As a student at Brigham Young University and a huge football fan, the honor code has been on my mind all fall. BYU ends its season with a 4-9 record and there is no doubt that Francis Bernard, our starting linebacker who missed the season because of honor code violations, was dearly missed on the field. This situation has reminded me of the ridiculous decision the BYU administration came to last year to not enforce honor code violations on students who claim sexual assault. Now, before everyone starts screaming sexism at me, let me provide you with a hypothetical comparison to help someone understand how asinine this decision was.
Let’s imagine that I was at the same party as Francis Bernard earlier this year where honor code violations were being broken left and right. Although I was intoxicated, I was able to hide from the police officers when they arrived, therefore, escaping the whip of the honor code. However, after Francis realized he was going to be suspended from the football team, and realizing that I had escaped punishment even though I broke the same rules as him, he began to physically assault me. After getting beat to a pulp by the 6’1 240-pound linebacker, I am bound to be traumatized and injured. At this point in the hypothetical story there are some questions that need to be answered.
Q: Should Francis be punished for assaulting me?
A: Of course. This kind of assault would constitute various legal punishments.
Q: Do I deserve what happened to me based on my breaking of the honor code?
A: No. No one deserves to be physically attacked or assaulted.
Q: Could this have been prevented if I had been keeping the honor code?
A: Definitely. Although I should never have been assaulted, keeping the honor code would have assured that I was never put in this situation in the first place. There is no doubt that the BYU administration had this in mind when the honor code was first created. As a private institution, they want to look out for our moral and physical wellbeing. Not only that, but these types of situations will cost BYU time and money to deal with.
This brings us to our next dilemma—how will Francis be punished if I do not self-report? The answer is simple—he won’t. I now have a question to ask myself, would I rather see justice for my attacker but face the wrath of the honor code, or should I keep quiet and have both go unnoticed?
How can BYU grant immunity for sexual assault victims but not for situations where other awful things happen to students, such as physical assault while breaking the honor code? To be clear, I believe all sexual assault perpetrators should be punished in the harshest possible way. In no way is this meant to be a defense of the assaulter, rather, a protection of the sanctity of the honor code and the promotion of behavior that will limit these situations.
Although granting immunity to sexual assault victims may result in higher self-reporting of incidents, it almost certainly will not decrease the quantity of incidents, which should be anyone’s primary concern. This immunity further incentivizes students to break the honor code, and put themselves in situations that are statistically more prone to sexual assault. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 50% of all sexual assault cases involved alcohol. Once again, drinking alcohol does not give an individual the right to assault someone, but there is a strong correlation between alcohol and incidents of sexual assault. This is just one of many honor code provisions which help keep students safe. This loophole also incentivizes students to lie about situations by playing the victim card in order to avoid punishment from the honor code office after a bad decision is made. This hurts the credibility of actual sexual assault victims because individuals now have a reason to further question claims made—fearing the exploitation of this loophole for personal incentives.
BYU has the right to help students avoid situations which may put them in physical or moral harm. This includes holding all individuals accountable for the honor code. Two things can be true at once: 1-Sexual assault is disgusting and should be punished to the fullest; 2-The honor code helps keep people out of physically and morally bad situations, and BYU students who sign the honor code should be fully accountable to it.
The BYU administration sold out to protesters at the expense of the safety of its students.