By Jenny Goldsberry and Alicia Matsuura
Church Education System commissioner Paul V. Johnson clarified the standard regarding homosexual behavior in a letter on Wednesday that has students talking.
The letter was meant to inform students that the Honor Code standards had not changed even though some students had interpreted the change as allowing homosexual dating, kissing and hand-holding on campus.
Upon first discovering the original Honor Code announcement, Caleb Olsson, a freshman studying mechanical engineering, said he thought the change meant homosexual behavior was being taken out of the Honor Code.
“When I read it, I hoped I understood what they were saying was that it was different. I was hoping that they meant what they meant in the sense that they wanted to take it out,” Olsson said.
Freshman accounting student Kylee Bair agreed with Olsson. “I think the standards should be the same for everyone.”
Olsson thinks BYU wasn’t communicating clearly. “The way that they phrased it was kind of dumb. Unless you have the mentality of a lawyer, it was hard to understand the original tweet.”
McKay Bryson, a junior studying information systems major, thinks Johnson’s office should have foreseen how confusing the update was. “How did (Johnson’s office) not know that this would be what people thought? How unaware are you of the schools that you’re over?” he said, citing the LGBT couples who took photos kissing in front of the Brigham Young statue because they thought it wasn’t against the Honor Code anymore.
Christian Trane, a junior studying business strategy, wasn’t surprised that BYU will continue to prohibit “same-sex romantic behavior” because he feels that the Honor Code should reflect the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I personally think it’s really silly if a person comes to BYU and expects to be allowed to participate in those types of behaviors,” he said. “I definitely have a lot of compassion for people who want to feel love and have that type of intimacy.”
There have been various protests on campus, with one gathering over 100 students chanting things like “Let the gays date” and singing Primary songs.
Tiauna Lomax, a sociology major from San Diego, participated in the protests. She believes BYU has put the queer community through traumatic whiplash.
“A lot of the statements that have been put out talk about virtue, and there’s nothing unvirtuous about me kissing a girl,” Lomax said. “It’s really sad because we thought we were able to be ourselves, then two weeks later BYU says, ‘you can’t be yourself.’”
BYU student Sam Castillo was also at the protests. He said the university created a false hope to students in the LGBT community.
“Personally, I have a lot of friends who are even more suicidal now that I’m trying to reach out to. I’m scared for them because it was already bad before but now it’s even worse,” Castillo said. “I was at a panel an hour ago and people were in tears over the changes that happened. All this is going to do is promote a lot of homophobia.”
BYU Police Sergeant Rich Christianson said he monitored the protests. The university has the power to remove the protesters but hasn’t, he said. As far as his department goes, he said, “We let them speak their mind.”
The department has not received any complaints of violence. Christianson described the protest as “pretty peaceful, pretty mellow.” He planned to continue to monitor the situation. “Hope everything stays peaceful,” he said.
The Wall, a restaurant located in the Wilkinson Center, said in a tweet they are a safe space with staff members available to “anyone who needs to be heard.”