Is it Time to Revisit BYU's Honor Code Policy?

<b><i>TOTAL BLUE SPORTS Magazine Editorial (April issue)</b></i> <P> In a paradox of sorts, BYU's stringent Honor Code system is a unique, stand-alone beacon and example of good old-fashioned values in a national college scene generally considered to be bereft of high morals and related principles. Ironically, the Provo University's policies is currently more restrictive than the LDS Church's policies governing similar moral transgressions by its active members.

As TOTAL BLUE SPORTS went to press, four BYU football athletes were either dismissed from school or suspended three semesters for violating the school's Honor Code policy related to premarital sex. Two other BYU athletes were placed on probation and another two athletes had already left school and were not included in the Honor Code ruling.

It is noteworthy that in recent months, LDS Church leaders have been counseled not to be so quick to turn away or excommunicate members who have committed adultery or fornication for the first time. Instead, Church leaders are counseled to review these confidential Church disciplinary matters with prayerful consideration and to resolve these matters "based on principle rather than sympathy" if the affected individuals are truly repentant and remorseful.

The bottom line is the LDS Church's policy is specifically aimed at restoring the dignity and status of these members in a loving, character-building and uplifting manner. The appropriate adage, "Hate the sin, but love the sinner," comes to mind.

The BYU incident, involving mostly non-LDS athletes, has undoubtedly placed school officials in a very awkward, high profile public position. Though they won't ever admit it, it probably pressured them to mete out a harsher punishment than they might otherwise have done so had it not become a national media story.

Firsthand accounts TBS received from some of the affected students confirm they were extremely remorseful and they communicated this to the BYU officials they met with.

Several suspended athletes were still questioning BYU officials as to why their three-semester suspensions were identical to other athletes with previous school disciplinary records. This was the first disciplinary action for two of the affected athletes.

More importantly, this incident has brought to light the immediate need for BYU to hire an adviser or counselor these non-LDS black athletes can relate to better, trust more and feel comfortable in confiding in. This year, a record 14 black athletes signed binding Letters of Intent to play football for the Cougars.

Though BYU has a caucasian LDS adviser that currently works with all non-LDS athletes, black athletes contacted by TBS confirm they do not feel comfortable enough to share inner thoughts or troubling experiences with him.

Though there may be others equally as competent, I'd like to propose the name of Utah attorney Danny Frasier, who represented three of the affected athletes during their Honor Code appeals process.

Frasier, who is black, is a former BYU football player and All-Star basketball athlete at BYU-Hawaii after a serious back injury prematurely ended his promising gridiron-playing days. Frasier graduated from BYU Law School and is an active LDS member.

The athletes he represented told TBS they felt an immediate affinity and unprecedented level of trust with Frasier that they had not experienced or felt with anyone other than their BYU coaches.

As BYU continues to make significant in-roads in recruiting highly coveted, non-LDS athletes to its campus, it is imperative that they provide as many resources as possible to help them comfortably adapt quickly to life in college-town Provo -- along with other avenues of recreation that are well within the bounds of the school's Honor Code.

While they're at it, it is probably a good time for top BYU officials to review its Honor Code policy to ensure it is more in sync with the LDS Church's disciplinary process and procedure that appears to be more forgiving in practice and principle than its worldwide flagship university.

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