Summarized by Kent Larsen
Stoffer, Parents Criticize BYU Following Suspension
DELAFIELD, WISCONSIN -- After BYU announced Friday that it had
suspended Julie Stoffer for living in the same house with men while on
MTV's "The Real World," both Stoffer and her parents criticized BYU for
the way it handled the suspension and the wording of suspension letter
sent her. The letter implies that Stoffer had sexual relations and
requires her to take the same steps required of those repenting of
immorality. Stoffer called the letter's insinuations "totally false and
slanderous," and her parents, both BYU alumni, added their public
criticisms of the University.
Nearly six weeks after the television
series aired, showing Julie living in a New Orleans mansion with four
men and two other women, and eight months after Stoffer told BYU that
she would be on the show, BYU finally ruled and sent her a registered
letter July 20th to both Julie's home in Delafield, Wisconsin and to
MTV, giving her six days to file an appeal of their ruling. But Julie
was traveling for MTV's "Real World/Road Rules" and didn't file an
According to news reports, the letter said, in part, that
"the reason for this action is your violation of the Honor Code,
specifically your relationships with the opposite sex, including
sleeping together with them on multiple occasions." The letter goes on
to outline five steps Julie must take to gain re-admittance to the
University. She must develop a plan with her Bishop for changing her
life, report monthly on her progress and any further violations to the
University, complete assignments on specific topics, acknowledge her
honor code violation and assure the University she will lead an
appropriate life. If she complies, she can return to the University in
The letter has upset both Julie and her parents, who
feel that, if anything, she is guilty of a 'technical' violation of the
honor code. "To suspend me, and to insinuate in the letter that I was
sleeping with a guy, or having sex, is totally false and slanderous,"
Julie wrote in a statement released to the press. "I can have no respect
for the Honor Code Office after this. For them to suggest that I need to
meet with church leaders and go through a repentance process in order to
return to BYU is totally uncalled for. I cannot respect an organization
that would assume that I was guilty of immoral conduct when I have
continually told them I did nothing of the sort and the TV footage
Julie's father, James Stoffer, agrees, "She was
living in a TV studio," he says. "She was always on camera. She was
always with people. In fact, she didn't sleep in her pajamas because
there were boys around. She slept in her clothes." He says the letter
was hurtful, "The way it's worded makes it sound like she's a tramp.
This wording hurt my daughter very much. My daughter is a very moral
person. They're wrong, they're just wrong to word it this way."
mother, Jan Stoffer, also bristles becauase of the letter's content,
"I'm upset after seeing the letter and I'm sure Julie feels the same
way," she says. "She has been adamant that she didn't have any sexual
contact with anyone at any time. It looks to me like they are calling
her a liar. If that's what they are saying, I would be upset if I were
Julie reportedly contacted BYU's Honor Code Office after she
was chosen to go on the show, asking for guidance and BYU's position.
She was given basic information and information for high-profile
students and given the impression that as long as she behaved herself,
she wouldn't get into trouble with the University.
When filming for
the show started, she contacted the University again, but the school's
personnel declined to complete a return call to her after learning that
the call would be taped and could be broadcast on "The Real World."
After the show was completed, the Honor Code office contacted her again,
asking for information about what she did while on the program. "They
said something like, 'We need a written statement from you regarding
your conduct during this show,' " James Stoffer said. "They wanted to
know what boys were in her room at any time of the day or night, what
boys kissed her or hugged her . . . were they under the blankets . . ."
When Julie didn't respond, the Honor Code office contacted her by phone.
"She, of course, was totally embarrassed," James Stoffer said. "She kept
saying, 'I didn't do anything I'm ashamed of.' She asked him, 'What do
you think was going on?' "
But BYU sees the situation differently
from Stoffer and her parents. According to BYU spokeswoman Carrie P.
Jenkins, the issue isn't Julie's action, but her commitment to the Honor
Code, "This is not a decision if she was a good or bad person. But it is
about her commitment to the honor code. . . . I think that what we have
to look at is the honor code and the idea that just because you're a
celebrity you don't have to abide by it," she said. "This decision
wasn't governed by what the world would think of it." Jenkins also
emphasized that the rationale for her suspension wasn't just about
living with men. "This isn't just about coed living. It's about Julie's
commitment to living the honor code, and whether she lived up to those
School officials say they wanted to see some of the
show before making a judgement. But BYU's Jenkins says that the Honor
Code officials making the decision didn't watch the show, and that the
decision was based on Julie's statements to the Honor Code office, not
on the show itself. Under BYU's procedures, Honor Code violations are
reviewed by a committee of six university representatives who
investigate each case and take action. But suspension and expulsion from
the University must also be approved by the Honor Code Office's
director, Steve Baker. Students are given five days to appeal.
students seem to have mixed reactions to the issue. Most admit that
Julie's actions on the show were exemplary, even if they happened in an
environment that was against BYU's standards. "She doesn't do what
others in the house do. She doesn't go out and party and drink," said
BYU sophomore Garrett Wilson, "At first, I was really kind of offended,
because she was saying some anti-BYU stuff. But later, I was impressed
by her example." But Wilson support's the University's suspension, "BYU
loses its function as a safe haven where you can go and study and not
have to worry about temptations that would pull us away from our church
standards," he said.
But fellow student Anthony John, a freshman
preparing for an LDS mission to Finland this fall, doesn't agree with
BYU's punishment, "I'm disappointed that she's been suspended. My
friends out here in Boston don't necessarily know any Mormons. If they
watch MTV and they see this girl on there who goes to church every
Sunday and talks about how she won't have premarital sex or drink --
this sends a good message out to people about the church."
decision leaves Stoffer's parents frustrated with BYU and proud of their
daughter, "It put us in an awkward situation," James Stoffer said. "It's
the church we love. Our friends, many of them, won't even watch the
show, but those who do come back and congratulate her.
"We think that
BYU is a very great school - my wife and I both graduated from there,"
he added, noting that their son, Alan, will enter as a freshmen this
fall. "The Honor Code sets BYU apart. . . . But she got a bum rap from
the Honor Code Office. I think the church benefited by her conduct. She
served a mission for our church."
'Real World' father says daughter's behavior on show was moral
Milwaukee WI Journal-Sentinel 30Jul00 P2
By Amy Rabideau Silvers: Journal Sentinel staff
Delafield resident Julie Stoffer, 21, accused of breaking honor code, was suspended by Brigham Young
The real world hits: BYU suspends Julie
Deseret News 29Jul00 P2
By Jeffrey P. Haney: Deseret News staff writer
BYU Gives Julie the Boot for MTV Stint
Salt Lake Tribune 29Jul00 P2
By Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune
BYU suspends 'Real World' Julie Stoffer
BYU NewsNet 29Jul00 P2
By Nate Bertasso and Shane Bevel and Kelly Roy King