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BYU-Idaho student gets a 'zero' for art project that shows bare shoulders

BYU-Idaho student gets no grade for art project that shows bare shoulders. (Photo: Waverly Giles)

(KUTV) A student at Brigham Young University-Idaho says she was shocked when her instructor refused to give her photo project a grade because it featured a woman baring her shoulders.

Frustrated, Freshman Waverly Giles turned to social media to vent about the "zero."

"My photographs meet all of the criteria, but my professor gave me a 0 because he couldn't see past her visible shoulders," she posted Tuesday. The tweet quickly went viral, and by the week's end, Giles had been given another chance on the project.

Before posting to Twitter, Giles said she talked to her humanities teacher about the grade and was told, that while the photos were “creative,” it was “so inappropriate (she) would photograph a naked girl.”

“It’s very frustrating,” Giles told KUTV in a phone interview. “I feel my professor might be doing a disservice by not being able to look at my art objectively. It was implied nudity, there isn’t even nudity, there is just collarbone.”

Giles said the model in the photos wore a tube-top and wasn’t ever nude.

As a result, she was told she did not get a grade because the art failed to comply with the school’s dress code, (which is more strict than BYU-Provo's dress code) something she said was not ever addressed as criteria in the course syllabus or in the grading rubric for the major class assignment.

“I was not warned beforehand that the dress code or honor code applied,” Giles said.

At BYU-I some violations of the dress code include:

  • Pants, slacks or jeans that are patched, faded, frayed or torn and must be ankle length
  • No capri pants
  • Flip-flops and other casual footwear are inappropriate on campus
  • Shorts are not appropriate campus attire
  • Hairstyles should be neat and clean and avoid extreme styles and unnatural colors
  • For women: clothing is immodest when it is sleeveless, does not cover the stomach or is low-cut in the front or back
  • Dresses and skirts should be knee-length or longer (even with leggings worn)

Giles posted on her public Facebook page in early November that she couldn’t wait to send her teacher into “cardiac arrest with my photos.”

The instructor didn’t quite go into cardiac arrest, but was taken back by the art and did not give her a score on the assignment. On the grade sheet he wrote, "did not meet criteria for assignment and I have no idea what to do with these (photos). They’re artistic but …”

In the Foundations of the Humanities 1010 course, Giles said students view many works of art that are not adhering to the university’s dress code, including Michelangelo's famous statue of David.

Giles said great works of art they look at for class aren’t viewed sexually, they are instead considered an art form.

“The thing that bothers me is that he didn’t give me a grade because of the bare shoulders,” Giles said.

The tweet got attention online and had 300 likes, 144 retweets and more than a dozen people replying to the post to voice their frustration that she wasn’t given a score at all because it appeared she meet all the criteria on the grade sheet. Others poked fun about what was considered "inappropriate" by the teacher.

“If I had known he didn’t want to see bare shoulders … and follow the dress standards, I could have done something else. It was not ever made known to me that it was an expectation,” Giles said.

The university said it could not comment on Giles specific situation because its policy prevents BYU-I from discussing student academic performance. But it did say that the school’s Honor Code does not address if dress and grooming also applies to art projects.

“That would just be left up to the instructor if they wanted that to apply,” said BYU-I spokesman Brett Crandall.

KUTV tried contacting the instructor on Nov. 30 by email and phone, but he did not return messages.

The next day Giles tweeted that, while her teacher would not be giving her a grade on her first project, she would get a second chance on the assignment.

If a student doesn’t like the way a teacher handled something in class, Crandall said he or she should first take it to the instructor. If it is not resolved, they can appeal to the department chair of that specific college within BYU-I.

Figure drawing is taught at BYU-I. In those courses Giles said while models aren’t nude, they do wear a sports bra and underwear for students to draw.

“It’s not sexualized, Giles said about how art is treat in other classes at BYU-I. “I strongly believe there is a difference between content and context.”

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