Leaping to conclusions or asking rational questions?

So last week, I started listening to a new podcast. Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast features three sports reporters and their topic last week was, amongst other things, the Brandon Davies situation (already much discussed elsewhere at BCC). I’d like you to follow the link and listen to the Davis segment before continuing onward; don’t worry, I’m patient.

Okay, are you back? Excellent. What do you think of Mike Pesca’s and Stefan Fatsis’s point that the application of the honor code could be racially motivated? I was, upon first hearing it, aghast. How could they? There is a clear rule and Brandon Davies broke it. The consequences, I assume, aren’t unusual in that situation. Why bring race into it at all?

Well, as one of the two (I can’t tell their voices apart yet) explains, 19 of the last 20 athletes caught in honor code violations have been minority players. Also, to our knowledge, Jim McMahon was never charged with an honor code violation (which just seems wrong). One of the talkers notes that BYU message boards implied that there is the perception of a double standard for athletes at the BYU, when it comes to the Honor Code. Further, there is a perception (on the part of these reporters) that there may be a double standard racially, too.

I’ve spent a bit of time trying to refute the allegations (which I don’t buy), but I’ve got nothing conclusive. It probably is more noticeable when a minority player screws up in the Provo/Orem area simply because it isn’t awash in minorities, but does that demonstrate easy vigilance or easy racism? Pesca and Fatsis are both quick to note Mormonism’s complicated past with racism. Even though BYU has done its best to embrace Bro. Davies, I wonder if this will contribute to its being perceived as a school for and by white folk.

I don’t think that BYU is made up exclusively (or mostly) by racists. Certainly there is a lot of ignorance, but most of it is benign. So, what should the university (or the church) do to combat this misperception? Or, failing that, how should we respond to the perfectly reasonable questions that Pesca and Fatsis bring up?

Comments

  1. You’re talking about three great sports reporters none of whom has really done their homework on the question that Fatsis raises yet they still grab the ball and run with it in rumor, speculation, and selectively gathered statistics that even a Stats 101 student would recognize as not even coming close to supporting a theory.

    Even Fatsis admits that he pulled from a select few athletes and Mike Pesca in what he calls “research” Googled news stories for the list of athletes that were suspended for Honor Code violations. Pesca admits he couldn’t ascertain the race of many of the individuals he identified. Fatsis admits that the application of the Honor Code might be consistent he doesn’t really know but there seems to be some perception among the students that a bias toward athletes exists.

    Great story guys, nothing like making stuff as you go and drawing ill supported conclusions. I’ll go with Aaron Levenstein for $1000 – “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” They all know that their conclusions wouldn’t pass the muster with an accomplished Editor of a nationally recognized news outlet, and so they throw them out encouraging someone to pick up the story and run with it.

    I think the only statement worth considering here is what coach Holmoe said, “There are times when I deal with honor code violations that you are not interested in. They are handled the same way.” In other words, just because you can find 20 stories that talk about honor code violations and athletes doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of other unreported instances among athletes first (who’s going to write about the soccer or track or rugby or volleyball teams since they’re not the core football / basketball most profitable sports that everyone talks about and especially the national news media), and among non-athletic students as well? When was the last story written about some musician being removed from the Cougar Marching band for violating the honor code? Or what about someone in the Young Ambassadors? Ok maybe surely they’d write a story about someone on the Intelligent Ground Competition robotics team?

    Of course they wouldn’t. It’s not newsworthy. And neither really is any honor code violation for that matter. Unless the kid is an athlete and unless, oh my, he happens to not be white. THEN you can make up a great scandalous story that everyone will want to read and guess what, that ups your visibility as a reporter and that increases the revenue for that site or paper that pays your wages.

    Now, do I think the story has legs? No, not today. Could it have had legs back when Jim MacMahon was playing in the 80’s? Maybe and especially if you were looking at how the university looked the other way when athletes were winning. But that was 30 years ago and BYU is a very different place in some ways since then.

    It’s still not a very multi-racial experience. But then again, that tends to mirror the composition of the Church in North America of those who go on to get college degrees. There is some self-fulfilling prophecy aspect to the challenges of being non-white and attending BYU. That’s a story worth discussing but it has been discussed in great detail and even Pesca references what has been written.

    My read on it is that every reporter wants to critically examine all aspects of a story, especially when they feel like the balloon and hype around it has blown out of proportion and that a little pinprick of altered reality needs to be introduced into the conversation. Even if that altered reality may not have any relation to the actual facts.

  2. Alain,
    So, you have stats to support your assertions? I get that I there are alternative narratives; my point is that 19 out of 20 students google-searched is a remarkable coincidence even if it is a coincidence. I’m also deeply skeptical that the Utah newspapers would choose to pass on reporting a BYU athlete being suspended for Honor Code stuff if they were white.

  3. I don’t think racism is the only or even most likely explanation here.

    I think the fact that Davies is a high-profile athlete had more to do with his suspension than his race. BYU wanted to make an example of him. I agree that other BYU students have committed the same infraction with much lighter consequences. But in this case, the person was high profile and the Honor Code folks decided to make a public example of him.

    Because he’s a visible athlete. Not because of race.

    And face it – athletic teams tend to skew racially.

    Just saying race isn’t the only variable here.

  4. John, I don’t have stats, but the absence of statistics does not a trend make either. My point is this, you don’t know how many stories Google turned that Pesca threw aside because he couldn’t ascertain race. In those cases everyone of them might have been white. In fact, he might have found 40 stories and was only able to ascertain race for half of them because only half of them actually went on to success beyond college. In which case there would be no bias whatsoever. See, I can draw the same type of conclusions as Pesca does without well supported data.

