What's Going on at BYU?
Amongst the current news cycle all we hear are cases of COVID-19 and everyone freaking out about the seriousness of the virus as schools and communities shut down. Meanwhile students within the LGBTQ+ community at BYU (Brigham Young University) are fighting the school administration for equality and their livelihood.
For context Brigham Young University is a private university establishment owned and operated by The Church of Latter-Day Saints. BYU is ran by a church educational system honor code, “exist to provide an education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principals of The Church if Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints.” Within the Honor Code we see that students attending this school essentially agree to attend this school by following these codes. Those that are caught acting outside the bounds of the code are considered for explosion. The code in question causing controversy states; “Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relation outside a marriage between a man and woman.”
On February 19 the BYU honor code was updated, where the conservative Utah School had quietly removed from its honor code the section titled “Homosexual Behavior” That part of strict campus rules had long banned student from “all forms of intimacy” between members of the same sex. By many of the students there they took the day as a major coming out day as many students felt that they could be themselves starting on that day. Many students were speculative about the news and conferred to many other faculty for clarifications, Kirk Bowman, a recent graduate student, said the director of the office told him the change would mean LGBTQ+ students would no longer be disciplined or expelled for being in relationships-kissing or holding hands-as long as they follow the faith’s expectation.
Students from the school have since then taken to use their voice and formed protests over the situation as a majority feel that they were teased with coming out. We spoke with Alexa Harndt who is a student at BYU Rexburg where the largest protest has formed. Alexa states she “called the honor office to make sure of the initial rule change” and the director of the Honor Code Office, Kevin Utt, personally gave a verbal commitment to students that the honor codes was amended. As word of the amendment quickly spread, LGBTQ+ individuals and couples began celebrating, posting pictures together, and coming out to family and friends.
BYU finance professor Jim Brau, had been in the habit of posting videos of his lectures on YouTube for an audience of about 1,200 students. He praised the Honor Code amendment the day after the February 17th announcement calling it “a blessing” that gay students can now openly date. The video from that lecture went viral in the following days. Last week he emailed his students informing them that he would no longer be posting his lectures online. “My family and I have been receiving threats from alt-right online groups and other online posts,” he said. “No other business pre-req class that I am aware of does YouTube, so now we will be consistent with all of them.”
On March 4th BYU tweeted it's statement and sent emails to students.
After the statement above was released students in Rexburg started gathering to protest the policy retraction, initially only 6 people gathered and resulted in being kicked off campus by Cody Sampson Head of PR. Now they have over 100 protestors, waving LGBTQ+ pride flags and signs. We spoke with Grey Woodhouse, who helped organized the protest and they said “The church has said homosexual and heterosexual activity would be treated the same, that’s all we want”. At one point there was a counter protest, wanting to enforce the rule. It only had 8 people. The leader of the protest actually complimented Grey and said they were peaceful and showed kindness. At one point there was a counter protest, wanting to enforce the rule. It only had 8 people. The leader of the protest actually complimented Grey and said they were peaceful and showed kindness. Alexa recalls her initial reaction was being angry at the school, she turned to Grey and said “strap on your dock martins we’re going to protest, we just want fair treatment, straight couples can hold hands, but we’d get kicked out.”
Over a week has passed and the protests against the amendment reversal are still going strong. In closing we asked Alexa and Grey what they were hoping to achieve by protesting. “Let them know we are here, and we exist” says Alexa. We also asked Grey Woodhouse their thoughts on if BYU will listen to the protest, “they won’t, they’re notorious for saying nothing.”
Cover Photo by: @shelbiashcroft on IG