A non-definitive list of scattered thoughts on the BYU caffeine controversy:
1. It was never about the caffeine, but BYU’s handling of the situation.
- No one believed it for a second when BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins alleged that there is no demand* for caffeinated soda at BYU — disingenuous at best, even for a PR person.
- BYU is certainly within its rights to not sell caffeine as it is anything else, so why can’t they just admit their reasons? I have heard some say that the people protesting BYU’s (non-)policy are giving BYU / the Church a bad name, black eye, etc. Nonsense — the blame falls squarely on the administration for not being open about the rationale for the ban. If they’re embarrassed about the policy and how it makes BYU look, then change it. If they believe in it, then say so. As it is, it gives the impression — true or not — that they are trying to avoid appearing too weird to others while winking at more zealous members, allowing them to continue to feel extra righteous in their observance of a perceived higher law.
- Director of Dining Services Dean Wright later commented that “As a business, at this point we’re just not seeing a need to break tradition with the products that we offer […] We’re not trying to make any type of a judgment call.” If Mr. Wright can only offer up “this is the way we’ve always done it” as his best justification (which is pretty much the worst argument you can come up with for just about anything), then as a man in charge of a “business,” he’s either really bad at his job or being forced to act incompetent in public by higher-ups. Either way, I feel sorry for him.
- As to not making a judgment call — well, even if we take Mr. Wright at his word, perception among too many members is just the opposite. One might try to argue that BYU selling caffeine constitutes an endorsement, but does BYU endorse Taco Bell and the copious amounts of candy sold in the bookstore? Of course not. Offering them for sale only means that they are not prohibited (unlike coffee, for example). The norm is for colleges and universities to offer caffeinated beverages on campus, at sporting events, etc. It is the deviation from this norm which makes the strongest statement — a judgment call, whether it is intended or not.
2. The prevalence of the “(you signed the honor code so) if you don’t like it then you can just leave” argument at BYU
- This may be the most common response to anyone at BYU who expresses a less-than-positive opinion about any facet of the university (usually, but not exclusively, about a portion of the honor code). I recognize that, in some circumstances, removing oneself from an unhealthy situation is a rational and even praiseworthy solution. However, this argument is usually invoked over things that do not rise to that level — things people should be able to differ on without being rhetorically cast out.
- It is not reasonable to expect everyone to fully comprehend all the pros and cons of going to school at BYU before they’re actually there; and, after one has some experience on the ground, there is nothing wrong with openly sharing a desire for change where one finds it necessary. Moreover, in this instance, the “you signed the honor code” aspect doesn’t even apply — all the more reason for people not to allow themselves to be shouted down by such nonsense.
3. The “there are more important issues to spend your time on” argument
- You don’t say. I suppose no one should ever care about anything else because there will always be starving children in some part of the world. There’s no reason they can’t care about both.
4. The “don’t you have anything better to do?” argument
- Probably — but whoever said they weren’t doing those things too? Learning to multitask is an important part of a college education.
5. BYU students can act like college students for once.
- Though opinions on religion, politics, and other controversial subjects are more diverse at BYU than most people credit, one can understand why no one believes it. Students are culturally conditioned to keep opposing opinions to themselves. Here is an issue where they can finally protest something without fear of serious consequences. They should practice while they can — perhaps it will even make them braver the next time a more important issue is at stake.
6. Break the impenetrable wall of silence.
- BYU (and the Church) is very good at stonewalling things like this with silence until they die down. This is a low-stakes opportunity to not let them get away with it.
7. The hate mail
- A Facebook group advocating the sale of caffeinated beverages on campus garnered over 2,300 likes (more than BYU Dining Services) in just over a week — but it shut itself down yesterday under an avalanche of hate mail. This new group is having to start from scratch. Anything prompting such behavior among members needs to be dragged into the light for all to see.
- Edit: And here’s another group. I have to say, I like this group better because they didn’t capitalize the preposition. Too bad these two aren’t consolidating their efforts, though.
- Update: The first group has fixed their preposition after posting this link — thanks for reading, guys! Now fix this awkward sentence in your page description: “BYU is using past interpreting the word of the wisdom and are blaming no demand.”
Comments 34, 38, and 66 could easily be continuations of the original post. If you don’t want to read through all the comments, at least read those.
Also, anyone with any more inside information into what Lupine posted in comment 83?
* What was the first thing I thought of when I read this? That there are no gays in Iran, closely followed by no women seminary teachers are fired when they have children. Also, pre-Utah and post-manifesto protestations that we weren’t practicing polygamy.