Brigham Young University is one of the strictest colleges in the country, with rules that that prohibit everything from men growing beards to drinking. The code came under fire this past April after a student who reported a sexual assault was suspended for breaking the rules, which include no premarital sex. Students could also be charged with honor code violations for drinking, if alcohol was involved in the alleged assault.
To encourage students to report sex-related crimes, an advisory council announced through a report released Wednesday that students who report sexual assault should be given amnesty from potential sanctions, The New York Times reports. The school will be following that rule starting immediately.
This is a step in the right direction to create a safe environment for students to come forward. The advisory council also made 23 other recommendations in their report, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, including physically separating the Title IX office from the Honor Code office, and not allowing Title IX staff to tell Honor Code staff about possible student conduct violations of a potential assault victim without that student's consent.
BYU President Kevin J. Worthen wrote a statement to the school on Wednesday, saying that the safety of students has to be a top priority. “This is particularly true for those who have been the victims of sexual assault," he wrote. "They have been through a devastating experience, and they are looking for our help and support. We have an obligation not only to provide that support, both emotionally and spiritually, but also to create an environment where sexual assault is eliminated.”
Madeline MacDonald, who was investigated for an honor code violation after being sexually assaulted, told the Associated Press that the changes were a good start. "Within the bounds of how BYU already works, they’ve made a lot of amazing changes," she said. "But we’re not done."