Posted on April 19, 2011

BYU Discipline Harsher on Black Athletes, Report Says

Peggy Fletcher and Kristen Moulton, Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2011

Black athletes at Brigham Young University are four times more likely than white athletes to be disciplined for violating the school’s honor code, according to research reported Wednesday on

Since 1993, “at least 70 athletes have been suspended, dismissed, put on probation, or forced to withdraw from their teams or the school after running afoul of the honor code,” write Luke O’Brien and Darron Smith. “Fifty-four of them, or nearly 80 percent, are minorities.”

The authors, who interviewed dozens of athletes, say a “loose hierarchy” applies sanctions for breaking the school’s honor code, which requires students to refrain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea as well as pre-marital sex.


“The most severe punishment,” according to O’Brien and Smith, “is reserved for non-Mormon black athletes, according to our data and several athletes we interviewed.”


The Provo school has taken some steps to improve the situation, the authors report, including hiring the first person of color, Vernon L. Heperi, a Pacific Islander, as dean of students and honor code enforcer.

Smith, a black Mormon who taught at BYU from 1998 to 2005, remains deeply concerned about black athletes who are recruited by the LDS Church-owned university.

“We must do better,” Smith said in an email. “I’ve said this over and over again.”