    Further, ask yourself two questions:

    1. What is the racial composition of the athletes who excel at football and basketball? Just talk percentages of top athletes.

    2. How many of those athletes that BYU recruits are non-members?

    What is the probability that a nonmember athlete who might not subscribe whatsoever to the university standards instead came because they felt they could excel at a Division 1A university in a great program. So if that’s the case, what is the probability that this same athlete might get themselves in trouble with the honor code when all of their friends at other schools, maybe even some up at the U are having a good time?

    Play those probabilities and tell me how that might relate to the 19 out of 20 instances being a minority race?

    See, now that’s an angle worth considering. But no, I don’t think anyone would tackle that angle because they would probably be accused of pulling a Jimmy the Greek.

  5. I think a few things could be done to get a better foundation for the questioning.

    First, get a grasp of the ratio of white BYU athletes to minority athletes (which can be somewhat tricky).

    Second, get a grasp on who has been suspended when and for what (which can be somewhat tricky).

    Third, do a better job of justifying, accounting for, or rejecting the implicit assumption that white and minority athletes are equally likely to break the honor code.

    Fourth, recognize that the honor code office is not a static monolith without any changes in personnel, policy, stringency, etc. Comparing McMahon to the current circumstances may be seen as an anachronistic comparison, for instance.

    These are just a few ideas. How to respond to the reasonable questions? I think it’s entirely appropriate to explore ongoing issues of race at BYU, and to take into consideration how the past can reverberate into the present. At the same time, it seems to me this particular incident simply isn’t easily or best explained by pointing to racism. I could be wrong, but I am not seeing an easy correlation here.

  6. I think it’s a reasonable question. I’d want to see the actual honor code violations before leaping to judgment. I’m afraid a Google of high profile suspensions isn’t quite sufficient to me. There’s also the question about what acts were or were not suspended. I mean it may simply be a statistical artifact of who got into trouble: perhaps due to not knowing the local culture whereas those a little more hip to the culture knew how to play things so they didn’t get caught. But it’s definitely a legitimate question even if assuming the conclusions is pretty illegitimate.

  7. Alain, I don’t think it fair to compare the situation today with what went on during the 80’s or 90’s. I think it safe to say that during that period athletes got away with a lot more than they should have. I think since Bronco started coaching football they’ve taken the stance that more was demanded. How much of that is Bronco’s basic coaching philosophy that has permeated athletics versus reaction to the rather high publicity rape charges under Crowton I can’t say. You might recall there were charages of racism during the rape controversy as well. I *personally* think we’re more seeing a culture clash though.

  8. Seth,
    I think that you are correct that the powers that be are trying to demonstrate that there isn’t a double-standard between regular students and athletes. That belief to the contrary persists is addressed by the reporters, some of whom argue that this is more about sending a message to the student body than to the world at large.

    Alain,
    Your argument seems to be that local papers (I think Pesca said he was going through the archives of the SLTrib) only mention race if the offender is a minority. You’re not convincing me that there isn’t some sort of systemic racism at play. That said, you are right that it would be nice to know how many unascertainable races folks he went to.

    “What is the probability that a nonmember athlete who might not subscribe whatsoever to the university standards instead came because they felt they could excel at a Division 1A university in a great program.”
    Offhand, I’d guess zero probability. The Honor Code and the atmosphere created thereby is a selling point for athletes (lds or otherwise) coming to BYU. I doubt top athletes who aren’t interested in it would bother with BYU; there are plenty of programs out there, many of them better.

    For that matter, I’m deeply skeptical that minority athletes outnumber white athletes on any of BYU’s teams. I’m even more dubious that they outnumber white team members to a proportion of 19-1 or anything close to it. This is BYU we are talking about here.

    Also, while it might make us feel better to believe that members of other faiths aren’t as deeply committed to their moral principles as we are, it’s really just deeply insulting.

    Blair,
    First of all, I completely missed that post. Sorry. I’m not sure how that happened.

    “Comparing McMahon to the current circumstances may be seen as an anachronistic comparison, for instance.”
    I completely agree that it is anachronistic. But those sorts of anachronisms persist in the minds of reporters, students, and sports fans alike. Some people think BYU has a shot at the national title every year, after all. In any case, I don’t think that the perception of two sets of rules for athletes and non-athletes is particularly anachronistic, as it clearly persists to the degree that Davies’s suspension is seen as relating to it.

    I agree that race isn’t necessarily the best way to see this issue. But I don’t think that these reporters are throwing BYU under the bus by bringing it up. I think the questions they raise are completely legitimate. I’m just having trouble formulating a response that would prove why they are wrong. I appreciate your, admittedly tricky, attempt.

  9. Sounded to me like Pesca had some sort of ax to grind, suggesting that the leagues ought to “look into BYU and see if they want to be associated with what they do there.” (my paraphrase — I was too lazy to go find the exact quote, so hopefully I didn’t mess it up too badly). Although he suggests an investigation, it pretty much sounds like he’s personally moved on to the post-conviction penalty phase.

  10. John,

    I never said the papers would only mention race if the student was of any racial profile. What I was saying is that most likely the only articles that enabled Pesca to determine race were those with a photo attached to them. If he actually went deeper as I would, he would have actually sought out photos of each student athlete in question wherever they could be found through Google. So the question is whether he could ascertain race at all based on what Google produced and how deeply he dug. The further back you go the more difficult it is to find photos of an athlete unless they went on to success in the professional level simply because the digital archive starts to fall apart around 1997 or later.

