Brigham Young High School History

The Assembly Crisis of 1955-56
BYH Faculty Meeting Minutes Sans Shirts
April 24, 1956

Faculty Minutes, Brigham Young High School

You may wish to read this first:
A BYH Duck Hunter's Affidavit on Assemblies

A meeting of the Brigham Young High School faculty was held in room 290 of the Education Building, Tuesday, April 24, 1956, at 12:05 p.m. Prayer was offered by Maurine Bryner. Minutes and summary comments were written by Parke Madson. The following were Present:
Winston Mercer
William McKell
Maurine Bryner
Anna Hart
William Anderson
Faye Buttle
Grant Bushman
Don McConkie
Parke Madson
Grant Bendixsen
Grant Bushman
Jean Jorgenson
George Lewis
Beulah Lane
Lane Compton
Verl Allman
Roy Sparks
George Horton
Alex Darais
June Whiteford
Melvin Brooks
Leland Anderson
Grant Shields
Parke Madson
Don Snow
Fred Webb

Richard Pope
Morris Shirts

[Note: Crisis concerns item #3 in these minutes.]

The meeting was conducted by Winston Mercer in the absence of Principal Morris Shirts. Those things discussed and the items of business taken up are as follows:

1. Senior credit approval sheets.

Mr. Mercer asked that senior credit approval sheets be returned. Mentioned that we should write on the bottom about deficiencies, if any.

Mr. McConkie stated that where a student is taking physical education this year and where it wasn't required in the previous school, he would assume that that would be acceptable.

Mrs. Lane reported that students were to be given credit for cheer leading.

Mr. Mercer went on to explain that the plan was to have students earn a place on the graduation list by getting their applications signed, etc. Commented on those who have a lot of incompletes. What is the next step? If the incomplete is from another school, shouldn't the responsibility be with the other school if they didn't get credit there?

Mrs. Hart read a note from Thell Day concerning 1/4 unit of credit. This note was a statement by him of how he lost 1/4 credit in English for excessive absences and how he realized how wrong he was, etc. etc, and requesting some assignment be made to enable him to make up the credit.

Mr. Mercer expressed the thought that there was a lot of repenting such as this going on now and felt it wasn't our responsibility.

Dr. Lewis suggested that where there was an extension credit course available, that they could earn it that way. In other cases maybe we would have to offer special make-up work.

Mr. Mercer suggested that waivers should be through special appeal and the committee making recommendations.

Mr. McConkie indicated that 1/4 unit of credit should require quite a bit of work to make it up.

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Mr. Sparks said that he also owed him some credit.

Another teacher indicated that he was deficient in his area also.

Mrs. Hart then stated that he (Thell Day) had indicated to her that the 1/4 unit of credit in English was the only thing he was deficient in and the only thing to keep him from graduation.

Motion was made by Dr. Lewis: Wherever possible make-up work should come under extension work or course, and that the graduation committee be given power to determine whether or not a student is excessively in arrears, whereby extension would be questionable, such as where a student is deficient in four or five areas.

Faye Buttle seconded it. Passed unanimously.

2. [Report on top seniors.]

Mr. Mercer wondered if we were in a position to give a report on the top seniors by Thursday. That is, their final estimated grade. A grade sheet of top seniors was handed out to be filled in.

Verl Allman and Dr. Lewis suggested that an effort be made to keep it confidential and away from students since some of the top students apparently know their present ranking and are saying, "I'm 5th", etc.

Handholding - premarital interdigitation

3. Election assembly report by Dr. Lewis:

Those at the assembly heard the three jokes told. The skill with which told and extended gave adequate build up. Slipped backstage during joke about the red headed school teacher and they were warned that curtain would be pulled if there were any similar incidents.

Following the rule that any major pantomime must be described in the previously approved script and jokes also and in view of a re-occurrence of the type of joke they had been warned about, the assembly was stopped.

Upon presenting the details to the principal and asking if students should be barred from further assemblies, was informed by the principal [Dr. Morris A Shirts] that he didn't know what he could do about it, and the jokes were open to interpretation.

Dr. Lewis suggested we could fight it further if we want to or we could just let it stand, whichever we preferred.

