Dick Harmon: BYU's decision to alter its honor code media policy was long overdue
But to have that discipline announced to the world just doesn’t settle, especially when one considers the mission of the university is to care for the spiritual, physical and academic welfare of the school's students.
A more congenial path in this kind of situation would be to allow a student to overcome a mistake in private, albeit, that's a tough thing to accomplish with a high-profile star. If one didn’t break a law or incur a criminal complaint or summons, they should have a pathway to correct their mistake without public scrutiny or a witch hunt to satisfy titillating curiosity.
"Violation of team rules" could mean anything from a missed practice or academic challenges to a scuffle. A myriad things. But, under the old policy, when BYU confirmed to the media it was an honor code issue, the entire discussion changed on the public stage.
In light of the public suspension Davies in 2011, and the accompanying national media attention to senior linebacker Spencer Hadley this past fall, BYU honor code issues spun crazily out of orbit. To some, it made the university look like it lucked into a public opportunity to advertise how unique it was and how “strict to its principles” BYU's leaders were. Many in the national media certainly touted that. BYU “stuck to its guns,” but offenders were run over — then backed over again.
"The time had come to change, and everyone on campus was supportive to go through the process we arrived at," said Holmoe, who said he didn’t spearhead the change but was involved.
It may have come down to a legal issue.
As a private university, it’s a little surprising the school would even confirm if a student was being punished or under review by the school’s Honor Code Office.
The common laws of right to privacy adopted in this country are very strict about student records, specifically academics.
Utah recognizes all four common law invasion of privacy claims, including intrusion upon solitude or seclusion and public disclosure of private facts or unreasonable publicity given to one’s private life.
There is an argument to be made that athletes are public figures, so they can expect scrutiny because they are on the field or court and under the lights. Commit a crime and have at ‘em.
But these are not professional athletes, and with accompanying grooming standards, BYU’s honor code is more restrictive than an LDS temple recommend.
The media will always say that the public has the right to know. While I can’t speak for everyone in the Utah media on this unique subject, I have had many discussions with print and broadcast media veterans about the topic. Most — with a few exceptions — believe BYU should have done this long ago.
Because of fairness. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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