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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: February 13, 2018 07:59PM

I normally ignore most of the half-truths and urban legends posted here, but I’m going to make an exception for the myths about BYU transcripts, because they affect people who are actually making decisions that are going to affect their lives. These people tend to be around 20 years old give or take, which means they don’t have a lot of experience standing up to bureaucracies, and are already totally stressed out. They should at least have correct information to work with.

I tried to quite LDS Inc while still a BYU student back in the 1970s. I thought paying non-member tuition had more integrity than pretending to believe. I came within a hair breadth of getting expelled, and learned that integrity has nothing to do with their processes. I also spent a good part of my adult life as a faculty member at a mid-size state university, and served on both the admission committee and the academic appeals committee, which dealt with university level appeals of academic dismissals, complaints against faculty, and similar fun stuff. I’ve seen this dance from both sides.

A little background. You are all (at least the Americans) probably familiar with HIPAA, because it seems like every time you set foot in any medical facility you have to sign one or two HIPAA-related documents before you even get to sit down. HIPAA has to do with privacy and security of medical records, and medical facilities are TERRIFIED of being involved in a HIPAA violation. I's are dotted and T’s are crossed in great profusion.

There is a similar law that applies to academic records: FERPA - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. It is quite similar to HIPAA, in that it is designed to protect parental access to school records of minors, and protect the privacy of both minors and adult students. Universities are TERRIFIED of being involved in a FERPA violation. Rules governing what can be done to and with transcripts by academic institutions falls squarely within the purview of FERPA.

So, on to the questions.

This is probably the biggest myth promulgated here (and to be fair, everywhere else in Mormondom). Quoting directly from : "If you are a former BYU student, you may request a transcript for credits to be transferred to another school at any time, even if you no longer have a current ecclesiastical endorsement. Only financial holds prevent a transcript from being ordered."

So yeah, if you owe them money, they can put a hold on your transcript. If they won’t give you a transcript, they are required by FERPA to give you written explanation as to why they will not release your transcript, and what you need to do to release the hold on your transcript. How exactly do you think they would word a hold on your transcript because they are mad at you for being an apostate? That’d get them a lawsuit so fast it would make their institutional head spin.

So why is it such a persistent myth? That topic could be a thread all by itself, but I think the heart of it is that we assume the institution hates apostates, and will do anything possible to mess up their lives, and refusing to release their transcript when they are trying to transfer would mess up their lives. Ergo BYU arbitrarily and capriciously puts holds on transcripts. However much you would like to believe that, it is not true.

If anybody claims they were denied a transcript, ask to see the letter from the registrar that explains why it was not released. If there is no letter, it didn’t happen (or it happened more than 40 years ago before FERPA). They may have misremembered what actually happened, or it was second or third hand information, or they just mentally invented the story because they know it must be true, and current students must be warned!!

If you are not familiar with the Chad Hardy v BYU case, the link below will get you to his web site where you can read up on all the details. He was excommunicated after completing all his course work, but prior to his actual graduation. He posted the letter he received from BYU, and it has the three pieces of information I said are required for a letter denying you a copy of your transcript. He was told what was happening (Your graduation application will be placed in a “hold” file and your name will not be resubmitted for graduation), why it was happening (you [have] been excommunicated from TCOJCOLDS), and was told how he can initiate a resolution to the hold on his graduation ( if he is reinstated as a member in good standing, contact the dean’s office regarding possible eligibility for awarding the degree)

Is it possible to have a non-financial hold on a transcript? Yes, but that only happens under extraordinary circumstances, and even then is quite brief, like a couple of days. I’ll discuss this in more detail under “Can BYU remove courses from my transcript”, below.

if you are exed or disfellowshipped mid-semester, I am pretty sure you will eventually get expelled. However, if you indicate that you plan to appeal the university ruling, they have plenty of incentive to reach some sort of “plea bargain” to avoid the appeal.

In the appeals I was involved in, here was the cast of characters: five to seven members of the appeals committee, the university registrar, an attorney from the university legal office, the student that is appealing an earlier decision, usually a faculty member from the department involved, and perhaps the department chair, and perhaps even the dean of that college. The student usually had witnesses in attendance as well. The appeal usually took a couple of hours. It was audio recorded, the recording kept for 30 days in case the student wanted to file a civil suit (this never happened when I was on the committee). There was a meeting of the committee members with university legal counsel a day or two before the appeal hearing. That meeting usually lasted a couple hours as well, covering what the faculty could and could not ask during the appeal. It was mostly to make sure we didn’t do anything that would get the university sued.

