BYU students stage sit-in to urge changes to honor code 01

BYU students chant during a protest asking for changes in the honor code at Brigham Young University on Friday, April 12, 2019, in Provo.

Students accused of violating Brigham Young University’s honor code will now know what they’re accused of before they meet with staff from the Honor Code Office, the university announced Wednesday.

The university’s Honor Code Office has adopted new software that will send students messages with a link to let them view a more detailed letter. The secure letter will include the potential misconduct and additional information about the students’ rights.

“Our review of how we serve students showed the importance of clear communication from our office,” Kevin Utt, the director of the Honor Code Office, said in the announcement. “This new system allows us to provide the details students want to know up front while still protecting student privacy.”

Under the previous system, students would receive a vague phone call asking them to schedule a meeting, and would then be told of the potential misconduct at the first meeting.

Utt said in the announcement the changes are meant to improve transparency and reduce anxiety about the process.

“The new system will also help Honor Code Office leadership measure staff performance and look for important patterns,” the announcement reads. “Over time they can assess whether student misconduct cases are being handled in a timely and consistent matter for all students.”

Utt said recent hires have increased the diversity of the Honor Code Office’s administrators.

The university is also offering free, professionally-certified mediators in the Center for Conflict Resolution to help students resolve conflicts without turning to the Honor Code Office. Students can also turn to resident assistants, hall advisors or the Off-Campus Housing Office to resolve conflicts, according to the office.

Students at the university, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, agree to abide by BYU’s honor code in order to attend. The code bans actions such as the consumption of alcohol, premarital sex and being in the bedroom or bathroom of someone of the opposite sex. It also sets visiting hours for student housing and bans beards for male students.

The Honor Code Office has undergone multiple changes in the last few months after students protested the office’s processes, staged a sit-in and organized a media campaign in the spring.

“The changes announced today are a step in the right direction, and Restore Honor is grateful that BYU is recognizing the need for accountability and increased communication,” Riley Madrian, a spokeswoman for Restore Honor BYU, said in a message. “This is one of several changes the BYU Honor Code Office has announced over the last few months, and it shows that they are taking students concerns seriously and that they are willing to continue working with us to enact positive change. We are continuing to work with administration on further changes students want to see.”

Over the summer, the office announced it changed its website to give students additional resources and information about Honor Code Office procedures. In May, the university made changes that included allowing students to know the nature of their reported violation at the beginning of the meeting, not allowing anonymous reporting except for in instances where safety is a concern and better informing students of the investigation process.

Previous updates also included a Statement of Good Faith, which informs students they are presumed to not be in violation of the honor code unless they accept responsibility or the investigation comes to that conclusion, an option to bring in a support person to meetings and changing the titles of Honor Code Office staff members from counselors to administrators.

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