Ecuadorean Michael Williamson, accepted with a scholarship to attend the religiously conservative Brigham Young University (BYU), is being asked by the college to cut his hair in order to comply with the school’s code of conduct.
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The catch is that young Williamson is from the Kichwa town of Otavalo where to cut one’s hair goes against Kichwa traditional norms and rules and is synonymous with punishment.
Ria Williamson, Michael’s mom who is from the small northern town in Ecuador known for its artisanal crafts, told Univision "If someone (in Otavalo) cut their hair it was because they had done something very bad and were punished." Michael’s dad, James, who is originally from the United States has asked the university to receive his son as he was received by his wife’s family while living in Otavalo.
"They received me, they did not ask me to change my appearance or my way of being, but they accepted me," he said. Williamson’s family says they will continue to fight because the customs of the Kichwa community should be respected.
Ria posted on her Facebook page: “Rules are rules and I respect them, we have our identity and we ask respect for that as well, we are asking for consideration to our people to be able to attend BYU as well. Many youth from my community wants to attend BYU but been ask to cut their hair is a big issue for us.”
She went on: “My son was accepted to BYU but they want him to cut his hair. Why they can’t make an exception, why they don’t want to understand our culture. We ask our friends and family residents in Utah to support with letters or your presence at BYU at 10am (August 27) by admitir office to support my son.”
Ria made the public request upon receiving a text message from the Director of the Honor Code Office, Spencer Hawkins. Hawkins told Ria, “We ask all students who come to this university to support the Board of Trustees and administration in keeping all aspects of the Honor Code and expectations for Michael are the same. Wish will Micael well in making the right decision for him.”
BYU, located in Provost, Utah says it and its satellite campuses “exist to provide an education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Under the college’s ‘Dress and Grooming Standards’ for males: “Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable.”
Micheal recently graduated from high school in the United States. The price of tuition at the private university per semester for Latter Day Saint members is $US 2,810 and US$ 5,620 for those not in the church for the 2018-19 school year.