Honor Code controversy still expanding

Sam Bigelow
Students protest Honor Code procedures at a Restore Honor demonstration outside the J. Reuben Clark Law Building on April 12, 2019. (Sam Bigelow)

This story has been updated. The university said there is no public meeting Tuesday with Honor Code Director Kevin Utt.

Ambiguity continues over the intent of BYU Honor Code changes announced Feb. 19.

In response to confusion regarding the changes, BYU Clubs sent an email later in the day on Monday, Feb. 24, announcing that Honor Code Office Director Kevin Utt would “be presenting on the recent changes and adjustments to the Honor Code” in an open meeting, but university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said that was incorrect and the Honor Code office would continue meeting individually with students who have Honor Code concerns.

The wording change eliminated any mention of homosexual behavior, including the clause prohibiting “all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.” Members of the campus LGBT community have interpreted it as allowing gay dating. A university statement in a tweet on Feb. 20 seems to imply that’s not the case. And groups are forming to take shots at the university for either being too liberal or too vague.

“We have removed the more prescriptive language and kept the focus on the principles of the Honor Code, which remain the same. The principles of the Honor Code align with the doctrine and policies of the Church,” university information manager Todd Hollingshead said Monday, Feb. 24, echoing what the university had said almost a week earlier in a tweet about the wording changes. “We will support and guide each student according to the principles outlined in the Honor Code.  As we have said so often in the past, we will handle questions that arise on an individual, case-by-case basis.”

Neither BYU Communications nor the Honor Code Office have made any official statements besides last week’s tweet to clarify the Honor Code wording changes. Some BYU students and others said they spoke to Honor Code Office representatives and confirmed that gay students are allowed to date, hold hands, kiss and do anything straight students are allowed to do and remain in good standing with the Honor Code.

Twitter users @granitenotebook and @fremlo_ are among those who say they confirmed with the Honor Code Office that wording changes in the Honor Code now allow same-sex dating.

One BYU professor addressed the Honor Code changes in a screencast video he made for students who could not attend his lecture in person. A student, whom the professor said he didn’t know, trimmed and shared the video, which had over 14,000 views on YouTube before it was removed from the website.

The professor said in the video that two men or two women holding hands, kissing or dating does not violate the Honor Code or the law of chastity as defined by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The professor also said administrators in his department asked him not to share or promote the video once it started circulating among students.

Some people have reacted negatively to the removal of mentions of homosexual behavior in the Honor Code, saying this represents a departure from the standards of the Church. Students and others with this concern have shared their views online using hashtags such as #takebackbyu and #savebyu.

Students and others with opinions on both sides of the topic have encouraged people to talk to Honor Code Office representatives for themselves and wait for official statements before coming to conclusions about the specific provisions of the updated Honor Code.

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