REXBURG, Idaho — “Hey hey! Ho ho! The disrespect has got to go!”
Over 150 protesters shouted this chant while gathered just off BYU-Idaho’s campus on April 10, where they met to call for Honor Code reform.
The group consisted of current and former BYU-Idaho students and was organized by former BYU-Idaho student Grey Woodhouse and current BYU-Idaho students Leanne Larson and Fredericka Thomas.
The march came in the wake of renewed controversy surrounding BYU’s Honor Code, seen through the Instagram account Honor Code Stories. The account, which has over 34,000 followers as of April 10, details students’ negative experiences with the Honor Code Office and seeks to “promote positive change within BYU’s Honor Code Office.”
BYU-Idaho’s march started at 2 p.m. near the Jacob Spori Building. Many participating students carried signs with slogans such as, “Assault is not the victim’s fault,” “Innocent until proven guilty, not vice-versa,” “Reform the Code” and other similar messages.
According to a letter posted to a Twitter account affiliated with the protest, #ReformTheCodeBYUI, students are requesting changes to the Honor Code and its implementation, such as administrator training requirements, a statute of limitations and full transparency.
Former BYU-Idaho student and protest organizer Grey Woodhouse spoke to the group shortly before the march began, saying although she wasn’t sure what would happen, “what’s important is you guys started this conversation, and this conversation does not end today.”
She also asked protestors to stay peaceful, emphasizing, “We are working with the school, not against them.”
Woodhouse and Larson led the group in a short march down 2nd South and around the corner down 1st West. Several passing cars honked in support as protesters waved their signs and shouted call-and-answer chants such as, “What do we want? Reform! When do we want it? Now!”
The march stopped as close to the Spencer W. Kimball Building — where the BYU-Idaho Honor Code Office is located — as it could without going on campus, as protestors were not permitted to go on campus. Woodhouse, Larson and Thomas then asked the group to stay off campus while they hand-delivered a stack of complaint letters to the BYU-Idaho Honor Code Office.
Woodhouse, Larson and Thomas said they were nervous as they walked to deliver the letters, but reacted with pleasant surprise when they were told more than 150 protesters participated in march. Woodhouse said they only expected about 50 people to show up.
Upon entering the Honor Code Office, they were told no one was available to take the letters and were instructed to deliver them to the Dean of Students. A secretary in that office took the letters and said they would be read.
Woodhouse said she had high hopes but low expectations when delivering the letters, and said the group is taking action “one day, one step at a time.”
She also said she felt capable to lead the movement because she’s no longer a student and can’t be punished by the university for her actions. She explained the fact that a former student has to take the lead is also part of the problem.
“People are scared to even step foot in this building,” she said. “Students should be able to have a voice.”
She emphasized most of the march organizers have never had a run-in with the Honor Code Office before and aren’t protesting in retaliation. However, Larson participated in the protest despite only recently coming back into good standing with the Honor Code Office.
Woodhouse, Larson and Thomas were met with cheers and more chanting as they returned to the protesters gathered off of campus. Woodhouse explained what happened when delivering the letters, adding she heard the Dean of Students could see them from his office.
“You protest as long as you want to, and you don’t give up until those letters are read,” she told the group. “This isn’t just a social media movement, this is a real movement.”
She also said there will be more protests organized through their Twitter and Instagram pages, and they will keep taking letters.
“We’re not done at all,” she said.
Thomas, a junior studying sociology, said she thought students’ fear would hold them back from protesting, but “we’re more resilient and stronger than I ever imagined,” she said. “And things will continue to move forward as we continue to make sure that our voices are heard.”
BYU-Idaho alumna Miriam Hartshorn said she participated in the march because during her time at the university, she felt the way the Honor Code was enforced did not promote a spirit of empathy and forgiveness, and even provided an avenue for roommates to harm each other through false reporting.
“When we came here, we wanted to live with people who had the same standards as we do,” she said. “But people make mistakes, and Christ and God are forgiving of those mistakes, and it doesn’t seem like the Honor Code Office is.”
Current BYU-Idaho student Samantha Warren said she came to the march because she feels strongly about the way the Honor Code is enforced.
“I just hope that (the march) raises more awareness in general and then that there are some changes made,” she said.
BYU-Idaho’s sexual misconduct policy states the university prohibits sexual misconduct in all forms, and being a victim of sexual misconduct is never a violation of the Honor Code.
It also states the Title IX Office will not share the identity of a victim or witness with the Honor Code Office, victims will not be disciplined for Honor Code violations unless a person’s health or safety is at risk, and the university offers leniency of unrelated Honor Code violations to victims who report sexual misconduct.
BYU-Idaho Media Relations Manager Brett Crandall and University Relations Managing Director Merv Brown have not returned requests for comment. A secretary in BYU-Idaho’s Honor Code Office said no one was available for comment.