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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended July 30, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 31Jul00

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 appeal.

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 Spring 2001.

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 supports this."

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."

Her 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 her."

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 commitments."

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.

BYU 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."

The 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


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