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SALT LAKE CITY — In large and small circles, groups and individuals have voiced concerns lately to protest perceived unfair and inappropriate Honor Code practices at BYU.
Hundreds of BYU students and alumni staged a demonstration on campus last month, with many referencing their negative experiences with the Honor Code office. Since then, several former BYU athletes have taken to social media outlets to express sentiments against unfair Honor Code sanctions.
An Instagram site, which has more than 38,000 followers, was started to illustrate alleged Honor Code injustices. Examples, which often put BYU and Honor Code officials in an extremely bad light, are posted daily.
Local media has picked up on it, publishing stories also critical of the situation. Former BYU athletes have gone on sports radio shows to express their opinions, mixed with support and criticism.
“I like the Honor Code,” former BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network. “I like the rules. I think the enforcement is a bit archaic. I don’t think there should be a third-party legislative group out to get you.”
Kehl’s primary beef involves the actual Honor Code office personnel, who often initiate the process and issue any judgment. He prefers shifting authority to local ecclesiastical leaders and relying on individuals to self-report.
His issues are consistent with many of the complaints, which center on the office rather than the rules. Honor Code officials, as portrayed by the criticism, are often viewed as heavy-handed and intrusive.
The dozens of stories posted on social media back up the claims with extreme examples of inappropriate inquisitions and punishment. Most of them are anonymous without documentation.
A lawyer by trade, former BYU basketball player Mark Durrant points out the Honor Code office does not respond to all the backlash and, therefore, the stories remain one-sided.
“Generally speaking, the people down at BYU working in the Honor Code office, and at BYU in general, are good people,” Durrant said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network. “It’s not this cabal of angry old white guys sitting in a dark room with this light pointed at this poor student trying to satisfy their puritan interest in a BYU coed’s sex life. That’s not the reality.
“I think when someone makes a mistake, they go in and work with these young people and try to help them and give them multiple opportunities. Only in the most extreme situations is someone going to be asked to leave the university.”
Durrant, who serves as the radio color analyst for BYU basketball, taps into his professional expertise by asking for real information on any improprieties on the Honor Code’s behalf. He has grown tired of hearing and reading about all these unsubstantiated claims.
For years, numerous stories have circulated around BYU of students snitching on classmates, going so far as to search through trash to find proof of wrongdoing.
“If you have documented factual evidence that this is what’s happening and it should be changed, let’s change it,” Durrant said. “I don’t feel like any student at BYU should be going around being the secret police and telling on people. If that’s what people are talking about that we need to change, let’s change it. I don’t feel like that’s appropriate. I also think that a lot of things we’re talking about are extremely rare and are the exception rather than the rule.
“If there’s something that happens and we can document it and it’s factual, and it’s against what BYU should be about, absolutely let’s change it. What I’m saying is I think a lot of this is exaggerated. It’s slanted to be against BYU.”
But not all the claims are false.
Two years ago, The Salt Lake Tribune was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for stellar reporting on the Honor Code office targeting sexual assault victims. Recent reports also indicated BYU police passing information from local agencies to the Honor Code office.
Durrant recognizes the need for changes, if necessary. His goal is to have open discussions on the issues rather only cite Internet postings.
“I just want to have a reasonable conversation about it,” he said. “If we want to make changes, that’s awesome. Let’s make some changes. Let’s just not throw stuff up against the wall and characterize what’s going on in a way that I don’t think is accurate.
“There have been instances in the recent past where there have been specific, factual problems with the Honor Code. Those needed to be addressed and were addressed. I have no problem with that. If there’s someone that’s exerting authority over young kids and doing some of these things, that needs to change. I have no argument with that. What I have a problem with is just accepting this negative narrative out there.”