That’s a lot of man-hours of people most of whom are relatively high up in the university hierarchy. All of them would much rather be doing almost anything else. Most appeals, like most court cases, get resolved without actually holding the appeal/court case. If you say you will drop the appeal if they allow you to finish the semester, and then you will willingly leave after that, there is an excellent chance they will take that offer. If it is your last semester, you might even be able to negotiate to be allowed to graduate.

The only fly in the ointment that I can see is if your excommunication was prominently in the public eye for some reason. The Chad Hardy case falls into that category. The world was watching, so BYU felt like they couldn’t back down at all.

That does not constitute “removing" courses from your transcript, if you never actually finished the courses. I can understand how that might feel like having courses removed.

There are extraordinary circumstances where courses can be removed, involving fraud against the university. You’ve heard of kids (or more likely, their parents) trying to have someone else take the college boards in the student’s place. There have been people who have actually hired someone to take an entire course, or even an entire degree program in someone else’s name. If you get caught doing that, the university will remove the courses from your transcript, but you will have bigger problems than your transcript at that point.

The only possible way I can imagine having courses taken off your transcript at BYU (other than outright fraud, as above) is, suppose, you are exed in March after being tried and convicted of a notorious crime that took place, say, the previous November. You will almost certainly lose the spring semester courses because you will not be allowed to finish them. I could see the university administration argue that since the crime that precipitated the excommunication happened the previous fall, that course(s) should be removed as well.

Two important things to note (1) I have NEVER heard of that actually happening at BYU. I checked the BYU catalog a few years ago, and they do reserve the right to briefly hold a transcript if there is some question about whether a course or courses should be removed, but it looks like pure CYA legalese. (2) If it ever did happen, I would strongly advise seeking legal counsel, because the argument that you still had your ecclesiastical endorsement the previous fall might be a good legal argument. And don’t forget that if you are going to prison for said notorious crime, losing 5 more courses off your transcript is not your biggest problem. If you got exed for sleeping with your boyfriend, I can’t imagine BYU trying to open a can of worms by trying to remove courses from your transcript. They would need a really good reason to risk that much potential blowback. Garden variety infractions are not a sufficiently good reason.

It is worth noting that Chad Hardy did NOT lose any courses off his transcript.

ANS: THIS IS SIMPLY NONSENSE. The school you are transferring from has no say in what courses transfer, how many credits will transfer (it might be a 3 credit course at one school and 4 credits at the other, something will have to give). The school you are transferring TO makes all those decisions. Someone might contact BYU to find out the content of a course to aid in making the decision, but BYU won’t know who they are calling about. Your religion credits probably won’t transfer. This has nothing to do with your apostasy, and everything to do with the course content.

ANS: TOTAL WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. This is the second biggest myth about transcripts, and it is advice I see here all the time. The other day someone said they got 20 copies of their transcript just in case. That’s a rather boring way to torch $120.
I know at the school I was at, they will not accept an official transcript that is more than 3 months old. That may not apply after the degree is granted, but I know it applied to transfer students.
As stated above, BYU can’t capriciously put a hold on your transcript, and they won’t change your transcript. IN THE HIGHLY UNLIKELY EVENT THEY DO CHANGE YOUR TRANSCRIPT, PASSING OFF AN OLDER COPY THAT YOU KNOW DOES NOT MATCH YOUR RECORD AT THE UNIVERSITY CONSTITUTES F.R.A.U.D.

And I’m not talking little white lie fraud. It would meet the legal definition for the real deal. If they did change your transcript, you would definitely know about it, because FERPA has strict notification and due process requirements. The receiving school could seek criminal prosecution or a civil suit, but they will do neither. It wouldn’t be worth a prosecutor’s time, and there would be no money in a civil suit. But would they ash-can your application, or expel your ass if they found out it was a fraudulent application after accepting you? Oh, in a New York minute.

Getting booted from BYU for an honor code violation, and then getting booted from your next school for a fraudulent application would pretty much be the end of your academic career.

