PROVO — The new Brigham Young University Honor Code Office administrator said Wednesday that additional changes to the school's Honor Code Office are meant to target "misunderstanding and anxiety" over its procedures and increase transparency.
The latest updates include presuming students are not in violation of the Honor Code unless they accept responsibility or the office makes a determination, allowing a student to have a support person to accompany them when they meet with Honor Code staff, a more detailed appeals process and removing the term "counselors" for Honor Code Office employees.
Those employees also must undergo a nationally recognized training on appropriate questions to ask during a student conduct meeting. All of the office's staff has been trained and new employees must take the training when hired, said Kevin Utt, director of the Honor Code Office.
Utt took over in January as director of the Honor Code Office.
"In order to help reduce misunderstanding and anxiety, we've learned we need to better educate the campus community about what a correct process looks like," he said in Wednesday's news release. "Being transparent helps a student articulate if something isn't going according to plan and provides the opportunity for concrete feedback."
Complaints about the Honor Code Office came to a head in 2016 after reports that a member of the University Police had shared information from a police database about a student who said she was sexually assaulted. The university overhauled its practices regarding sexual assault in response, and the university has said those changes are working. Still, hundreds of students held a protest in April, saying they loved BYU but still found fault with practices in the Honor Code Office.
Utt has been meeting with students for months. He posted a Q&A in April right before the protest in which he said an average of 10 to 15 students are expelled for honor code violations from a student body of 33,000 each year. He previously announced other changes in May. Those changes included a policy for staff to share at the start of the first meeting with a student, the nature of the reported violation and the name of the person making the report unless safety is a concern.
BYU made Wednesday's announcement through its website.
Utt said in the release that his staff has completed training from the Association for Student Conduct Administration, which develops and promotes best practices for universities. He said the staff will review that training on a regular basis.
"One important part of this training is how to ask questions sufficient and appropriate to the case and not go beyond the scope needed," Utt said. "This best practice helps make the process respectful and fair."47 comments on this story
Utt also signaled there could be more changes to come.
"I have taken seriously the charge to review each facet of Honor Code process," he said. "The feedback from the students has been an essential component to this process, as it has provided a comprehensive perspective on the realities and perceptions of the Honor Code and the Honor Code Office. We will continue to communicate updates as they are rolled out so that students know what to expect as they arrive on campus for the fall semester."