    Next, your assumption on athletes coming to BYU for the honor code is interesting but I would say questionable. It’s pretty clear that BYU has a difficult time recruiting specifically due to the Honor Code and I suspect that many nonmember athletes that came prior to Bronco’s era were told to just keep it on the down low and outside of Happy Valley. Jim MacMahon is just one such example – I heard enough stories while I was at BYU back in the 90s from those who knew to back up that assertion.

    Further, you missed my point. What is the probability that a minority athlete who comes to BYU is a nonmember? And it’s not a question of outnumbering, it’s a question of there being a larger population of minorities in the athletics program than is proportional to the general student population. I’m sure you won’t refute that assertion.

    Further, I don’t think BYU gets the best athletes available who aren’t members, but not many good athletes who aren’t quite good enough to get into other top 25 programs would be likely to turn down a scholarship at a top 25 program that happened to have a pesky honor code. Even if they didn’t buy into it.

    Really the question to ask is whether the student who was removed for Honor Code violations is a member or not? Why might that matter? Because given what I just described, a nonmember is less likely to be motivated to live up to the Honor Code standards since they likely don’t have years of Primary and YM/YW indoctrination to instill the guilt factor all Mormons grow up with. (It’s a joke, but still makes the point). I’m trying to drill down to motivations to live up to the standards and why students come to BYU in the first place. I’m not making declarations of anyone’s moral standards, I’m asking whether they came into the university with the same standards and whether they have the same religious experience to reinforce those standards on a weekly basis with a Church environment on top of the BYU experience.

    College age is a time of exploration and without the proper religious reinforcement – and even in spite of it – any young man or woman can be tempted into slipping.

  11. But those sorts of anachronisms persist in the minds of reporters, students, and sports fans alike.

    True, and a more responsible journalist would try to point that out.

    But I don’t think that these reporters are throwing BYU under the bus by bringing it up.

    Whatever they’re doing, it isn’t very good journalism. Hey, let’s ask questions and not seek answers in a reasonable or responsible way! That is to say, from what I’ve seen, they employ your run-of-the-mill “speculative questions mixed with various statistics to add a patina of truth” style of journalism common to a lot of cable news programming and talk radio.

  12. All this is to say they seem to be raising the questions without much interest in getting good answers, as evidenced by the lack of effort on their part to formulate answers based on testimony or other data.

  13. Just to clarify, I believe that Jim McMahon was asked to leave BYU for honors code violations. It was just that BYU waited until he had exhausted all his eligibility and then threw him out.

  14. Isn’t anyone concerned about the leaping to conclusions that’s taking place in the comments here? Instead of defesively attacking the flaws in the statistics gathered by this reporter, why aren’t people more concerned by their obvious implications? Minorities on BYU’s campus are a tiny fraction of the population, yet they make up the vast majority of students suspended for honor code violations. If true, that is a huge concern, whatever it’s cause.

  15. Alain,
    My impression on listening to the podcast is that Pesca put in the work to find out. He alternates between saying that he found 20 suspensions and 20 suspensions for which he is able to determine race. I suppose that he is just talking about the ones for which he is able to determine race, but I’m not sure. It would be nice to know what his indeterminate number was, but I don’t have the impression that it was high.

    I’m not sure that you are doing your arguments any favors by saying that Honor Code violations used to be inequally pursued by the administration or the athletic department.

    “Further, I don’t think BYU gets the best athletes available who aren’t members, but not many good athletes who aren’t quite good enough to get into other top 25 programs would be likely to turn down a scholarship at a top 25 program that happened to have a pesky honor code. Even if they didn’t buy into it.”

    Of all the things I’m skeptical in this statement (that BYU is a top 25 program, for instance), it is that folk who aren’t interested in the honor code would be interested in BYU during our current era. Perhaps in the heyday of LaVell, I guess, but it wasn’t really a marquee program back then. So I’m baffled by this.

    “I’m not making declarations of anyone’s moral standards, I’m asking whether they came into the university with the same standards and whether they have the same religious experience to reinforce those standards on a weekly basis with a Church environment on top of the BYU experience.”

    You realize that this is a self-contradictory statement, right?

    Blair,
    On a second listen, it seems like Pesca put more time into this than we are currently giving him credit for. Certainly, he doesn’t come to the conclusions we’d prefer, but he clearly did some research. He just didn’t, apparently, talk to a Mormon about it, which is, of course, a big oversight.

    MCQ,
    Not just on campus, they make up a minority of BYU’s athletes.

  16. Well exactly John.

    Here’s another way to look at this: If Brandon Davies were white, would he have received the same treatment?

    I’m not confident the answer is yes. You can gripe all you want about the flaws in the research done by the reporter in this case, but its the only data set we have right now and it’s very damning.

    The only legitimate way to respond is with alarm and with requests for more info.

  17. Natalie B. says:

    Q: Of these 19 people, were all members of the church?

  18. I’m not sure I understand why that matters Natalie.

  19. Natalie, my question exactly. Thank you. I’m not going to bat away at this any further than one last comment because I’ve allowed myself to be pulled into debating what I said at first is conclusions based on statistics that are poorly defined and whose underlying data collection methods are completely flawed. But you guys can feel free to debate the question all you want without the necessary data.

    Now, since we want to quibble about what was said let’s put it in black and white rather than trying to remember what we think we heard in an audio recording. Because people only remember a part of what they hear.

    Here’s the direct transcript that I just wrote while listening as close to word for word as I could to how Pesca describes his research. And I’m not going to go research the actual names so I wrote them down the best I could phonetically based on how he says them but the rest is word for word.


