By Erica Smith, a sophomore at Brigham Young University, who is majoring in English.
Like many college students, I scheduled two conflicting classes this semester and couldn’t choose a favorite by the start of the school. I decided to attend my child development class on Monday, another class on Wednesday, and somehow make up my mind before the add/drop deadline. Part of my reason for taking child development was the prenatal unit. Worried that child development, like history classes, might move chronologically, I stayed behind to ask the professor whether I’d miss anything on fetal development if I skipped out on his next class.
I fell into line behind other students jabbering about test policies and textbook prices. Before I reached the professor, a student mother asked him for advice on balancing class and caring for her two-year-old daughter. He told her that she was welcome to bring her daughter to class, but of course, she’d have to go out into the hall if the baby grew fussy. Her face fell. But before she could back away, he told her, “Bring a baby monitor.” He’d set it on the front counter so she could listen to his lectures until her daughter calmed down.
At that moment, I knew I wanted to stay in his class. Here was a man who practiced what he preached, who knew his field and wanted to see his students apply what they learned as parents.
When I told my friends and shared this story on social media, some applauded the professor’s kindness or recalled their own college parenting days, but others shrugged it off as another “only at BYU” moment.
Brigham Young University is funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly nicknamed “Mormons”. The church instructs members to “affirm the sanctity of life”.
BYU is proud to be a child and family friendly school. [Editor’s note: BYU made last year’s Top Schools for Pregnant and Parenting Students] Part of that arises from its religious ties, but it’s also a response to the fast and furious dating culture.
Four girls from my freshman dorm hall snagged their “ring by spring” and married before they were sophomores. Non-students and those attending other Utah schools are known to take advantage of the dating climate by showing up on campus for parties, dances, and just to wander the food court in search of that special someone.
Though dating life thrives, the church-sponsored and academically-acclaimed university is far from a party school. Premarital sex is treated as just as serious an infraction as cheating or plagiarism. For nineteen years running, BYU has topped the Princeton Review’s list of “Stone Cold Sober Schools”, and in 2015 Business Insider ranked BYU as the best school to find a spouse.
Once married, BYU offers on-campus family housing, and rental agreements accommodate engaged students moving out midterm. Married housing accommodations even extend to study abroad programs. Professors check for changed last names when calling role on the first day. In large lecture classes, nobody minds if a student slips her baby into class and parks the stroller in the aisle.
Abortion is much more of a decided issue than a hot button topic at BYU. Faculty assume most students are pro-life and pro-choice students are treated with a “Don’t forget to respect their opinions too” academic tolerance. I heard abortion discussed three times over my entire freshman year. The first was in a frustratingly neutral lesson on Roe v Wade. The second came in Missionary Preparation class, where future missionaries were instructed on how to sensitively teach potential converts who’d participated in abortions. The person to address abortion most directly wasn’t faculty, or even Mormon, but a visiting Catholic archbishop discussing similarities between the two faiths at a campus wide assembly.
Though abortion awareness isn’t strong on campus, the pro-baby atmosphere definitely is. In that sense, BYU is profoundly pro-life. Fathers cradling babies in front of library computers and mothers pushing strollers to class are a common site. Young marriages and student parenting are met with an acceptance that’s hard to find on many campuses. Though I don’t think motherhood is in my near future, it’s nice to know that if I have a child before graduation, I’ll be in good hands.