A month ago, I had written a blog post about the relatively confused situation that was developing around the student criticism of the Honor Code Office at BYU, and this week there have been some new positive developments. See my post BYU’s Honor Code: It’s complicated…
On Tuesday, May 14, BYU Honor Code Office Director Kevin Utt, following student criticism of the past weeks, announced sweeping changes to the office’s policies. Utt promised an increase in transparency for his office in a letter to students.
Brigham Young University is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Honor Code requires students to accept to abide by certain living standards, including abstaining from alcohol, drugs and premarital sex. Specific dress and grooming standards are also required in order to be accepted at the University.
According to the letter, three main changes will aim to improve the transparency of the office. Utt wrote:
You will know at the start of our first meeting why we have asked you to come to the Honor Code Office and the nature of the reported violation. If you are self-reporting, we want you to have a clear understanding of what we need to know to help you remain in, or return to, good standing within the university. I want to reiterate that you will NOT be presumed in violation of an Honor Code policy unless you either accept responsibility or the investigation process makes such a determination.
As part of our process, you will be told the name of the person who has reported the violation, except in situations where it is a matter of safety to a member of our campus community.
From the first meeting with us, you will be given an explanation regarding what the investigation process entails and support resources that are available to you as you participate in the process. This includes an explanation of the steps we will take to find information that corroborates or disputes the original report; the preponderance of evidence standard that universities use; and the possible outcomes if found responsible for the policy violation.
Utt explained that the changes have already been made, but he did not say exactly when the changes went into effect. His hope is that these changes will reduce anxiety and concerns among those students who have previously expressed feeling about the way the Honor Code Office was operating.
I believe that these changes are good and that they will help solve some of the students’ concerns, especially where it says that the student will be told the name of the person who has reported the violation (unless it is a matter of safety). This change will help avoid situations where some people can use reporting a student to the Honor Code Office as a threat or an act of vengeance.
Probably these changes will not be considered enough by all those involved, and more changes may come later, but they seems to me already significant and positive changes. Unfortunately it is impossible to make everybody happy all the time.
For more details, see the article on KSL