Recent events have students questioning what exactly happens in the depths of the Honor Code Office. The procedure, investigation and disciplinary actions that result are cast in a shadow of mystery that leaves students wondering how such matters are really handled.
Steven M. Baker, director of the Honor Code Office, explained the process, which can be rather lengthy.
First, Baker said the process is the same for all students. It is a fair and reasonable procedure that tries to balance the needs of students while maintaining the integrity of BYU and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When someone calls the Honor Code Office to report a student, if the caller wants to remain anonymous or is unable to give helpful information, the call is disregarded. No follow-up will occur.
However, if callers are willing to identify themselves and they are able to give enough details for an investigation, the office is obligated to look into the allegations. Baker said most callers have the interest of the reported students in mind, but there are times when he can tell the caller dislikes the student being reported.
In that instance, Baker is still required to look into the claims, but he said this situation does not happen very often. His staff still gathers information without bias. Even if there is a violation, the accusations tend to be exaggerated or sometimes even entirely untrue, Baker said.
After the call is taken, Baker’s staff begins a thorough investigation, gathering information and talking to anybody who might have direct information that will hopefully exonerate the student. The Honor Code Office tries to establish what really happened and will not jump to any conclusions.
If there is enough indication that there is a possible violation or problem, the student is then called in and, without being accused, is asked to explain the situation.
The case then goes to a committee. The committee consists of a student, some members of the Honor Code Office staff, the dean of students and the director of BYU Counseling Services.
The committee discusses in detail the situation and tries to decide what probably occurred and what facts there are to validate the accusation. After the committee makes a decision, the Honor Code Office recommends a course of action to the university. If the situation is less serious, counseling, an official warning or probation may be suggested. For more serious problems, the dean of students takes over.
The dean reviews the situation, meets with the student and then makes a decision. If the student feels the decision is unfair, he or she is allowed one final review by committee.
After this final review, however, the dean makes a final decision.
Baker said each situation and person is different. There are general parameters to maintain consistency, but there is room for variation in the process. The main goal is to make sure the review and following actions are appropriate and fair.
Baker said the Honor Code Office is a busy place, but very few of the almost 30,000 students at BYU are referred to his staff.
Baker said the majority of problems he deals with are less serious, including dress and grooming violations, but there are some serious situations as well.
BYU is not perfect and neither are its students, but the Honor Code is a standard that enables students to be free and happy during their educational experience. Following this high standard of living is what makes BYU a unique and inviting atmosphere.