Chanting God forgives me, why can’t you? some 300 Mormon students gathered on campus to question the same strict Honor Code they allege has allowed Brigham Young University to mistreat female victims of assault and LGBTQ students.
“We believe in the Gospel and we think the Honor Code Office has forgotten that. And it’s our job to remind them,” declared BYU 2018 graduate Sidney Draughon to the crowd. Her Instagram account first shed light on how she was first called into the Office over an old photo and tweet at the end of her freshman year, and again over another allegation during her senior year, which ultimately delayed her diploma.
Honor Code Issues
The Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-day Saints-sponsored University is known for its strict adherence to church teachings. The BYU Honor Code prohibits everything from premarital sex to wearing a beard to drinking coffee and tea. Students are required to adhere to the Honor Code at all times, whether on or off campus.
Student protest at the school is all but unheard of.
Yet now, some students allege they’ve actually received Honor Code violations for reporting their own sexual assaults. Brigham Young University attendance is predicated on an ecclesiastical endorsement from a bishop (which can be revoked at any time). After Brigham Young University separated the Honor Code office and the Title IX office in 2016, they offered an amnesty policy: If a student reports her own sexual assault, she won’t be investigated for Honor Code violations, like alcohol consumption. But if her bishop finds out she did violate the Honor Code, they can revoke their endorsement, regardless of the assault. The student can appeal the decision, but it’s likely the school will stand firm with the bishop’s decision.
Others claim the university’s Honor Code office is creepily curious about their sex lives. One anonymous student detailed how the office called him in for having sexual relations with his girlfriend of two years, and asked intrusive and inappropriate questions.
And LGBTQ students feel left out in the rain by the Honor Code as well. The school has routinely refused to let the student-created ‘Understanding Same Gender Attraction’ group meet on campus, and some students believe that even attending the group’s meetings might put their enrollment in jeopardy. Former student JD Goates minced no words over the school’s refusal to acknowledge the USGA group: “There are people wanting to kill themselves.”
The director of the Honor Code office, meanwhile, points out only a dozen or so of the school’s 33,000 students are expelled each year for violations, and that his office has met with over 200 concerned students. Whether they revise their policies is yet to be seen.
And while the university considers how to proceed, not all students on campus sympathetic to the cause of protestors.
One 22-year-old student named Dayson Damuni actually broke the moment of silence dedicated to LGBTQ students mistreated by the Honor Code office by shouting “If you don’t like the Honor Code, go to a different school!” Another student, 25-year-old Mack Huntsman, agreed: “The majority of students are in favor of the Honor Code. I mean, they chose to come to this university … and then [to] say that they’re oppressing you does not make a lot of sense.”
This sort of clash between traditional church teachings and a new wave of progressive Millennials will likely continue to play out amongst many of our nation’s Christian denominations.
What do you think? Is the Honor Code office out of line for punishing people for reporting their own sexual assaults, asking creepy questions and hurting LGBTQ students? Or did students know what they were signing up for when they enrolled?