    In terms of suspensions and we talked about three of them, I went back, I went back 20 years and I looked at Google and I googled “suspended BYU football and “suspended BYU basketball” and I could not ascertain the race of everyone who was suspended. But, going back to 95 dismissed were defensive backs James Hegen, Greg Steel and James Hughes and Horace Tysdale. I found that 4 of those guys were black. In 1998, three cougar gridders ran afoul of the law including Tacoma Fontaine who was black, Ronnie Jenkins who was black, Omar Morgan who was black, Keshamou Robinson who was either black or of mixed race. In 2001, Marcus Whalens who was black was suspended from the team. Brett Pollack who was white was also suspended from the team in 2001. In 2004, the Deseret Morning News which I might be wrong I think it’s owned by the Mormon Church, I know it’s pretty much writing the news ya know to the population that lives in Salt Lake City is the more pro Mormon than the Tribune. They wrote about 10 suspended football players
    and none of the students disciplined in the last year at the school is white. Marco Pringle in 2006. Prino Tahe and we talked about Harvey Unga. Overall I found about 20 athletes who were suspended, basketball or football players who were suspended and of the 20 who I could figure out their race, 18 were black or mixed race or polynesian and Ryan Tessman was Jewish and that other Brett Pollack is white.

    [Josh Levin jumps in at this point and says]This is the equivalent of an all text sports illustrated cover. [The same cover that they mocked earlier in the podcast for not being a legitimate story because it's substance didn't live up to the hype of the cover.]

    The point is, I’m not doing this, I think it could be what I’m doing is cowardly, and insensitive to the issue, but hey I’m just saying, what about the racial issue.

    So he googled two search terms and grabbed what articles he could find and then using pictures most likely he ascertained what the race of the players was. And then he uses this as the basis to conclude that BYU is playing racial unfavorites as a basis for determining who should be suspended for violations of the Honor Code.

    That my friends is the equivalent of taking a jar full of white and black marbles and pulling out the first twenty (which turn out to be 18 black, one grey and one white) and declaring that the jar must be full of black marbles and the white one is an anomaly. Even though it is entirely statistically possible to pull 18 straight black marbles out of a jar that is 50% black and 50% white.

    If what Mike Pesca and Stefan Fatsis did is what constitutes good journalism today then I have no question why the newspapers and magazines are going out of business left and right and it has nothing to do with losing their advertising revenues to the internet. Especially when Pesca goes and makes a defamatory declaration like that with a research basis that barely rises to the level of something you would expect the National Enquirer to produce.

  20. If what Alain did constitutes good blog comments today then I have no question why I feel the need to punch somebody in the face.

    (BTW, the outlets that employ both journalists in question are doing very well.)

  21. Alain, you’re doing the same thing you’re accusing them of, reaching conclusions based on a lack of evidence. We all agree it’s not a great statistical sample, that’s a given, but he didn’t prejudice the sample on purpose, so rather than jump reflexively to BYU’s defense and say that the research is flawed, why don’t you agree that it looks bad and that more info is needed?

  22. BTW, from what I could hear, the reporter wasn’t drawining any final conclusions from his google research, he was calling for the Tribune or other news outlets to pursue the story. I agree with that, and only those who think BYU should be immune from all question would disagree that more inquiry is necessary.

  23. Natalie B. says:

    #18: I think that non-members would be far more likely to not take the honor code seriously than members. If it turns out that minority athletes were somehow disproportionately non-members (I have no idea if that is true), then that could contribute to the explanation.

    It would be interesting to see the stats as to non-mormons v. mormons, all minorities v. non-minorities, athletes v. non-athletes, athlete minorities v. non-athlete minorities. I just don’t think we have enough data to draw conclusions, even though the trend suggests there are questions worth asking.

  24. I agree with all that Natalie, and you are right, those would be good questions.

  25. Alain,
    Again, we’ve all acknowledged that sample size is an issue (I’ve even written directly to Pesca to find out the true size of his sample; I’ll let you know what I find out). However, 95% minority representation remains remarkable in an essentially random search. I suppose that you could argue that the Google algorithm has some sort of racial bias, but that doesn’t seem likely.

    That said, you are clearly no apologist for BYU athletics, as your transcript amply demonstrates.

  26. What race is mekeli wesley? goodness…at this point we get into the milk chocolate or dark chocolate discussion from an august wilson play.

    I was a volleyball player, and a women…more white people in that mix. All the people who struggled that I knew were white. So my statistics say differently. But we didn’t get a lot of press because you know those women (hey let’s make this a sexist conversation).

    If the journalists want to enter the conversation maybe they should consider that BYU handles it without releasing details. The journalists have put this story everywhere. The media has broadcast what exactly happened…this has gone very differently from Unga or Wesley as far as that goes.

    Are we really going to trust a balding sports geek and a place kicker with the power of google?

  27. Interesting observation. It seems we might compare the number of male athletes with honor code punishments to the female athletes with honor code penalties. More evidence of sexism at the Y? ;)

  28. natalie has a good point. The questions are worth raising…but this particular set of people strike me like…peta. Even when they possibly may be right the way they say it and present it is so ridiculous I can’t really even listen.

  29. lessonNumberOne,

    Wow, calling them nerds was a really good point. Thanks for making the world a better place.

  30. Chris H, you are right, I haven’t been a very good blog commenter today. My apologies for being pissy. Frankly I think it’s worth investigating further. I’m just frustrated that Fatsis and Pesca have sufficient sway in the world of journalism that their slant on the story – and there is a definitely a bias in the manner that they pose the question – is the one that will stick.

    I don’t know the answer here – BYU very well could be applying the Honor Code inconsistently. Only the real numbers would tell the whole story. So yes, I’m no apologetic for BYU sports – I just hate when statistics are poorly leveraged due to the innumeracy of the general listening population.

  31. Talking to a stats friend, who argues that the sample is biased, but it appears to be because local police arrest a lot more minority players than white players. So the racism, if present, may not be BYU-centric; it may have more to do with the community mores.

