A Rare Sight At Brigham Young University As Students Protest The Honor Code Office Students allege that the university is mistreating victims of sexual assault and harassment, especially women and LGBTQ students.
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A Rare Sight At Brigham Young University As Students Protest The Honor Code Office

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A Rare Sight At Brigham Young University As Students Protest The Honor Code Office

A Rare Sight At Brigham Young University As Students Protest The Honor Code Office

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to Utah and Brigham Young University, where students are protesting that school's strict honor code. They say the administration has used the code against victims of sexual assault or harassment. And some victims claim they've been punished for reporting their own sexual assaults. Daysha Eaton of member station KUER reports from Provo.

DAYSHA EATON, BYLINE: Brigham Young University isn't known for its protests. The school, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is known for students who adhere to Mormon teachings and a strict honor code, which regulates everything from beards to premarital sex. And this is a sound rarely heard on campus.

GRANT FRAZIER: If God forgives me, why can't you? God forgives me. Why can't you?

EATON: At the heart of the student protest are allegations that the university is mistreating victims of sexual assault and harassment, especially women and LGBTQ students. As a result, in 2016, the university separated the honor code office from the Title IX office, which ensures women's equal treatment on campus. Among those leading the recent protest was freshman Grant Frazier. He wants less punishment and more compassion.

FRAZIER: So the honor code, as many of you might know, was made by students for students. So it needs to be reformed by students. And...

EATON: Protesters have been supported by the BYU alumna who started the widely read Instagram page Honor Code Stories after her own experience with the code. Sidney Draughon flew in from New York and was received like a rock star.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Sidney, Sidney, Sidney...

EATON: Now graduated, Draughon claims she was called into the Honor Code office at the end of her freshman year for an old photo and a tweet from high school. She was called in a second time during her senior year on another allegation, which delayed her diploma. She stood on a table between the law library and the student center.

SIDNEY DRAUGHON: It's about all of you sharing your stories of hurt and feeling like you're rejected and feeling like you don't fit in at BYU. But I'm here to tell you that you do. And I don't care who you are.

(CHEERING)

EATON: But not everyone is so sympathetic. During a moment of silence to commemorate LGBTQ students who've been mistreated by the honor code office, 22-year-old Dayson Dimuni interrupted.

DAYSON DIMUNI: If you don't like the honor code, go to a different school.

EATON: Other students share those sentiments, like 25-year-old Mack Huntsman.

MACK HUNTSMAN: The majority of students are in favor of the honor code. I mean, that's - they chose to come to this university and then say that they're oppressing you - does not make a lot of sense.

EATON: But protest leader Grant Frazier says the school should be open to change, especially because of its affiliation with the Mormon church and what it teaches.

FRAZIER: We here at the university believe in the atonement. We believe in the Gospel. We think the honor code office has forgotten that. And it's our job to remind them, right?

(CHEERING)

FRAZIER: Yeah, yeah.

EATON: The director of the honor code office declined to be interviewed. But he said in a statement that the office has met with more than 200 concerned students, including those who organized the protest. He added that only about a dozen of the school's 33,000 students are expelled each year due to honor code violations. For NPR News, I'm Daysha Eaton in Provo, Utah.

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