Beefcake-publisher, BYU meet over diploma

The Associated Press/February 13, 2009

Provo - The designer of a Mormon beefcake calendar met with Brigham Young University officials on Friday in an attempt to secure his diploma, which was withheld last fall.

Chad Hardy was denied his bachelor's degree in communication studies from BYU in September, a month after walking through graduation ceremonies.

In a letter to Hardy, a school official said a nonacademic-hold on the diploma was the result of Hardy's excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU is a private university owned by the Mormon church.

Hardy met with BYU Dean of Students Vernon L. Heperi for a review Friday.

In an audio recording of the meeting provided to The Associated Press, Heperi is heard saying the review would help him determine whether he could "make an exception to university policy and grant the diploma," regardless of Hardy's excommunication.

A written decision from Heperi is not expected for several weeks, Hardy said after the meeting.

Hardy was only offered the review after a volley of letters were exchanged by his Salt Lake City-based attorney, Stephen C. Clark, and BYU's general counsel, Michael R. Orme.

Hardy invited an Associated Press reporter to attend the meeting as one of two allowed guests.

Heperi denied the AP access to the meeting and afterward ignored questions from a reporter. An audio recording of the meeting was given to the AP by Hardy.

University officials cited confidentiality reasons in refusing to publicly discuss the specifics of Hardy's case.

They have explained, however, that BYU students must be in both academic and ecclesiastical good standing to qualify for graduation. That includes following honor code standards that reflect the values of the Mormon church. Excommunication would leave a student at odds with the honor code and therefore ineligible for graduation.

Over the course of the hour-long meeting, Heperi focused his questions to Hardy on elements of the BYU honor code. He asked about Hardy's honesty with others, church attendance and beliefs, adherence to health codes that ban the use of alcohol, coffee and abuse of drugs. Other questions focused on Hardy's sexual relationships -- including same-sex relationships -- and use of pornographic materials.

Hardy objected to the line of questioning, saying they should be related to his excommunication.

"Anything outside of that is inappropriate," he said.

As Heperi's questions continued, Hardy split the answers. He said he had lived church and honor code tenets while a full-time university student between 1999 and 2002, but declined to answer questions about the time after 2002.

In closing, Hardy said he hoped the university would award him a diploma.

"As far as I'm concerned, I've graduated from BYU. I fulfilled the requirements," he said. "For the university to withhold my diploma at this point is petty and small."

Hardy was excommunicated from the church in July after a disciplinary hearing with local church officials in Las Vegas, where he lives.

Officially, church leaders have said Hardy was excommunicated for "conduct unbecoming" a church member.

Hardy says the punishment was for his role in producing "Men on Mission," a 2008 calendar that featured photos of shirtless returned church missionaries.

The Mormon church takes disciplinary action when leaders believe a person's behavior or actions are openly incompatible with church teachings and could potentially damage the faith.

Excommunicated church members can still attend church services, although they are prevented from receiving the sacrament and holding church callings, such as teaching or speaking during services.

Hardy has acknowledged he stopped attending church in 2002, the same year he left BYU a few credits short of completing a degree.

In 2008, he resumed his education through an online, independent study program, which was completed in June.

Clark, his attorney, contends BYU cannot withhold Hardy's diploma because school policies do not require online students to be in compliance with honor code standards.

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