  32. I was mostly just mockiing the bemoaning of the state of journalism because of two people.

    Race and racism are complex concepts. Race can be a factor, even if those in the honor code office are not bigots and BYU is not a blatantly racist institution. BYU, race, and sports has a checkered past. I think these writers are show an awareness of that history.

  33. I hope the honor code office considers NO labels..not the name of the person, who their parents are, their race, or gender, or even the nerd factor.

  34. Given that they are human (though occasionally appearing to be robots), I am sure they do in a variety of ways…not all with malice.

    I think nerds should have special preference.

  35. race is a complex issue, as are looks in general…are better looking people more likely to get a pass? do nerds get preference? It is very difficult to judge in an unbiased manner.

  36. Yawn.

  37. I don’t understand all the drama whether “application of the honor code could be racially motivated”.

    After all, it’s not as though John C. suggested that collegiate sports is a money-making business enterprise rather than the corpore sano myth of yore, or that student athletes are preferentially admitted as latter-day gladiators who would never otherwise make the cut, or that TV is a corrupting influence on both school and athlete.

    Now that would be an outrage.

  38. The initial information is concerning and worth further investigation. I hope one of the local papers or a BYU stats class or someone picks it up. I’m thinking of another angle; in a CBS Sports article about the honor code, Bronco said the following:  “Grade-point average has been a better predictor of social conduct than religious preference, the higher the grade-point average of these kids coming in, the more obedient they are, the more faithful they are.”
    Statistically valid studies have shown a continued gap in GPAs between white and black students across the country, with white students having higher GPAs. I don’t know if there’s an easy explanation for this unfortunate trend, but I imagine it is a factor of school quality, funding, role modeling, and other larger societal issues where we as are still far from equal in the US. 
    So I wonder if minority athletes at BYU, while competitively equal in the arena, may come to BYU with educational or other disadvantages that increase the statistical likelihood of honor code issues regardless whether enforcement were perfectly equal or not (and I’m not sure that it is). I want to be clear that I’m not saying one race is inherently smarter or more faithful than another. What I am saying is that minorities (in general) are still disadvantaged in many ways due to societal inequality, especially in education. This could result in minority athletes, on average, actually having a more difficult time keeping the honor code as college students than their more advantaged white peers. If so, it highlights bigger issues than prejudice in honor code enforcement. It seems a lot like the crime data that shows minorities statisically more likely to commit crimes. Part of this is probably disparity in enforcement and profiling by cops and part of it is probably reality and can be tied back to inequality in education, income. communities, etc.  

  39. Stan Beale says:

    About 25 years ago I attended a workshop for teachers that covered “subtle prejudices.” The principal focus of the conference was to show that even we “prejudice free” teachers shouldn’t be too cocky about that smug assertion. Let me give four simple examples of what various studies had found:
    1. Over 1000 English teachers were given the same essay
    to grade at a convention. 1/5 wrere given the essay
    written by a young lady with no picture, 1/5 with a
    picture of the supposed writer with black hair, 1/5 with
    the picture of the same girl with brown hair and so on.
    The results in order of the highest to lowest grade:
    brown, black, red and (of course) blonde.
    2. One study of women teachers demonstrated that they
    tended to think the larger or darker a black male was,
    the less intelligence he possessed.
    3. Both male and female high school teachers tended to
    ask the male students the more sophisticted questions
    and the female the more basic ones (apparently one of
    things they had to take into account was an equality of
    ability of men and women)
    4. Teachers were aked, What is wrong with this
    statement? “Girls gossip and men exchange
    information.” At that time it was amazing the number
    of teachers that did not catch the girl-man inequality (I
    would hope the stats would be better today).

    You might ask, what does this all have to do with the question of race and the honor code? Simple, if people want to be serious about the issue, trained and impartial people need to do an in depth study with free access to people and records. There are concerns that a media person does not have the time nor the background to handle the task. BYU staff, students and alums are probably ill suited to provide the people for such a study as they are too close to the situation. As a matter of trust and access, these people would have to be upstanding members of the church with unquestioned credentials.

    Is this an issue important enough for such an undertaking?
    I would say yes.

  40. John Mansfield says:

    If the role of race in these BYU expulsions is going to be considered in a statistical way, then the differing behaviors of different demographic groups becomes part of the issue. For instance:

    Birth rates for unmarried women vary widely by race and ethnicity. In 2005, the nonmarital rate for Hispanic women was highest, at 100.3 per 1,000, followed by black women, 67.8, non-Hispanic white women, 30.1,and API women, 24.9. These variations have changed little in recent years.

    That’s from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics Report, Volume 56, Number 6, December 5, 2007, “Births: Final Data for 2005.” (I would provide a link, but BCC tends to embargo my comments with links these days.) This is probably not something anyone wants to think about, however. As Attorney-General Eric Holder said, we’re “a nation of cowards.” “We know, by ‘American instinct’ and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character.”

  41. John,
    I’m curious what conclusions you believe we should draw from those statistics. But it might be best left for another thread.

  42. John Mansfield says:

    No conclusions, only factors that anyone who wants to raise the topic of race in BYU expulsions ought to include in the analysis.

  43. Well, you’ve got me, Mansfield. What relevance do birth rates have to this discussion?

  44. Seems like what John’s getting at is what nobody wants to say directly, ’cause they’ll get flamed.

    Minorities are more likely to come from cultures where promiscuity is more glorified/less stigmatized/simply-not-a-big-deal than whites. Non-members are more likely to come from cultures where promiscuity is more glorified/less stigmatized/simply-not-a-big-deal than members. Given that the percentage of minorities and non-members are much higher on BYU athletic teams than the school in general, it seems likely that the minority group and the non-member group overlap. Seems possible that these players don’t hold the BYU honor code values internally, that it is a code they’ve agreed to out of practicality, and that given the temptation of the moment, are more likely to succumb.

