually during Homecoming Week activities.
"We recognize that Miss BYU has done a lot of good things," said Crockett, adding that most involved reported having good experiences.
However, in addition to statements from church leaders, the executive council reviewed previous memos and position papers from earlier student leaders regarding the Miss BYU pageant.
Crockett said his administration, which took office in May, entered initial discussions in favor of keeping the pageant. But after weighing the earlier opinions as well and seeing the frequent misconceptions that seemed to permeate the Miss BYU contest and other beauty pageants, Crockett and other student leaders were in favor of changing the program.
The Miss BYU pageant did not include a swimsuit competition. That kept it from being sanctioned by the Miss America Pageant or other beauty contests.
Crockett said that while the influence of the BYU administration always is felt by the student association, the decision to drop the Miss BYU pageant was solely that of student body officials.
BYU Public Communications Director Paul C. Richards said administrators were unaware of the action until it was made public last week. Administrators have said they will review the situation, and a reinstatement of the pageant is still a possibility, Richards said.
Regarding the cited material that is at least a decade old, why change now? "I really think that is a great question," admitted Crockett, adding that the recent restructuring of the university's governing student association aided in the timing.
All programs sponsored or coordinated by BYUSA are being reviewed. "There are no programs from the past that are being taken on face value."
Crockett said the Student of the Year program is a move away from contests that are "ranked on physical and material appearance" to a program promoting role models and overall excellence.
The Miss BYU pageant has roots back to the Belle of the Y contest, which was started by sponsoring campus clubs nearly 40 years ago. The contest was created to pay for repair costs of the Y Bell, which had been cracked during an overzealous ringing following a then-rare BYU football victory over the University of Utah.
One former BYU pageant winner, Sharlene Wells Hawkes, later became Miss America.