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80 protesters rally at BYU to ask for honor code amnesty for sexual assault victims

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

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PROVO — Eighty protesters, including a handful of BYU students, held a rare rally on the edge of campus at noon Wednesday to call for honor code amnesty for victims of sexual assault.

After the rally, the group walked to the university's administration building to deliver a petition with more than 90,000 signatures. The university's academic vice president accepted the petition and said the administration welcomed the input.

Earlier Wednesday, BYU released a video in which President Kevin Worthen said the university can do better.

He acknowledged that some students who are victims of sexual assault fear reporting the crimes because they might lead to an investigation by the Honor Code Office that would find evidence of drug or alcohol use or another violation that could lead to suspension or expulsion.

He said BYU is reviewing its structure and its policies. That includes looking whether and what information should be shared between its Title IX office, which handles sexual assault complaints, and its Honor Code Office.

"We're not perfect," Worthen said. "We don't claim to be perfect. We can be better. This is important enough that we owe it to the community to say, 'This is the very best that we can do, and we've thought it through, and we've studied it through, and here's the changes that we're going to make.'"

Madi Barney, the BYU sophomore whose story ignited the controversy and who started the petition, did not attend Wednesday's rally. Kelsey Bourgeois, a campaign writer for Care2, the website that hosted the petition, conducted the rally.

"We're really heartened by (President Worthen's) response," Bourgeois said. "However, right now it's just words. Change is the next step. We're glad he's making public statements, now he needs to do it."

Organizers did not apply for an on-campus protest permit because they wanted the rally to happen before students left campus for the summer. The protesters carefully followed BYU's rules, holding the protest at the edge of campus on the corner of Bulldog Boulevard and Canyon Road, in front of BYU's landmark entrance sign, "Enter to learn, go forth to serve."

Before they walked on campus to deliver their petition, they put away their bullhorns and signs, some of which read: BYU: Protect Victims, Don't Shame Them; and BYU: Stop Blaming Victims.

Contributing: Ladd Egan


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