"God forgives me, why can't you?" chanted hundreds of students at a rare protest at the Mormon-owned Brigham Young University on Friday. The protesters were calling for changes to the school's famously strict honor code system, which bans beards, piercings, drinking coffee, and premarital sex, among other things. Many students at the Utah university say that while they don't disagree with the contents of the code, which they are required to sign to attend classes, punishments are far too strict and university administrators have created a "climate of snitching and tattling," NPR reports. Some say victims of sexual assault are still being punished, despite changes to the system made after protests in 2016. The university's honor code office investigates alleged violations and issues punishments.
Former student Sidney Draughon, 24, says she was put on probation and failed to graduate on time after officials decided she had worn indecent clothing in a vacation photo and an ex-boyfriend confessed they had engaged in "sexual touching," the New York Times reports. Hundreds of other students have shared similar stories on her "Honor Code Stories" Instagram page, which says it supports "positive change within BYU's Honor Code Office." Honor code office director Kevin Utt said last week that punishments for violating the code are "intended to develop students' moral and ethical decision-making." He said only 10 to 15 students are expelled each year for transgressions, with others receiving lesser punishments. (In 2017, BYU ended a 60-year ban on the sale of caffeinated soft drinks.)