    In other words, maybe minorities at BYU are simply more likely to break the honor code.

  45. it's a series of tubes says:

    Wow, the statistical analysis in this thread is less than rigorous. I was no stats major, but I did take four stats courses in connection with a math minor. None of the statistical information re BYU mentioned in this thread can properly be used to support ANY of the supposed inferences.

    Here’s why:
    Absent full information about at least a representative sample of people dismissed from BYU for Honor Code violations (and more preferably, full information about everyone dismissed) , including race, gender, etc – any comments regarding supposed racial or gender bias in the outcomes are unsupported speculation.

    We don’t have a representative sample. Nor do we have full information. And we all know full well that this information will never be disclosed. It might even be unlawful for the University to do so.

    So MCG, forgive me for disagreeing with you that the only way to respond is with alarm.

    Also, Alain, your example in #20 supports exactly the opposite of the conclusions you state. If you pulled 20 marbles from a sample jar having an unknown distribution, there is a strong likelihood that the distribution in the jar closely matches the distribution in your pull. Is it possible to pull a non-representative sample of 20? Absolutely. But it is extremely unlikely.

    Moving beyond statistics, allow me to throw an anecdote into the mix:
    I personally know seven people who were dismissed from BYU during my time there. None of them were members of a University athletic team, and all of them were white. Three are male, four are female. 6 of the seven are members of the church. Nothing was ever written in any newspaper about any of them, because the proceedings were private and their leaving the university was not notable in the community.

    This kind of data will never be considered by the pundits, because it is inaccessible to them.

  46. Martin,
    Why would you assume that these folks don’t hold these values internally? That is the most galling point of your analysis (though not the only). Not that I think that everybody does hold these values, but I’m assuming that people who come here are religious in the American sense, which does generally include sex after marriage (really, it does). Pre-marital sex is often frowned upon outside of the church. I don’t think you are saying that the LDS church is the only group committed to abstinence prior to marriage, but your statements could easily be read that way.

  47. I’m assuming that people who come here are religious in the American sense

    I don’t think that is a necessarily good assumption. It’s tempting to think that all students–non-LDS and LDS–come to BYU for similar reasons and with somewhat similar approaches to life and morals. I think that is ultimately a very naive hope, though.

  48. “Pre-marital sex is often frowned upon outside of the church.”

    But not in the unique way we frown upon it, ie. the second only to murder kind of frown.

  49. In fact, as an addendum to #48, I think it’s naive to even assume all LDS students who attend BYU feel that way.

  50. gomez,

    We are quite forgiving of heterosexual pre-marital sex.

  51. Steve Evans says:

    Martin, you are so dumb stupid I don’t even know what to do with you. Not only are you racist, but you’re a sloppy thinker. You’re done here.

  52. “I don’t think you are saying that the LDS church is the only group committed to abstinence prior to marriage, but your statements could easily be read that way.”

    Really? I re-read what I wrote, but I don’t see how.

    Let me also point out that of non-LDS attending BYU, I suspect the internal values of those recruited are less likely to overlap fully with the BYU honor code than those who weren’t recruited.

    I doubt BYU is going to give the public any stats on honor code enforcement, but hopefully they’ve at least got some internal monitoring. I doubt there’s anything racist about how the code is enforced, but you can never know for sure if you don’t check.

  53. We are quite forgiving of heterosexual pre-marital sex.

    In comparison to whom?

    I don’t know many universities expelling students for it other than BYU.

  54. I was not making a comparison. By “we” I meant the Church and LDS culture. BYU and I are no longer part of any “we.”

    We speak negatively of it, but I have lived in many places, particularly rural areas , where many people were “with child” prior to marriage and later served in leadership positions. Not saying the there was not a repentance process, but it was not uncommon.

  55. Also, Alain, your example in #20 supports exactly the opposite of the conclusions you state. If you pulled 20 marbles from a sample jar having an unknown distribution, there is a strong likelihood that the distribution in the jar closely matches the distribution in your pull. Is it possible to pull a non-representative sample of 20? Absolutely. But it is extremely unlikely.

    Depends on how many marbles there are. If there are 21 marbles total, then yes 20 would be an almost exact reflection. If there are 10 million marbles (in a very large jar), 20 would be way too small to be a reflective sample size.

    But yeah, for the purposes of this arguement 20 is probably statistically significant – if they were randomly sampled, unfortunately “googling” is not random sampling.

    Its a valid point that needs investigation. The last thing I would want is for a church-sponsored-and-run institution (with a shady racial past) to be involved in racial prejudice in the scope of expulsion (or obviously any scope, but . . . ).

    The investigation tactics obviously leave much to be desired by way of statistical analysis, but if the church does have such a bias I think that would be far more worrisome than someone’s statistical deficiencies.

    This is what we should consider a good “jumping off point”.

  56. 55 – Yeah, I guess “forgiving” is a good word actually. Just not “accepting”.
    I read you to be saying “accepting”.

  57. Scott,
    I agree that it is likely a somewhat naive hope, but if you aren’t interested in religion and “traditional religious values” I would assume that BYU holds little to no appeal. It isn’t exactly difficult to get into college nowadays and there are plenty of fish in the sea. Realizing that there is a wide variety of experiences and circumstances, I still think it is reasonable to assume that most of the people at BYU are not turned off by the Honor Code and intend, however grudgingly, to abide by it.

