In the wake of student protests calling for changes to Brigham Young University’s Honor Code, Damon Linker, former BYU assistant professor, who isn’t LDS, came to its defense.
In Linker’s opinion article, published Friday morning, he called on his experience as a BYU assistant professor of political science in the 1990s to support his opinion that BYU should keep the Honor Code to maintain high standards for its students.
“I’d be willing to bet that there simply are fewer sexual assaults at BYU than at most secular universities,” Linker wrote. “And the reason for that lower number is the Honor Code, as well as the religious and moral culture in which it is embedded.”
Though he supports the Honor Code, Linker also recognized how it “creates a strong disincentive for (sexual assault) victims to come forward,” especially with reports from Madi Barney, BYU student and rape survivor, that the Honor Code and Title IX offices shared confidential information. Linker wrote what he thinks is an “obvious” solution.
“All BYU would need to do is stipulate that when a sexual assault is alleged, the school’s Title IX office (and possibly local law enforcement) will conduct the investigation, with the Honor Code office playing no role at all,” Linker writes. “Women need to know that they will not be subject to disciplinary action that could lead them to being expelled or otherwise punished as a direct or indirect consequence of reporting an assault.”
In light of the protests and petition started by Barney, which has more than 111,000 supporters, BYU president Kevin Worthen has called for an investigation into the relationship between the Title IX and Honor Code offices.
“We’ll look at things like the structural organization in the university about … how information is shared,” Worthen said. “We’re not perfect. We don’t claim to be perfect. We can do better.”
Despite the investigation into the Honor Code and Title IX offices, Linker stands with BYU.
“…If we really wanted to cut rates of campus sexual assault,” Linker wrote, “we could do worse than remaking secular universities in the image of BYU: Ban or severely restrict alcohol consumption … and impose rules designed to make male students behave a little less like sexual predators and a little more like Mormons.”
Read Linker’s full editorial piece for The Week here.