BTW, your transcript is as official as your driver’s license. By that I mean, it is not the piece of paper that matters, it is the record at the university that matters for a transcript, or the record at the DMV that matters WRT a driver’s license. That’s why police officers always contact the DMV to check to see if your license is actually valid. Universities have the right to contact the school that the official transcript came from to verify it. They only do that if something raises a red flag for them. You sending an old transcript, or transferring at an unusual point in your schooling, or simply transferring from BYU-x school might be enough of a red flag to warrant extra scrutiny. You do not want to be waving red flags in their faces. They may decide you’re just too damn much trouble to be worth the bother.

If you are applying to BYU, and your bishop black-balls you, I think you are just screwed. You’re not getting in. However, once you are accepted, FERPA comes into play. It must be a university employee, not your bishop, who has the final say in expelling you for an honor code violation, and lack of an ecclesiastical endorsement is an honor code violation.

If it looks like the bishop is just out to get you, and the actual infraction would not get your endorsement rescinded by a run-of-the-mill bishop, I believe the university would actually go to bat for you against the bishop. They could give a rat’s ass about your bishop. They do not want a FERPA lawsuit, and they especially don’t want to lose one.

The dean hearing your case can contact your bishop or SP to discuss the case, but only with your express written permission (FERPA, again). If you can convince them your bishop is just being a jerk, they may well try to lean on him to change his mind, or even get the SP to lean on the bishop. You may find that hard to believe, but they will stand on their head and spit nickels to avoid getting in a pissing match with the Department of Justice over FERPA.

It is not the bishop that gets the final say. BYU does, and they can issue you an endorsement themselves if they think your bishop is being unreasonable (translation: if they think the bishop is putting them in the legal crosshairs). If it is you and the bishop having a pissing match, you very well might have all the heavy hitters on your team. Savor the moment!

Again, I have never heard of this happening at BYU-x over being exed, so as far as I am concerned, this is a pure hypothetical case. Again, it is not the piece of paper that is the degree, it is the record at the university, just like your driver’s license. That said, official transcripts do occasionally get checked on. I’ve never heard of a diploma being checked on for validity, except as part of a criminal investigation where there is suspicion the person has forged credentials.

Chad Hardy did not have his degree revoked or withdrawn. (On his web site, one of his attorneys did use the word “revoked” one time. That was sloppy writing on his part). The degree is not officially granted until graduation. Usually, that is just a formality, but there are times when the technicality matters. The Hardy case was one of those times.

Keep your nose clean until you have graduated, not just until you finish classes. I finished classes in May but graduated in August, a three month window of vulnerability.

In summary:
Stop obsessing about transcripts and diplomas. This is a non-issue. There are legal protections. Really. Yes. Really-really.

Don’t panic. You may have some negotiating power. Stay calm.

Don’t try to pick a fight with them. Ignore the smiles. they are playing hardball. Be careful out there.

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Posted by: ificouldhietokolob ( )
Date: February 13, 2018 08:38PM

BoJ, that's a great post full of useful information.

Perhaps the "myth" stems from things like this:

"A Sept. 30 letter from Norman B. Finlinson, the school's executive director of student academic and advisement services, said a nonacademic hold was placed on Hardy's record after the church-owned university learned of the excommunication.

"If in the future you are reinstated as a member of the church in good standing, you are invited to contact my office regarding your possible eligibility for the awarding of a degree," Finlinson wrote."

"If you are Mormon, and you decide to leave the church (because you stopped believing in God), your life is practically over. You’ll be expelled and possibly evicted. Your transcript won’t even be released in some cases, making it tougher to transfer."

There are more.
The idea of not releasing transcripts for "apostates" is all over the place. You've got your work cut out :)

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: February 13, 2018 08:54PM

But but but... I said really-really.

I'm sticking with the denial letter. If the person doesn't have one, I'm not buying the denial.

Every couple of years, somebody floats the story here of some BYU couple who runs off to Nevada, gets married on Friday, has wild sex until Monday, gets a quickie divorce, returns to Provo, safe from sanctions because they were married.

Except the quickie divorces Nevada was famous for were called quickie because it only took six weeks to establish Nevada residency for purposes of divorce, as opposed to six months or a year in other states.

So, it never happened. And if someone insists, well, divorces are public record. Give me a citation for a divorce of a 3 day marriage for two people residing in Provo. I just want some actual evidence firmer than "I know somebody who...."

