Latter-day Saint Life

Non-Mormon, Former BYU Professor Writes "In Defense of BYU's Honor Code"


After a recent sexual assault case at Brigham Young University, there has been a lot of attention regarding some of the university's policies and how they might affect the victims of sexual assault. In response to this increased attention,Brigham Young Universtiy released a videowhere President Kevin J. Worthen explained the reason for the policies in place at BYU.

"First and foremost, our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our students. That's particularly true for those who have been the victims of sexual assault. They have been through a traumatic experience. They are vulnerable. They are looking for help. And we ought to provide that. . . .

"We also have something else on campus that helps promote an environment that's safe and contributes to the well-being of our students, and that's the honor code."

President Worthen gave the assurance that BYU always places the safety of its students first.

In response to some of the negative media coverage about this case, Damon Linker, a non-Mormon who taught at BYU for two years as a visiting professor, wrote a defense of the school's honor code on The Week

After citing 2014 statistics showing how the reported incidents of sexual assault for large universities across the nation is far higher than BYU's reported incidents of rape, Linker explores some possibilities for why that might be: the pervasive underreporting of sexual assault, difficulty comparing reports from different universities, etc. He finally concludes with:

"Perhaps my perspective is skewed from having taught there for a time, but I'd be willing to bet that there simply are fewer sexual assaults at BYU than at most secular universities. And the reason for that lower number is the honor code, as well as the religious and moral culture in which it is embedded.

"Alcohol is strongly correlated with sexual violence on campus. . . .

"At BYU, by contrast, everybody knows that drinking, drugs, and partying are not only frowned upon but could lead to expulsion. There is no Greek life to speak of. Dorms are segregated by gender. Men and women are forbidden to be in a room together without supervision—and both are taught that sexual relationships are supposed to be limited to marriage. Early marriage is strongly encouraged and students who marry are provided with special family housing. And all of it is an outgrowth and expression of a comprehensive religious culture.

"Does this mean that no one cheats on the rules, engaging in the kind of behavior that contributes to sexual assault on other campuses? Of course not. . . .

"Would I have wanted to go to BYU as an undergraduate? Even leaving aside the ill-fitting religious aspect of the university, the answer is no. But would I worry less about my daughter being sexually assaulted on BYU's campus than I would if she attended a Big Ten university? Without a doubt."

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