Lane Compton: If we have rules, let us abide by them. Same persons who broke the rule have told the same kind of jokes on assemblies before.

George Lewis: The Grow boy didn't tell the jokes.

Faye Buttle: Students from several grades asked me what premarital digital relations meant. I told them that I didn't know; that I had never heard of it before.

George Lewis: "Yes, I have had so and so every morning for quite a while now." (quote of part of joke) Laughter pouring up indicated that a certain group knew what they were talking about.

A number of years ago students would search for jokes to tell on the faculty. There was also competition to see who could tell the dirtiest joke. The result was our rule about any major pantomime having to be described and all jokes approved in a script before the assembly was presented.

Grant Shields: I guess one of the jokes concerned my area, and I suppose it arose out of my telling Robert Redd that he was no longer a member of the band.

Melvin Brooks: I had an experience one time in a certain school where I taught. They started to tell these stories, and it became too much. It

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carried over into traveling assemblies. Parents came in one day and witnessed the assembly and they put up the fuss. I felt embarrassed to be on the faculty. Some things can be taken two ways.

Either we have a standard here or we don't and we should take a stand right now. We have to have a conviction ourselves, even if it means putting our jobs on the chopping block.

George Lewis: Some of the schools in Salt Lake City no longer hold assemblies. Some hold them only with all the lights on and monitors in the aisle as a result of situations such as this getting out of hand.

Fred Webb: My concern is this. Of course, I am an old cuss at it. I think we are reaping a laxness that -- I am not going to try to place the blame any place -- Don't want to discuss the assembly. We are reaping our own harvest. If rules are set up, who is to carry those rules out?

My point is, what good is it for us to make a rule -- I back Brother Brooks 100 percent. If the assembly committee is supposed to stop an assembly because a script hasn't been in then we as a faculty have got to back them to do that, or press those who have the responsibility to do it.

No sense in making a motion -- Our unity as a faculty can do a lot of things. The blame ought to be where it is, and if we as a faculty have let it happen, then we ought to be spanked.

Jean Jorgenson: I remarked to the principal that the script wasn't in and that I didn't know who the sponsor was. Dr. Shirts said, "I guess I am."

Beulah Lane: I couldn't stand that assembly and left half way through because it was so poor. A parent agreed that it was terribly poor and commented that it wasn't properly organized, supervised, and they didn't have time to properly prepare it. This parent also said that students would naturally try to get away with whatever they could if not supervised, etc.

June Whiteford: All activities should be scheduled ahead of time so that we know what is going to happen.

Lane Compton? or George Lewis? When I ask, can we keep them off the assembly, I get the "I don't know" routine.

Melvin Brooks: There was a ruling made last fall. I move that we stay with it. Particular reference to the assembly.

Seconded by Lane Compton.

Leland Anderson wanted the intent of the motion stated.

Melvin Brooks: My understanding was that there was a statement made at the beginning of the faculty meeting about a rule keeping assemblies on a high plane. My motion is to maintain that standard; that we take action to maintain it in the future. People who sin publicly should acknowledge publicly.

William McKell read statements concerning rules for approval of script, etc.
(a) The script and staging chart must be approved by the sponsor of that particular assembly.

(b) Sponsors must be secured at least four weeks in advance of assembly, etc.

(c) Any change in the script, additions or ad-libbing, of undesirable material (either vocal or pantomime) will result in immediate suspension from all public appearance of the individual presenting the material.

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George Lewis: Understand, that doesn't mean just assemblies, but dances and all where he is featured.

William Anderson: As one who won't be here next year, and who came into the picture in the middle of the year, and as one who is only interested in teaching these people as they are here to be taught, I am particularly concerned about this because David Grow has been one of the worst offenders in my class. It is this over-all attitude which I am concerned about. Morning before assembly half the class was gone.

If we make a motion, how far will it get? It may not get beyond the office, perhaps because of pressure above; I don't know. But, we can do something about these things on the classroom level.

Attitude is what alarms me with these students -- If the person elected fails a class, they can't hold an office, can they?

Winston Mercer: I wonder if you people are fully aware of what you are saying. William Anderson said that he did and why he was able to say it. Others seemed to agree that they did, too.

