FreeBYU says American Psychological Association 'refused' to hold BYU accountable

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(KUTV) Two accreditation complaints filed against Brigham Young University regarding religious discrimination against psychology students were not able to be scrutinized by The American Psychological Association because the complaints were not sent to the right department, according to the association.

In 2015, BYU made headlines when the university was re-evaluated for university accreditation. At that time, six board members from Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) had a meeting with students to get the most authentic feedback possible about the university -- without the administration present.

Several students gave examples of how a part of the Honor Code does not allow a student to change religions (unless it is to convert to Mormonism) without being kicked out of the institution, have your transcripts frozen, and lose your on-campus job or housing.

Out of more than 120 students who met to share that concern and other feedback with an accreditation boar, 40 percent of those in attendance were part of FreeBYU, a group devoted to promoting freedom of thought and freedom of religion at BYU.

FreeBYU stated in a news release that the APA “refused to hold BYU’s psychology program accountable to the APA’s accreditation standards prohibiting discrimination against students and faculty.“

The APA Commission on Accreditation told FreeBYU in a statement that it only accredits doctoral level programs in the areas of clinical, counseling and school psychology, or a combination of those areas. It could not review the group’s two complaints against Brigham Young University because they were outside of the APA Commission’s scope, according to the APA’s response.

The American Psychological Association responded to FreeBYU’s complaints a week ago on Feb. 14.

The APA’s accreditation standards state that policies of accredited schools may not be “used to preclude the admission, hiring, or retention of individuals because of … personal and demographic characteristics. These include, but are not limited to, age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, national origin, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, and social economic status.”

The APA also requires an accredited program has ”nondiscriminatory policies and operating conditions, and it avoids any actions that would restrict program access or completion on grounds that are irrelevant to success in graduate training or the profession.”

FreeBYU stated that it “applauds the APA’s stated commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

The organization believes BYU’s continued practice of evicting, terminating, or expelling LDS students who decide to change their religious affiliation from LDS to something else is “inconsistent with the APA’s stated commitment.”

FreeBYU asks that its complaint to the APA documented BYU’s discriminatory policies and practices that apply to students and faculty in APA-accredited programs, and have asked that the APA take action to “require that BYU comply with its accreditation guidelines.”

Although the APA replied that it does not have the jurisdiction to investigate the complaint because it falls outside of its scope, FreeBYU says the APA is wrong.

FreeBYU says the APA’s response demonstrates a “reluctance to hold BYU’s APA-accredited program accountable” and the decision “stands out in unfortunate contrast to their published support of nondiscrimination.”

FreeBYU notes four reasons it believes the APA is wrong and demonstrates them below:

  1. Our complaint clearly targeted APA-accredited programs at BYU: even the very first sentence reads, “I am writing to file a formal complaint on behalf of students and faculty members in the APA-accredited programs at Brigham Young University (BYU) located in Provo, Utah regarding violations of the Guiding Principles for Accreditation of the American Psychological Association (APA).”
  2. The APA includes BYU’s Counseling Psychology, Special Education and Clinical Psychology / Department of Psychology, and Counseling and Psychological Services in its list of accredited programs.
  3. BYU also claims APA accreditation in its program materials. For example, BYU’s Ph.D in Clinical Psychology claims “The Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Brigham Young University is a well-established, nationally visible program... Our program has enjoyed continuous accreditation by the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1971.”
  4. All students and faculty in APA-accredited programs at BYU are subject to BYU’s honor code, which brings honor code content and enforcement squarely within the scope of the APA’s accreditation.
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