Brigham Young University, the Utah-based Mormon flagship school, announced Wednesday that it would no longer investigate sexual assault victims for honor code violations if or when they reported their assault.
The ties between BYU’s Honor Code office and their Title IX office came under close scrutiny earlier this year when multiple students said that university investigated them for honor code violations—like drinking and premarital sex—after they reported rape and sexual assault. In April, two BYU undergraduates, Madi Barney and Madeline MacDonald, told Jezebel that the university’s Honor Code office picked apart their police reports looking for violations. “BYU likes to look at your rape and chop it up into little pieces and choose the parts that they can punish you for,” Barney told Jezebel.
Barney, who alleges that she was raped off campus, was prevented from registering for classes while the Honor Code office investigated her for violations. Worse still, Barney never filed a Title IX complaint, but the Honor Code office’s investigation of her began anyway, after her police report was sent to the university in an act of malice. She has since withdrawn from the university. MacDonald remains at the university and has become a vocal advocate for reforms.
In response to the claims made by Barney, MacDonald, and at least four other students, BYU formed an advisory panel in May. The purpose of the panel was to reconsider the “conflict” between the Honor Code and Title IX office. The panel released its recommendations today, which includes an amnesty clause for sexual assault victims. The Deseret News reports that, in addition to the amnesty clause, BYU will also adopt four other recommendations, including:
Create a new, full-time Title IX coordinator position to replace the existing part-time Title IX coordinator position.
Create a victim advocate or confidential adviser position.
Create a new, physical space to house the Title IX Office in a location separate from the Honor Code Office.
Ensure that, unless the health or safety of others is at risk, the Title IX Office does not share information with the Honor Code Office about the complainant without the complainant’s consent.
Many of the recommendations, including a full-time Title IX coordinator and a victim advocate, are already standard at similarly sized universities. In an email to students and staff, BYU president Kevin Worthen wrote:
Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our students. This is particularly true for those who have been the victims of sexual assault. They have been through a devastating experience, and they are looking for our help and support.
In August, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights notified the university that it was investigating Barney’s claims. BYU is one of 200 colleges and universities currently under investigation for Title IX violations.