(Mr. Mercer mentioned two instances in the past where the action taken by the faculty without pointing out which two cases.) [This] put a real fear in some of these students, and it really did some good.

What we are saying is that we aren't being led in the right direction. We aren't being represented. There is too much countermanding and changing around until our best plans go awry before they are even carried out.

George Lewis: If word gets around, and it is sure to, about the lack of authority in this office, you people will be dangling out of the window by your heels before the year ends next year.

Winston Mercer: Don't classify me as administration because of my role in this meeting. I object. And, I haven't signed my contract yet either. I am being dictated school policy in my classroom. We can summarize what we are all talking about with one word and one expression and the one word is "supervision"; and the expression, "lack of supervision."

Leland Anderson: When I teach, if students don't behave in class, they will be thrown out, and if anybody comes in from the upper campus and complains, they will be thrown out.

I didn't hear of a cancelled assembly before coming to B.Y. High.

Do you mean that in our high school whenever we have an assembly of any kind, they have to go around and find a sponsor four weeks ahead of time? I think that is the dizziest thing I ever heard of.

I'll be willing to take some of the brunt for that mess the other day, but who was sponsoring them? In every other high school, the principal of the school has said, "You sponsor that grade and you put on as many fine assemblies as you can," and you sponsor them. If we do this, the problem will never arise.

Just heard it in the hall the other day; don't know if it is true: "We can't even hold a graduation this year because no one will sponsor it." There is something wrong in this faculty or in the set-up if no one will sponsor them.

Won't let anyone tell me how I can discipline my students. Wasn't it one of the apostles of the Church at one time back who said, "If I have to be a slave to... or how was it? If I owe my soul to Jesus Christ I would rather be extinct." Suggest we outline the students' supervisors.

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Brother Anderson was informed by several faculty members that that is pretty much the way we operate. The classes do have sponsors who sponsor the assemblies, etc. The few where there are no sponsors appointed at the beginning of the year are the exception.

Someone reported that the Chairman of the Student Council has taken over that department and that is where we have had the most flagrant violations.

June Whiteford reported to Brother Anderson that she had told them that she would help them on the graduation exercises, particularly with the decorations; but felt since she was unfamiliar with their past graduation exercises, she wouldn't be chairman. Perhaps that was where the story of no sponsor came from. Told them that she would do her best to help them, however.

George Lewis: Trend has come from where we supervised the students, to the present, where they come and tell us what to do, and what they are going to do.

Winston Mercer: We have a tremendous potential in the faculty who are lying dormant and not going ahead with things that are in their jurisdiction.

George Lewis: When we have stuck our neck out, and we turn around, and get our discipline reprimanded. Booted some students out of class and they got radios to play with during that class period for the rest of the year as a reward.

Don McConkie: What I would like to see is those who have these things to say, say them in front of those people who can say "Amen" -- those who have the authority to do something about it.

Grant Bendixsen: Let us get the Dean down here. (Several were very much in favor of this as indicated by short somewhat spontaneous comments.)

Roy Sparks moved that we give the assembly committee and people in charge a vote of confidence and have them straighten it out.

Seconded by Lane Compton. Majority in favor.

A motion was made and seconded that we try to get together with the Principal and Dean to discuss this problem. This was voted upon and passed unanimously.

Lane Compton: Let us come to a common understanding so that we can present a united front.

Comment by someone on the "weak sisters" who sit back and those who compliment the Dean on some little thing and distract from the issue when we do get to discuss anything with him. And "weak sisters" refers to men as well as to women.

Announcement by Winston Mercer: Award Assembly is scheduled somewhere about a week before the end of school.

Lane Compton: George has taken this whole responsibility thus far. Move that we support the action of the assembly committee. Seconded. Unanimous vote in favor.

June Whiteford: This thing has been building up all year.

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Faye Buttle agreed, too, that this thing has been building up all year, and that the assembly triggered what had been building up all year.

Winston Mercer: One of our main troubles -- not enough of "No" said at B.Y. High.

Meeting adjourned at 1:10 p.m.