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Posted by: cinda ( )
Date: February 13, 2018 11:08PM

BTW, it’s HIPPA, Health Insurance Privacy and Pirtability Act.

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Posted by: [|] ( )
Date: February 13, 2018 11:49PM

It is actually the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - HIPAA

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Posted by: Cheryl ( )
Date: February 14, 2018 09:55AM

Many of them drag their feet or fudge the records.

What to do if this happens? spend money and time with lawyers and courts, then accept that someone might interpret a situation in a way that goes against whoever brings suit.

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Posted by: ificouldhietokolob ( )
Date: February 14, 2018 10:49AM

BoJ, I hope you don't think I was disagreeing with your main point. I wasn't! :)

It's just that even reporters often give the impression that BYU will hold back your degree/transcripts if you go rogue. And sometimes it does happen.

You're absolutely right when you point out that they can be sued for doing so, that there are rules they must abide by, and that in the end, they're likely going to have to give up the transcripts.

It's our collective ex-mormon experience with the capriciousness of mormon "authorities" that might give us pause. While all of your arguments are correct (and compelling), we all have experience of some mid-level narcissistic asshat mormon leader taking a "stand" on something, and making our lives miserable. That can also happen at BYU (and there are anecdotes galore suggesting it does). The thing is, even if in the end the university follows the rules, and does the "right" thing, it's the time to GET them to do so that can be so painful. One self-righteous jerk putting a "non-academic hold" on your transcripts, making you go through the appeals process, can mean not starting at your new school for an extra semester. Or two. And that can really screw up plans.

Take our current-student-poster mightybuffalo, for example: he's been accepted to medical school. I'm sure final acceptance will be dependent on BYU transcripts. If he gets "found out" before the end of this term, and some self-righteous peter priesthood decides to delay his transcripts, that will seriously mess up his life plans -- even if eventually BYU did the right and legal thing and made his transcripts available later on. But what a ridiculous process he'd had to go through, and waste tons of time and money, just to get what any other school would do without any drama!

Your information was great. Hopefully people will use it to hold BYU's feet to the fire-burning-in-their-bosoms, and force decent behavior. With a minimum of delay and drama. That would be great :)

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: February 14, 2018 04:00PM

Not a problem. I realize you were replying "in good faith".

the problem is that the "they may withhold your transcript" meme is so common, that it is accepted by most people as "common knowledge", yet I have not seen a single case of actual documented evidence of this happening, though there is a law in place mandating that documentary evidence must be provided by the registrar's office.

It's got all the hallmarks of an urban legend. I'm claiming that it is in fact an urban legend.

In the Hardy case, the letter he got from BYU stated that his record was being placed in a "hold" file (quote marks in the original). They said his record, not his transcript. They put it in quotes because there is no official name for what they did. They basically placed his graduation in limbo. They said it was not going to happen as long as he was not a Mormon in good standing.

If he did rejoin, come talk to them. They didn't have a name for that, so they called it a "hold". I think it is interesting to note that in a sense, he is still in the BYU system. There is a path to potentially getting the hold released. He hasn't been totally removed from the system.

But more to the transcript point, nothing on Mr Hardy's web site (that I could find) indicates that he was denied the right to get transcripts.

The patheos link you posted also provided no evidence that transcripts are ever held for students who get expelled for leaving the Mormon Church. It very much had the "this is common knowledge" tone to it.

LDS Inc might be willing to bend rules to make the life of its members difficult if they get in a pissing match. BYU administrators have tools at their disposal too for making an apostate student's life difficult. Mightybuffalo is a case on point. However, holding transcripts is not one of those tools. Believe me, having been one of the admin types required to jump through FERPA hoops, universities will not take risks with FERPA, any more than your local hospital will release medical records to your bishop without written consent from you.

All it would take is one student going to one lawyer saying BYU won't give me a copy of my transcript for BYU's world to turn to instant s**t. And the lawyer would get to buy him or herself a new ski boat.

Lastly, that statement on the registrar's page that only financial holds will prevent the release of a transcript is essentially a contract. If they ever varied from that, they would have to have solid documentary justification, and documentary evidence (i.e. something they wrote down) is the best kind of evidence to base a court case on.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/14/2018 04:03PM by Brother Of Jerry.

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