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Protest of BYU planned in wake of Honor Code criticisms

Published May 3, 2016 3:01 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Brigham Young University student Madi Barney said she has filed a federal complaint against the school for denying her access to services after she reported her rape to Provo police. And a group is planning to protest BYU on Wednesday in support of Barney's petition asking the private school to give victims of sex crimes immunity from Honor Code investigations.

After she was sexually assaulted last year, Barney's course load of 17 credits became overwhelming, she said, and professors would not accommodate her court appearances and other aspects of the investigation of her case.

She asked to retroactively withdraw from two classes she struggled with, she said, but the school has not allowed her to do that.



"They're telling me that they can't prove that a rape occurred," Barney said.

So on Monday, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, saying BYU denied her services available to victims under Title IX, a federal law barring sex discrimination at schools that receive funds from the U.S. government.

If a school is found to have violated Title IX, it usually reaches a settlement with the Office for Civil Rights and must show it is making new efforts to comply with the federal law.

Barney is one of several students at the school, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have said they were investigated by the school's Honor Code Office after reporting a sexual assault.

The Tribune ordinarily doesn't name people who say they are victims of sexual violence. But Barney has agreed to be named.

Barney's alleged attacker was not a student at BYU, but the school launched an Honor Code investigation into Barney herself after it acquired a copy of the police record.

"We have received information that you have been a victim of behavior that is addressed in the university Sexual Misconduct Policy. We have also received information that you have engaged in behavior that violates the BYU Honor Code," a BYU Title IX coordinator wrote to Barney in December. "I would like to meet with you and provide you with the information that we have received and give you an opportunity to respond."

Acting on the advice of the attorney prosecuting her case, Barney declined to take part in BYU's Honor Code investigation, and the school responded by blocking her from registering for classes, she said.

Last week, Barney started an online petition asking BYU to give immunity from Honor Code Office investigations to students who report that they are the victims of sexual crimes. More than 80,000 people have signed.

The online host of her petition is organizing a protest outside of BYU's campus Wednesday at noon. The group plans to deliver the signatures to BYU President Kevin Worthen.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the federal education office had not begun any review of BYU, a spokesman said. The office could also not confirm that it had received Barney's complaint because it acknowledges complaints only after it launches an investigation.

The school on Monday said it was reviewing the relationship between its Title IX department and its Honor Code office, which enforces school standards that include bans on premaritial sex, as well as drinking and drugs.

aknox@sltrib.com

Twitter: @anniebknox The Honor Code and sexual assault at BYU

Tell the Tribune: Have you or someone you know experienced a sexual assault at BYU?

April 12 • BYU students who are victims of sex crimes say they are investigated by the school and sometimes disciplined after reporting their abuse, and that in such cases the school's Title IX office reflexively alerts the Honor Code Office.

April 14 • A BYU student whose sexual-assault report led to an Honor Code Office review garners tens of thousands of signatures supporting her demand that BYU change its practices.

April 15 • Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson says BYU jeopardizes a pending rape prosecution because the Honor Code Office — after obtaining the police file from a Utah County sheriff's deputy who knew the suspect — refuses to delay its own case against the alleged victim.

April 15 • Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman counters his prosecutor's opinion that BYU's Honor Code Office was threatening a pending rape prosecution with its probe into the victim's actions. Buhman said he dropped a witness retaliation charge against a Utah County sheriff's deputy because of information he learned from an inadmissible internal affairs investigation.

April 16 • The Tribune's editorial board calls on BYU to maintain its standards without revictimizing students who have been sexually abused.

April 18 • BYU said its Title IX investigators, charged with protecting students from sex discrimination, sometimes refer sexual assault victims to the Honor Code Office for investigation of their conduct, and announces that it will review "potential structural changes" in light of public concern.

 

 

 

 

 

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