Comment on minutes:

As one who was asked to take a few minutes on the faculty meeting, I wish to state that these minutes are not to be taken as a verbatim report. For the most part, it is a summary. However, where statements were made which were considered significant in the thing that was building up and where the use of some of the exact words would best convey the thought and attitude expressed, an effort was made to use them. I wish to emphasize, however, that these statements are not word for word and in some cases may be quite inaccurate as quotes. I do feel, however, that these statements, as are, express the thought and attitude quite accurately in practically every case and that almost every significant statement has been included. I make these comments in view of the fact that one or two faculty members requested after the meeting adjourned that everything be reported word for word. This, of course, is always difficult; and after the meeting had adjourned was obviously impossible.

Parke Madson

Handholding: Premarital Interdigitation

Footnote to History:

Now, why would we want to dredge up a set of antique BYH faculty minutes penned more than 50 years ago?

As students, most of us occasionally wondered what went on behind closed doors in BYH faculty meetings. Sometimes our continued enrollment or our graduation hung in the balance.

Did they believe we were headed for high leadership positions, or a cold cell at the Point of the Mountain? If they discussed it, it went into the minutes.

BYH Alumnus President or Judge

BYH Alumni Headed for Point of the Mountain

Many of us have ourselves become teachers and/or administrators, and we have developed a growing sympathy for the past plight and deep frustration of our high school teachers.

It is also a nostalgic treat to read the words or thoughts of people with whom we spent so many hours, days, weeks, months, and years, and now tend to view with affection and respect made warmer by the passage of time and the dimming of our memories.

This particular set of minutes is important because, as June Whiteford and Faye Buttle agreed, it documents a disciplinary crisis that had been building up during the entire April Election Assembly.

The repercussions of this crisis were felt down through the following years, perhaps even to the end of time [1968].

The agenda for the meeting included only three items. Why leave in the first two? So you wouldn't think we left something important out.

It is entertaining and perhaps even educational to see how the BYH faculty body approached this crisis and sought to resolve it.

Lesson 1: If you are the Principal, don't miss the next faculty meeting following a Crisis. You will be talked about behind your back.

Lesson 2: If you are taking minutes in a meeting while an insurrection is being fomented, write a long disclaimer, and when you think you have written enough, write that much more again.

Lesson 3: The classic crisis meeting will include some or all of the following elements:
(a) The faculty member who took the strongest action will work hardest to justify his or her actions.

(b) If the faculty member who took the strongest action does not receive strong support from higher ups, he or she will suggest that their lax attitude will cause everyone to be hung by their heels from the windows.

(c) Sympathetic faculty members will strongly support the Rule of Law, or the Rule of Rules, or at least the Rule of the Rule In Question.

(d) An academic effort will be made to research what Rule should have been applied to prevent the Crisis that occurred.

(e) Faculty with experience at other schools will relate war stories from other institutions ad nauseum, which everyone else will ignore.

(f) Faculty will conclude that they already have a pretty good system, but that the existing Rule simply needs to be enforced better.

(g) All faculty will agree that all rules should insure that the faculty will Never be Surprised.

(h) The found Rule will be revised and extended to cover all similar situations that could possibly lead to Surprises and a Crisis.

(i) Exceptions to the found Rule will quickly be stated, in order to exonerate any who may feel guilty about past actions or statements.

(j) All eyes in the room will search to determine who the chief enforcer should be. Heaven help any administrator absent from the meeting. Any administrator present will deny being an administrator.

(k) Calls will be made for taking the case to a Higher Authority, before it is too late. A second will be made, and the call will be approved.

(l) One or more faculty members will declare personal autonomy, that is, dictatorial power, within their own classroom, and damn the rules, full speed ahead.

Lesson 4: Under the rubric, Be Careful What You Ask For, faculty member Don McConkie was quickly appointed principal [#16] to replace Principal Morris Shirts [#15]. One year later Principal McConkie returned to teaching, replaced by Principal John W. Tucker [#17].

Lesson 5: At a Church school, some religious authority should be cited as justification. In this case, the citation is curiously vague, and perhaps even incoherent.

[If anyone can shed light on the doctrinal point in question that the faculty member was trying to make, please send in your exegesis to us -- we will post it here.]

Lesson 6: (Fill in the blank) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

[Why should I have all the fun? Send in your lesson today!]

~~Larry Christensen, Class of 1966

Crisis or Comedy?