  58. 58 – another factor to consider: At 17/18 years old when deciding what college to attend – maybe a parent’s desires are equally (if not more) relevant than the student’s in many cases. Maybe the parent’s want their boy/girl going to a nice school with high moral standards and rules, but the student has no desire to follow, nor resonance with, the Honor Code.

  59. I’d like to point out an incident from during my time at BYU that would probably skew the original data. In 1993, six members of the BYU men’s gymnastics team were suspended for Honor Code violations. Seemed like a big deal at the time, especially for the numbers involved. That’s a significant number of athletes for a program like that.

  60. it's a series of tubes says:

    Depends on how many marbles there are. If there are 21 marbles total, then yes 20 would be an almost exact reflection. If there are 10 million marbles (in a very large jar), 20 would be way too small to be a reflective sample size.

    This is a fallacy. If the distribution is the same, then the needed sample size varies only slightly. Running some numbers through basic sample size calulation formulas, in many instances the sample size needed for a population of one million is within 5 of the sample size needed for a population of 100. Tighter bounds on confidence intervals increase the sample size significantly. However, addressing the question at issue here – namely, that we CANNOT use the results to show racism/bias – can be very easily shown with a sample size of 20.

    Many, many statistics problems are based on a sample size of 20.

  61. I was no stats major

    Well, we should just leave it at that then.

  62. Hey, tubes, you appear to be contradicting yourself. You say the sample size is fine, but then you say we can conclude nothing from that sample. I agree that the statistical analysis is not ideal, as I have said many times, but if the sample is fine then aren’t we right to be alarmed at the apparent problems raised by the sample?

  63. StillConfused says:

    When I went to lawschool at BYU, my best friend there was not Mormon. She lived her life the way that she felt was right. She may not have lived by the “honor” code the way that LDS classmates did, but she had more honor and integrity than most of them.

    That is what has always amazed me about the LDS church. We are so worried about who is having sex with whom but turn a blind eye to selfishness, selfcenteredness, greed, unkindness and lack of compassion.

    p.s. I had no idea that the guy who was suspended for the honor code violation was black. I never heard that mentioned anywhere. I only found out about the race of the “offender” last weekend when my husband mentioned it in a conversation.

  64. Just doing a little fact checking that will perhaps change the perspective and tenor of this discussion. I think most are assuming that the Honor Code violations were sex or alcohol related. Here’s a list of 8 of those 20 that Mike Pesca likely included since they were some of the first hits from Googling “suspended BYU basketball.”

    – Oct 2007, O’Neil Chambers was suspended for two games from the football team and then ultimately for the season for unsportsmanlike conduct, for pulling pranks on teammates, an acting defiantly toward the coaches. He was not removed from the University.

    – September 2007, Ryan Kessman was suspended from the basketball team for violating team rules. Apparently his violations included drinking coffee, breaking curfew, and missing workouts. It lists that 5 other freshman ballplayers were suspended also without listing names. Kessman is Jewish and left the school to pursue a different college playing experience.

    – February 2007, Matangi Tonga was suspended from the team for violating team rules – was charged with burglary

    – Jan 2007, RaShaun Broadus was suspended from the team for a DUI arrest

    – Aug 2004, Marcus Whalen and Breyon Jones were arrested and suspended from the team due to facing criminal charges that they assaulted and robbed an acquaintance. The same article mentioned that an off campus party involving alcohol and sex in January resulted in one football player being kicked off the team, three suspended and two placed on probation. No mention of race.

    – Dec 1998 Ronney Jenkins was expelled from the school for his second violation of the Honor Code. His violation was a sexual transgression. A similar transgression in 1997 resulted in him being suspended from the team.

    – Oct 1998, Ron Selleaze was arrested for possessing a controlled substance in a drug free zone – this resulted in him being expelled from school. The back story however is that apparently Ron had a couple of friends from Oakland visiting him and while he was taking a nap they fired up a couple of bowls and at some point the police showed up. It’s a sad story actually. http://www.cougaruteforum.com/showthread.php?t=23587

    See, this is the kind of research that if Pesca had done – it took me all of about 30 minutes, he might have drawn a somewhat different conclusion. Most of these players broke the law and this resulted in suspension from the team. Some of them were not kicked out of school after their first violation. One of them, Chambers, was kicked off the team for being a unmotivating distraction to the rest of the team.

    Looking at those facts I see a very different story from the one Pesca tried to portray. And maybe he would have seen it different too if he had stepped back and done the research before jumping to conclusions.

    I also would agree with others that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg, that much of the violations are not reported to the press because they’re not newsworthy. So a Google search simply wouldn’t surface them.

  65. One other item. In that post on cougaruteforum that I linked to the author, a former student sports journalist at the Y discusses a conversation with a former football player:

    Another thing that came out of a recent conversation with a former BYU D-lineman… (who is an RM and a rock-solid LDS member) he said that Honor Code violations are at least as common among member athletes (although typically less egregious) but that they know the process. They have an advocate and a confidante in their bishops. Non-mormon athletes are referred immediately to the impersonal bureaucracy of the HC office.

    THAT is an inequity that needs to be addressed–both for the good of the kids and the good of BYU’s public relations efforts.

    This is likely why whether or not the athlete is a member or not makes a difference to whether or not the student incurs disciplinary action that might lead to expulsion.

  66. Adding three others that Pesca cites:

    Fontaine, Fields and Robinson in 1998 were all placed on a one year suspension from the team for being arrested for possessing a controlled substance – marijuana – and Fontaine also received a DUI when they were all pulled over in Millard county.

    Defensive backs James Heggins, Greg Steele and James Humes, wide receiver Horace Tisdale and running back Tony Hicks were expelled from BYU for being involved in a case where a young woman accused them of raping her. All parties agreed that sex had occurred, the question was whether it was consensual.

