BYU-Hawaii Student Says He Was Ordered to Lose His Locs

Black student says he keeps his hair neatly trimmed in line with Mormon college's Honor Code
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2024 5:35 PM CDT
BYU-Hawaii Student Fights to Keep Dreadlocks
Brigham Young University's Hawaii campus was founded in 1955.   (Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Ramirez)

"I shouldn't have to cut my hair to get an education here," says Kanaan Barton, a student at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. The 22-year-old computer science major says he is fighting to keep his shoulder-length dreadlocks, aka locs. Barton tells the Salt Lake Tribune that he is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and isn't challenging its teachings, only a rule that stops students from expressing Black culture. He says the clash started in September, when a school security officer who initially doubted that he was a student told him he would need to cut his hair or face expulsion.

The private college's Honor Code states that hair should be "neatly trimmed," and Barton says he complies: He goes to a barber twice a month and also visits a loctitian—a hairdresser specializing in locs—one a month "to keep my hair neat, clean and fresh." A requirement for men to have their hair "trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered," was dropped last year. He says that in meetings with school officials, he was told he was "trying to push his own agenda and be defiant" and should lose the locs because his hair was a "distraction."

He says that for now, the school has accepted a compromise suggested by his family that he fold his locs so his hair remains above his collar. Barton tells the Tribune that as somebody of Afro-Guyanese descent, his locs are very important to him. "It's a style that has been passed on for a long time," he says. "People take pride in growing them. And I am one of those people." He says that since the Hawaii campus has many Pacific Islander students from cultures that also value long hair, he's surprised officials aren't more accommodating. The church has a troubled history with Black members, the Guardian notes. A ban on Black people becoming priests brought in by the university's namesake wasn't lifted until 1978. (More dreadlocks stories.)

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