PROVO, Utah, April 20, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Brigham Young University President Kevin J. Worthen on Wednesday released a video statement addressing recent allegations that the school, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has used its Honor Code regulations to punish a student who reported being raped.
According to Madi Barney, a BYU student who is currently banned from enrolling in new classes due to the possible honor code violations, information she provided to police was given to honor code officials, who used it against her.
“I was raped, and I waited four days to report because I was so terrified about my standing at BYU,” Barney wrote on a website that also contains a petition asking BYU to consider its stance. By 5 p.m. Wednesday, the online petition had nearly 93,000 signatures asking BYU to reconsider applying its honor code regulations to victims of sexual assault.
“Brigham Young University has a strict Honor Code that prohibits actions such as premarital sex, alcohol or drug use, and even being in the bedroom of someone of the opposite sex. I am a survivor of rape, and now BYU has put my academic future on hold due to their allegations that I broke the Honor Code in the circumstances of my assault.”
BYU posted its video earlier in the day. Worthen’s message lasts 1:36, then cuts off abruptly, a technical problem the university is likely to fix.
“Our primary concern is the safety and well being of our students, and that’s particularly true of those who’ve been victims of sexual assault,” Worthen said in the video.
“They’ve been through a traumatic experience, they are vulnerable, they are looking for help, and we ought to provide that.”
Worthen went on to say that one purpose of the honor code is for the protection and safety of students on campus.
“We recognize there is some tension between those two, and that there are some victims of sexual assault — again, those who are vulnerable already, who already may feel like they don’t want to come in, they don’t want to talk about it, and that sometimes the fear of what may happen may keep them from coming in. And there is that tension and the perception. What we want to do is minimize that as much as possible because our primary concern, again, is the well being of the victim of sexual assault and the overall well being of the campus.”
Worthen talked briefly about his hopes for the study ordered which will explore the communications between the Title XI office and the Honor Code office, and determine what changes may be needed.
In the partial video posted, Worthen did not say why assault victims should not fear repercussions if they came in.
Protesters also assembled just off the campus on Wednesday, and speakers offered brief addresses on why the Honor Code should be waived in cases of sexual assault. The students and community members attending then left their protest signs and arm bands behind, since protests are not allowed on the BYU campus.
The group walked onto campus and delivered a copy of the online petition to BYU academic Vice President Brent Webb.
Barney did not attend the off-campus protest or on-campus petition delivery. A speaker announced that Barney feared for her safety.