    Setting aside Chambers for being a jerk, Jenkins for having relations, and Kessman for drinking coffee and not following team rules, all 12 of the others got in trouble with the law. Whether they were targeted by law enforcement for being minorities is a fair discussion but not something to lay at BYU’s doorstep. If you violate the law I think all would agree that suspension from the team or even expulsion from the school is probably called for depending on the nature of the crime.

  67. Alain,
    Thank you for doing that research.

  68. Peter LLC says:

    That is what has always amazed me about the LDS church. We are so worried about who is having sex with whom but turn a blind eye to selfishness, selfcenteredness, greed, unkindness and lack of compassion.

    Let’s not forget our penchant for sweeping judgments!

  69. it's a series of tubes says:

    Hey, tubes, you appear to be contradicting yourself. You say the sample size is fine, but then you say we can conclude nothing from that sample. I agree that the statistical analysis is not ideal, as I have said many times, but if the sample is fine then aren’t we right to be alarmed at the apparent problems raised by the sample?

    MCQ, you’re blending 2 different things I said. The first point was: ANY publicly available information on this topic is not a representative sample. As such, it doesn’t matter how many data points we take – it can never give us reliable information about the population as a whole. Stated differently – the sample is not fine. Accordingly, we shouldn’t be alarmed by the apparent problems because we cannot be sufficiently confident that they are not illusory.

    The second thing I said was in response to Alain’s example stating that a sample of 20 could never be enough. I addressed his point to clarify that a sample of 20 could very well be enough, even for a very large population, provided that the sample was representative.

  70. Tubes, actually, no one caught my point with regards to the 20 marbles. Probably because I wasn’t sufficiently explicit in the description of what I meant.

    In probability you study how random events actually may not look so random when observed in small samples. I was citing an example of the inverse gamblers fallacy which is the belief that if deviations from expected behavior are observed in repeated independent trials of some random process, future deviations in the same direction are then more likely.

    If I had a jar of a 1000 marbles with a 50:50 ratio black to white and pulled 20 marbles and came up with 18 black and 2 white (a probability of 1 in 1,048,576) it would not be safe to assume that as a result my next pull of a marble would be black. Or that my next 5 pulls of marbles from the jar would be black. Pesca is falling for the clustering illusion because he found 18 cases out of 20 where he could specifically identify race.

    Of course, that would be the case if what he found was truly a random sampling of the cases where students are suspended from athletics for honor code violations. As we have discussed here his sampling is not random specifically because:

    1. Not all cases are publicized
    2. Google has non-random algorithms that determine what results to present and in what order
    3. A case that results from an encounter with Law Enforcement is more likely to written up in the news
    4. Law Enforcement does do racial profiling so driving while black does lead to be a higher probability of an encounter

    Those are just a few of the reasons that were outlined in this thread but they establish the point I’m trying to make.

  71. it's a series of tubes says:

    Now I see what you were trying to say, and I agree completely.

  72. Just a comment on this quote in 9 as there have been other statements to this effect
    “Also, while it might make us feel better to believe that members of other faiths aren’t as deeply committed to their moral principles as we are, it’s really just deeply insulting.”

    I don’t know that it is reasonable to assume all religions who believe in abstinance are equally successful at producing this result. It may be less offensive to assume so however.

    Mark Regnerus a Sociologist wrote a book (called Forbidden Fruit, although I haven’t read it yet, but will soon) and mentions that Evangelical teens have premarital sex at the same rates as the US population at large. I believe it is around 60%.

    Contrast this with Mormon populations and the most recent study I found was in Dialogue and stated that LDS teen males have a premarital sex rate of 11% and LDS teen females have a premarital sex rate of 19%

    So yeah, It may be fair to say that not all religions are equally committed to various tenents of their religion.

    I have been doing some research on premarital sex in the US recently for my classes and if there are any other studies I should look at please feel free to suggest them.

  73. jtb, you’re precisely on the right track here. Several contemporary studies of youth and their faith in this country have established that Mormon youth have a deeper commitment to the rules of their faith than all but a select few others.

    When I was pursuing my Masters Program I teamed up with a classmate whose father ran a Bible publishing house in Wheaton, IL and we did a research project on defining what Evangelical Christian students were looking for in a study Bible. This was to be printed for Zondervan. We did a longitudinal survey but we also supplemented that with research material from two other national studies that were ongoing at the time.

    Here are some details:

    One of the leading studies in this realm is that done by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute. http://www.spirituality.ucla.edu/

    They did a study of 112,000 entering Freshmen to public and private colleges and universities in 2004 and then followed up with a select group of them (14,527) three years later. The specifically call out the Mormon students as having one of the most clear cut patterns with the highest scores overall in Religious Engagement, Religious Commitment, Religious/Social Conservatism, Spirituality, and Equanimity. Three other groups closely resemble LDS students, these are Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and “other Christians.” Based on the student responses these tend to be those who attend the Christian nondenominational churches.

    The other major publication and study is done by the National Study of Youth and Religion who have published a study entitled “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.” http://www.youthandreligion.org/ This was conducted by researchers at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who performed a series of telephone interviews, personal interviews and a longitudinal survey between 2001 and 2008.

    I read through the first book they produced several years ago and there was again a clear delineation between LDS youth and their peers with regards to living the commandments they are taught. If you look back in the 2004-2005 time frame this study was referenced by President Hinckley and other General Authorities.

    So it’s not insulting if you have the data to back up your assertions. I just didn’t think to clarify why my statement was founded on solid research because I didn’t want to come off as being too pedantic. My posts in this thread failed for other reasons however.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,475 other followers