Jesus doesn't judge, so why does BYU?

Illustration by Diana Ortega

A college campus should be a safe space for people of all ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions to come together in harmony with a common goal of getting an education.

The college experience comes with some preconceived notions that have become the norm, such as exploring sexuality, experimenting with drugs or alcohol and being exposed to different worldviews and perspectives.

However, Brigham Young University (BYU) has a different idea when it comes to these perfectly normal aspects of college, and its students are taking to the streets and social media websites in protest.

These experiences are to be expected from college students and shouldn’t be frowned upon.

BYU, which is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a private university that upholds the strict values of the religion with its student population, of which 98% are members of the church. All students agree to abide by an Honor Code as part of being admitted to the university.

The Honor Code unfairly punishes students if they are rumored to be gay, have premarital sex or even grow facial hair that is not up to standards.

These ridiculous expectations aren’t always what BYU students are made aware of when signing the code. Many have expressed on social media that they felt as though the Honor Code Office has been abusing its authority.

An Instagram page called @honorcodestories has gone viral for compiling the accounts of anonymous sources that have shared their stories of being victimized and unfairly treated by the Honor Code Office.

One student explained in their Instagram page their experience with violating the Honor Code, which resulted in them being expelled from BYU.

“Like many students in college, I was in the process of growing and discovering myself,” the student said. “I did what many college students do when they are unsure of themselves, and I made choices that broke the Honor Code. I had sex with a girl.

“When I walked into the Honor Code Office, they did not listen to or believe anything that I had to say. The second time I was asked to come in, they were so inquisitive and probing in their questions that I started to break down and cry.

“When my case finally went to the Dean’s office, the pressure had become so great that I was harming myself and having suicidal ideations. In my appeals meeting, my file was shown to me in the form of the Dean reading explicit sexual text messages between another individual and myself in front of the entire room.”

This experience of being dehumanized and shamed for experiencing very normal coming of age moments is sadly not rare. The Instagram account has 183 posts of others sharing similar statements of being rejected and judged.

An NPR article recounts the student-led protest at the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, which occurred April 12. The article stated “300 gathered at the school’s flagship campus to question its Honor Code Office, chanting, ‘God forgives me, why can’t you?’”

The article also quotes one of the student protesters, Grant Frazier, who stated, “The Honor Code, as many of you may know, was made by students for students. So it needs to be reformed by students.

“We here at the university believe in the atonement,” Frazier said. “We believe in the Gospel and we think the Honor Code Office has forgotten that. And it’s our job to remind them.”

Everyone is entitled to their own religion and coinciding moral values. However, the weaponization of the BYU Honor Code is unethical and has created a contradictory environment where students’ mental health is severely damaged.

BYU’s administration must consider the detrimental impacts that the Honor Code Office has perpetuated and validated by reforming the horrendous code.

No one deserves to be victimized or dehumanized by their college experience.