BYU’s Title IX office, Honor Code office change how they investigate sexual assault

0
243
Protesters stand in solidarity with rape victims on the campus of Brigham Young University during a sexual assault awareness demonstration, in Provo, Utah. (Associated Press)

BYU’s Title IX Office and the Honor Code office carry out investigations regarding cases of sexual assault, but each has a different purpose and role.

The policies each office abides by, their physical proximity and relationship to each other, has changed significantly in the past year, after a major public outcry last spring. BYU students who had been sexually assaulted went public with their fears that they would be dismissed from the university for violating the honor code if they reported the incident.

A petition asking the university to change its policies on how sexual assault cases are investigated drew tens of thousands of signatures and was delivered to university officials after a protest last April.

The “Report of the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault” was released last October with a list of with 23 suggestions to improve the way BYU deals with cases of sexual assault. Since the report was published, the policies governing how investigations involving sexual assault take place have been modified.

Title IX

BYU does not tolerate sexual violence, according to the Sexual Misconduct policy.

Title IX hosted the Awareness Gallery Visual Representations of Sexual Assault Statistics on April 5 during Sexual Assault Awareness week. (Jesse King)

BYU appointed Tiffany Turley as the new Title IX coordinator earlier this year.

Turley said the amnesty clause, included in the appendix of the Report of the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault, is currently going through the approval process and has been sent to President Worthen and the LDS Church advisory board.

The amnesty clause includes leniency for other Honor Code violations not directly related to sexual violence.

The draft of the amnesty clause has been revised by the Title IX team, victim’s advocate, the respondent advocate, general council, and members of the advisory council who created the recommendation.

Turley said the employees in the Title IX office have been implementing the amnesty clause, even though it’s not yet formally policy.

 The amnesty clause will replace the current section of the sexual misconduct policy on victims.

Turley said the Title IX office will hand over the file with the perpetrator’s name on it to the Honor Code office once the Title IX investigation is finished, but they will remove the victim and witness information.

Turley said the perpetrator could choose to tell the Honor Code office the name of the victim, but also, “Honor Code would know that person falls under the Title IX amnesty and confidentiality.”

The University Police report BYU on-campus disciplinary sexual misconduct arrests every year. This graphic is based on information provide by the BYU campus 2016 annual security report. (Jesse King)

“We’re overhauling the whole policy, which we’re hoping to do over the course of the next few months,” Turley said.

Turley said this hasn’t changed because the policy is legal in nature, but this summer, the Title IX office will be revising all written communication for their office to make sure it’s more user-friendly.

“The whole climate of our office and all that has changed quite a bit over the past few months,” Turley said.

Previously, the Title IX office was combined with the Honor Code office in the Wilkinson Center.  Both offices are still located in the Wilkinson Center, but the Honor Code office is located on the fourth floor (4450 WSC), and Title IX has its own office on the first floor (1085 WSC).

Honor Code

The Honor Code office conducts its own investigation process. The 2015 policy stated, “When a BYU student respondent accused in a sexual-assault case is found responsible for violating BYU’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Title IX Office may share information about that student respondent with the Honor Code Office for the limited purpose of allowing it to determine disciplinary action; in such cases, the Title IX Office will redact the names of complainants, victims, and witnesses from all information before the information is shared.”

BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins said only the name of the perpetrator of an assault is passed from the TItle IX office to the Honor Code office.

The Title IX office hosted the Awareness Gallery Visual Representations of Sexual Assault Statistics on April 5 during Sexual Assault Awareness week. (Jesse King)

Otherwise, “Information is never shared between the Honor Code office and the Title IX office,” said Jenkins.

If students think their rights have been violated and the Title IX office reports them to the Honor Code office, students can contact the Title IX coordinator, “raise the concern with the Student Life Vice President or make a report through the university’s online system, EthicsPoint,” Turley said in an email.

Both the Title IX office and the Honor Code office are under the direction of the Student Life Vice President. But according to Turley, this will not affect the confidentiality of cases.

The Honor Code Investigation and Administrative Review Process states, “In cases involving sexual violence or harassment, the university will conduct its own investigation regardless of the pendency or timing of other civil, criminal, or ecclesiastical proceedings.”

A student’s standing with the school can change based on the results of an Honor Code investigation. Actions include “No Action, Counsel and Education, Referral, or Warning is recommended. On the other hand, the actions of Probation, Suspension Withheld, Suspension, and Dismissal.”