The Baylor debacle

In relaunching my website and blog, it seems long overdue that I comment on the tragedy that has unfolded since 2015 over the issue of sexual assault at my alma mater, Baylor University. In August of 2015, Sports Illustrated and Deadspin reported that a football Baylor had been indicted on two counts of sexual assault against a female student athlete at Baylor. The incident had not been reported publicly by Baylor officials, and the athlete had been allowed to participate in team activities. After the player was convicted, Baylor regents hired the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to investigate the handling of sexual assault. In the months that followed, other reports of sexual assault emerged. In May of 2016, the regents received an oral presentation on the findings by Pepper Hamilton. The university released a 13-page findings of fact that was short on specifics. Successful Baylor football coach Art Briles was fired, and Ken Starr was removed as president and ultimately left the university. The controversy has raged more than a year. Multiple lawsuits have piled up. Alumni and the public have expressed outrage. The Dallas Morning News, among many other news media outlets, has continued to call for a complete accounting of facts and those responsible.

I consider myself a loyal Baylor graduate, and I continue to serve as a member of the board of directors of the Baylor Line Foundation. Over the decades, it seems, Baylor has lurched from crisis to crisis, mostly over matters of Southern Baptist politics and spats over fundamentalism. As a lifelong Methodist, I’ve viewed these issues with some amusement and even on occasion as spectator sport. But the sexual assault issue has damaged the fundamental integrity of the university in a way no other issue ever has. The regents said initially upon receiving the Pepper Hamilton report that there was no call for a full written report because one would take up to six months. No reasonable person believed that. And we are now more than 11 months since the oral presentation. Baylor is no nearer wrapping up the situation, and the credibility of the university’s leadership is nonexistent. An influential alumni group of wealthy contributors, Bears for Leadership Reform, has called for a complete accounting as well as new standards for transparency in the university’s governance.

It is an embarrassing and shameful episode in the university’s history. There has been an appalling lack of respect for the women who are victims. The regents have been completely tone deaf to alumni, the public and the current students.  Every aspect of the university’s administration and governance has been called into question, with no legitimate answers forthcoming.

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