“(The Devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse.”

–C.S. Lewis

I’ll get to the BYU controversy in a moment.  First, a broader point.  I’ll try to be brief.

If there’s a devil, he probably doesn’t care what we’re angry about, so long as we’re angry.

We should be wary.  It is too easy to manipulate people with anger.  As a specific example, there is good evidence that Donald Trump is a master at such manipulation.

And if you haven’t noticed, anger is all the rage.

It’s particularly easy to get people angry when you give them two

The antidote to anger isn’t the absence of strong opinion, or some kind of extreme moderation–it’s civility.  You can be passionate and be civil–and on issues that provoke strong emotion–like campus rape–passion and emotion are natural and important.  You can be fierce and be civil.  But civility means trying to understand others and work toward a solution.  Civility is the group of unspoken rules that should go without saying.  

And yet I find myself saying them.  I end my sentences with “feel free to disagree–just my opinion.”  Did anyone think that it wasn’t my opinion?  Did anyone need permission to disagree?

I’ve written about civility in the past (and put together some rules of civility for my own benefit).  If civility is an underpinning of democracy, then we would do well to reacquaint ourselves with it.  We knew how to disagree with civility in the past, but have somehow forgotten–to our detriment.

Which brings us to the current controversy over rape at BYU.   (If you don’t know what’s going on, you can learn about it from the Salt Lake Tribune (Trib) or the Deseret News (DN)).  (I can’t recommend national news coverage, because most of it is pretty terrible. In this case, I favor the local journalists over HuffPo.)

If you weren’t worried about civility, here’s one reason to be: there are now “sides” of the BYU rape controversy.

I don’t know how ole’ scratch has pulled it off, but props to him:. On the one side, we have the people who dislike rape, and on the other we have people who like BYU.  And in this Venn diagram, there is somehow no overlap?

Before I begin, let me say one last thought: there has been incivility on both sides.


Here are my present thoughts on the issue.  Feel free to disagree.  But do so nicely.


  1. It’s okay to like BYU.  That doesn’t make someone pro-rape.
  2. It’s okay to think that BYU got this one wrong.  That doesn’t make them a traitor.
  3. Most people are probably on the same side on most of this controversy.
  4. The framing of this as a “debate” or “two sided” is pretty silly.  Most people who love BYU hate rape.
  5. There is a strong incentive for the media to get people to treat this like a sensational debate. I’d vote that we reject that.  It’s a false dichotomy; there’s lots of common ground.
  6. Some people will get defensive if they feel that BYU is getting attacked.
  7. Others will get passionate when attacking rape.
  8. Both are probably good things, when you think about it–or at least understandable. Don’t let it bother you.
  9. “There is one person responsible for rape: the rapist.” Yup.
  10. That logic should extend to BYU, too.
  11. BYU is not “as bad as the rapists.”  This should be obvious.
  12. “It’s unwise to get plastered at parties” is different from “you deserved to be raped because you got drunk at a party.”
  13. Most of the people who are criticizing BYU aren’t out to malign BYU.
  14. A few are.
  15. As mentioned, most of the reporting on this has been dreadful.  Slate’s piece is pretty poor, for instance.  If you want good reporting, then check the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, who have local reporters who know what they’re talking about.
  16. Universities should not be investigating crimes.  They should run their schools.
  17. Title IX plays a role in this.  They are required to investigate rape cases, when they shouldn’t be. If they weren’t, then honor code officials wouldn’t have any access to Title IX reports, and this issue would evaporate.
  18. Requiring universities to also wear the hat of law enforcement is going to lead to friction and acrimony. Any time the university and law enforcement come to different conclusions, all hell will break loose.
  19. To reiterate from #10 above: Neither BYU nor its Honor Code (nor the Honor Code Office) is responsible for rape.  That suggestion should be denounced. That does not mean that policies shouldn’t be evaluated.
  20. BYU should evaluate its policies.  (Update: it looks like they will.)
  21. Going to a school with an honor code is a great way to reduce the risk of rape.
  22. Keeping the honor code is a great way to reduce the risk of rape, men.
  23. That is not the same thing as suggesting that women who follow the honor code will never be harmed, or that “if only you had followed the honor code, then maybe you wouldn’t have been raped.”  That suggestion is offensive.
  24. No honor code or public policy will prevent all rape.  It should not be suggested that BYU’s will.
  25. The statistics on this issue are thorny.  Underreporting is a real problem.
  26. There may be an upward bias
  27. People should not be condemned for asking questions about rape statistics.  We need better information, not less.
  28. I love BYU’s honor code.  I still think it’s inappropriate to ask someone who has been raped whether or not they were following it at the time of their rape.
  29. I don’t think it is inappropriate to grant amnesty from the honor code for victims of rape.
  30. I don’t think it is inappropriate to still refer someone to the honor code office
  31. People have to live by it.  (I’m referring to the rapist, here, not the victim.)
  32. Believing #18 above is not heresy.
  33. Believing #19 above doesn’t make me an agent of the patriarchy.
  34. BYU isn’t practicing Sharia law.  That’s a wild exaggeration.
  35. If you’ve ever claimed that BYU is practicing Sharia, you should probably learn more about Sharia, or BYU, or both.
  36. BYU is a pretty safe place.
  37. #24 is factual. Don’t be a jerk and say that to a victim.
  38. This hubbub wasn’t caused by a surge in the number of rapes on campus, or by an intentional effort on BYU’s part to cause problems. If someone doesn’t like BYU, then groovy. But they shouldn’t think that BYU is dangerous.
  39. I’m cool with people not liking BYU. I also think that public scrutiny and criticism of private institutions are good things.
  40. The right to criticize and scrutinize ends the day someone tries to enforce their criticism by government fiat.  Don’t like BYU?  Cool.  Don’t go there.  Don’t send your kids there.  But reject the calls to use government as a weapon against an institution that you disagree with.
  41. Remember that doubting a victim can be harmful.
  42. In relation to #29: it’s okay to believe someone without questioning their story.  (A chaplain friend told me that as part of his job, he might have to listen to, and help, both victim and accuser.  It isn’t his job to decide what happened.  His job is to support.  I like that perspective.)
  43. If someone doesn’t follow #30, they might not be evil. Remember Hanlon’s Razor.
  44. There’s a difference between being a chaplain and an investigator.  Investigators should find out what really happened, which requires a skeptical eye.  That does not mean they are bad people.

What do you think?  What would you add?  What would you change?

Comment below.