School officials say the dates on case files likely reflect an overlap in the software used by the Honor Code and Title IX offices and does not mean an Honor Code investigation was immediately begun. BYU is considering changes to the filing system as part of its review of how it handles sexual assault cases, said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.
MacDonald is one of several students who in recent weeks have said they were investigated for Honor Code violations as a result of reporting sexual violence — allegations that have brought nationwide attention to BYU, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Critics have alleged that victims in sex crimes are less likely to report offenders if they fear being investigated, and more than 107,000 people have signed a petition demanding amnesty from school discipline for people who report being assaulted.
BYU has released multiple statements that "a victim of sexual assault will never be referred to the Honor Code Office for being a victim of sexual assault."
MacDonald disputes that, noting that she did not violate the Honor Code in connection with her assault, and the school's investigation of her substantiated that.
The Salt Lake Tribune does not generally identify people who report sex crimes against them; MacDonald consented to be named.
Another student, who asked not to be identified, also has told The Tribune she was automatically investigated by the Honor Code Office after Title IX staff discovered she had reported a rape off campus, which resulted in criminal charges. Like MacDonald, the woman said she had broken no part of the Honor Code, yet school officials told her she would have to be investigated for potential violations. That inquiry remains open because the defendant in the rape case, also not a BYU student, will not participate.
Both women said there appeared to be no reason for their Honor Code investigations apart from the fact that they had reported sexual assaults.
MacDonald obtained records of her investigation from the Honor Code Office through a request under federal laws that regulate students' education records. When she went to the Honor Code Office this week to review the file, she said she was not allowed to make copies or take photos of the documents.
"I had to sit in a room with people watching me. ... I couldn't bring anyone with me, and they made me leave my cellphone in the other room," she said. She was allowed to take notes, she said.
The 87-page file included materials gathered during the Title IX investigation: MacDonald's statement and responses from the Utah Valley University student who she said drove her up to a mountain on Dec. 9, 2014, in Orem and started taking off her clothes and groping her while she told him to stop and tried to push him away.
MacDonald said she reported the assault on Dec. 10 to Title IX investigators at BYU on the recommendation of staff from the school's office for women's services and resources. The same date appeared on the Honor Code case file, MacDonald said.
Jenkins said that because the Title IX investigators use a filing system developed by the Honor Code Office, an Honor Code file may be opened immediately, even if the investigation does not begin until later.
"An Honor Code review — if it takes place at all — would follow the Title IX investigation," Jenkins said.
MacDonald said her biggest surprise was the level of detail in a case in which the only student involved was the alleged victim.
"Every single word I'd said to anyone in the university was cataloged," MacDonald said. "Even conversations I had with secretaries, and cracked stupid jokes — those stupid jokes were in the file."