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

6 hours ago
Originally published on April 16, 2019 6:50 pm

Sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young University is known for its adherence to church teachings and for its strict Honor Code, which regulates everything from beards to premarital sex. Student protest is uncommon.

But last Friday, 300 gathered at the school's flagship campus to question its Honor Code Office, chanting, "God forgives me, why can't you?"

Students allege that the university is mistreating victims of sexual assault and harassment, especiallyy women and LGBTQ students.

They say the administration has used the code against victims, and some say they have been punished for reporting their own sexual assaults.

As a result of earlier student concerns in 2016, the university separated the Honor Code Office from the Title IX Office, which ensures women's equal treatment on campus. In addition, BYU added an amnesty policy under which anyone who reports an incident of sexual misconduct, including a victim, will not be disciplined by the university for any related honor code violation occurring at or near the time of the report. But students claim there are still problems.

Students also allege administrators have created a climate of snitching and tattling. They say officials hand out severe consequences for minor infractions, leaving students who need support to improve their lives feeling dejected and alone.

Among those leading the recent protest was freshman Grant Frazier, who says he wants less punishment and more compassion. "The Honor Code, as many of you may know, was made by students for students. So it needs to be reformed by students," Frazier shouted as he revved up demonstrators.

Sidney Draughon, a BYU alumna who started the widely read Instagram account Honor Code Stories after her own experiences with the code, flew in from New York for the event.

We believe in the Gospel and we think the Honor Code Office has forgotten that. And it's our job to remind them. - Grant Frazier

Draughon, a 2018 graduate who now works in finance, says 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 over another allegation, which delayed her diploma.

Standing on a table between the law library and the student center, she told students their concerns matter.

"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. I don't care who you are!" she said.

But not everyone is so sympathetic.

During a moment of silence for LGBTQ students who have been mistreated by the Honor Code Office, 22-year-old Dayson Damuni interrupted, shouting: "If you don't like the Honor Code, go to a different school!"

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

"The majority of students are in favor of the Honor Code," he said. "I mean, they chose to come to this university ... and then [to] say that they're oppressing you does not make a lot of sense."

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. He added that only about a dozen of the school's 33,000 students are expelled each year for Honor Code violations.

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

"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."

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South Korea has enjoyed tremendous success exporting its modern culture, especially so-called K-pop music. But that industry is now facing its biggest crisis to date - a lurid scandal involving sexual violence and official corruption. As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Seoul, the problems behind the scandal are deep-rooted.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Twenty-eight-year-old Lee Seung-hyun, stage name Seungri, was the youngest member of Big Bang, the boy band that helped K-pop take off. He was also an aspiring actor, a suit-and-tie-wearing proprietor of a noodle shop franchise, nightclubs and music and dance schools. Here's one of his hits from 2008.


SEUNGRI: (Singing) Hey, sexy. Crack, crack...

KUHN: He is now under investigation for procuring prostitutes for investors at a nightclub in Seoul's posh Gangnam district. He's also been charged with embezzlement and tax evasion. And he was allegedly in an online chat group with another celebrity named Jung Joon-young, who has been accused of sharing around a dozen secretly filmed sex videos. A whistleblower got hold of these videos along with evidence of police collusion and reported them to authorities through an attorney named Bang Jeong-hyun. In an interview, Bang says the evidence points to a mafia-like enterprise involving K-pop stars, club owners and police.


JEONG-HYUN BANG: (Through interpreter) The collusion with public authority, especially the police, was not a single incident. The police had their backs frequently and in close coordination for their criminal activities and business operations.

KUHN: Five K-pop stars and six police officers have been charged so far in the case. Seungri has apologized, retired from the K-pop business and says he intends to clear his name. President Moon Jae-in weighed in last month, saying that if the truth is not revealed, we cannot say it's a just society. Women's rights groups, meanwhile, have denounced the whole K-pop establishment. Kim Soo-hee is director of the Seoul-based coalition Korea Women's Associations United.

SOO-HEE KIM: (Through interpreter) As the scandal unfolded, we realized there is a whole industry that routinely objectifies women's bodies with drugging, rape, sexual assault and sexual bribery and that the law enforcement agencies that should punish those crimes are, in fact, part of it.

KUHN: Despite the outrage among some Korean women, none of South Korea's popular girl groups have voiced their opinions on the scandal. Then again, says Choi Ji-eun, a Seoul-based journalist who has covered K-pop, Korean society does not welcome female celebrities who speak out on political and social issues.

JI-EUN CHOI: (Through interpreter) We cannot really burden them with the duty to speak up because it's extremely difficult for them to do so. But I am hoping that, as fellow citizens, that they can contribute to solidarity.

KUHN: Shareholders have threatened to sue Seungri's record label YG Entertainment for immoral conduct. Author Joo Won-kyu finds such views ironic. He went undercover in the nightclubs of Gangnam in order to write about them. He argues that South Koreans expectations of celebrities set them up to be disillusioned.

WON-KYU JOO: (Through interpreter) On the one hand, they expect a very high level of morality from K-pop stars. They're very conservative about the stars' romantic relationships. On the other, there's an expectation that if you make it as a K-pop star, then you can be forgiven for any kind of behavior.

KUHN: However society may judge Seungri, he reportedly faces up to three years in jail if convicted.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.