With enough applied pressure, many things change states. Coal, with applied pressure and heat, becomes diamond.
While not quite a diamond in the rough, Brigham Young University proved this week that under the immense pressure of student protest and disharmony, long-held policies and procedures at the Honor Code Office can be changed.
According to an announcement from Kevin Utt, director of the BYU Honor Code Office, three major updates will be implemented immediately to improve transparency and honor code enforcement.
1. Students know at the start of their first meeting with an honor code officer why they are there. They will not be presumed in violation of the honor code unless the student self-reports or the investigation process makes such a determination.
2. No one may be reported to the Honor Code Office anonymously, and the student in question will be told the name of the reporting party, except in situations where safety may come into question.
3. The investigation process will be explained more clearly to students and support resources will be made available throughout the process. This includes steps to be taken by honor code officers to find information, the preponderance of evidence standard used by universities and potential outcomes if a student is found responsible for violating the honor code.
The Daily Herald Editorial Board opined last month shortly after student protests that we believed more transparency was needed in the administration of honor code policies. We believe that these updates accomplish this and help protect students without adding undue stress or anxiety to students as they await their sentences.
To be frank, we are a little stunned that these updates had to be even be included. Such updates are on par with due process, and we saw many times in our reporting this week that members of our community assumed such standards were already incorporated in Honor Code Office policies. While we agree that such updates should have been common sense, we are glad they are happening. It is a step in the right direction.
We want to again emphasize that we do not believe that BYU should do away with the honor code. We believe that BYU has a right as a private university to ask students to abide by the honor code and that when students sign the honor code before beginning classes, they are agreeing to abide by the honor code.
But we also know that teenagers, which many BYU students still are, are not perfect. We know they will make mistakes. We know they will break curfew, maybe, heaven forbid, even intentionally. But we again echo our sentiments from last month that the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are focused on repentance and forgiveness. When a student messes up, they should be embraced in compassion and empathy, not shame and fear.
Which is why we also agree with others who say this update does not do enough. These updates do not include any statements that honor code officers be certified or trained counselors. Many anonymous reports on social media allege that honor code officers are untrained, and if we are wrong, we would gladly welcome any indication that all honor code counselors and officers are trained. But we have reason to doubt. When those who’ve seen honor code officers allege that counselors are untrained, and have anecdotes that corroborate that point, we have reason to suspect that proper training is not administered before honor code counselors meet with students.
We also believe the Honor Code Office is still discriminatory against LGBT students, ethnic minorities and students of different faiths. Ecclesiastical leaders are often left out of the loop in disciplinary action and because of it, many bishops must choose between protecting a student who is working on repenting and feeling forgiven and leaving their fate to an honor code counselor. LDS students who lose their faith while attending BYU have no choice but to fake it because if they admit they want to attend another congregation, their enrollment is revoked. This is a duplicitous standard, as students may join the LDS Church while attending BYU with no consultation from their former faith leaders.
We agree that the updates issued by Utt are forward-thinking and represent strong progress. But we believe more can be done. We ask Utt and those in the Honor Code Office to continue making steps to help all students at BYU appreciate and treasure their time at BYU, as so many of the Editorial Board and of the Daily Herald staff did.