BYU students clash over honor code changes, seek clarification

(Video Credit: Emma Benson)

Read in Spanish: Estudiantes de BYU chocan con los cambios al código de honor y buscan clarificación

Tensions over changes to the BYU Honor Code have flared up online and on campus since BYU officials announced changes to the honor code concerning wording on homosexual behavior and feelings.

Those affiliated with BYU have taken to Twitter to express their opinions over the Honor Code using hashtags like #SaveBYU, #TakeBackBYU and #DezNat.

Wednesday, Feb. 26, students also gathered on campus to participate in, observe or oppose a reading of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

A handful of students stood outside the Joseph F. Smith Building and read the proclamation. Halfway through the reading, other students with pride gear started singing hymns in an attempt to drown out the reading, with one student playing the ukulele. The proclamation is an official statement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that emphasizes the importance of gender and the differing roles of men and women in God’s plan for his children.

After the group concluded its reading, some observers questioned why the group had decided to hold the reading on Rainbow Day, an annual celebration of support for members of the LGBTQ community on campus. The students who participated in the reading denied that there was any connection between their timing and Rainbow Day. Those reading the proclamation accused those who were unsupportive of the reading of not being aligned with the prophet or the Church.

The gathering soon grew to several dozen individuals as people stopped to see what was going on. Students quickly broke off into groups, debating their views on what the honor code changes mean and how they reflect Church policy and doctrine.

The one thing that both sides of the argument agreed on is that there has been a lack of clarity from the university on what the changes to the honor code mean and what that means for those of the LGBT community. BYU officials announced changes to the honor code Feb. 19 for all Church-owned campuses, but did not specify what they were. The campus community quickly learned that a section of the honor code on homosexual behavior had been removed. Despite speculation on campus and in the media, officials have not clarified questions about whether gay dating is now allowed but have said the Honor Code Office will deal with students on a “case by case” basis.

Freshman Allison Baker — who said she was happy when the change was announced because she felt it was more in line with the Church policy’s on heterosexual and homosexual immorality — said she’s disappointed in the university for its lack of communication.

“I feel like they’re going back and forth and taking things back and not being super clear about it because, I don’t know, maybe they don’t want to seem like they’re condoning it or something,” she said. “I wish they’d be more open with the students and more open to discussion. …It seems like all of their attempts at communication are just falling short.”

Nick Lush, a mechanical engineering senior, said he was motivated to read the proclamation to make a statement and ensure that all opinions on the issue are stated. He said some of the negative responses he received from other students observing the reading were expected.

“Both sides are very passionate about what they believe in and on those that feel that there has been an allowance given, I think there’s a lot of excitement behind that and those that are on the other side, I think that that’s that’s kind of the opposite reaction,” he said.

He agreed with Baker that the university’s communication regarding the honor code has lacked clarity and said a meeting with the Honor Code Office that had been previously publicized for students would be a great idea.

“If there was an opportunity for such a presentation, even if it was in a statement, but to at least address the issue, I think that it would at least give people the feeling that they’re being heard,” he said.

Lush added that he also understands where the university is coming from.

“I think that the changes did not have the anticipated reaction that they imagined, and I think that there’s time that’s being taken to make sure to get the best response to the current situation,” he said.

Junior Aremondo Palma said the way the university has handled the changes has created conflict on campus.

“As a result of the way they’ve handled the situation, both sides of the argument feel like they’re being attacked, and that is a probable source of division and conflict — and that’s something we don’t need at this university,” he said. “What we’re left to do is squabble with one another in situations like this when they probably have a solution.”

He added that he hopes both sides can recognize the common ground they share in a respectful manner.

“It’s a very touchy issue, but we really do have a lot of common ground,” Palma said. “Just from talking to everyone here, I’ve been trying to make bridges between both sides. We all really seem to have the same idea of what’s going on here.”

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