The sins of a Christian university

May 31st, 2016

“Baylor is a private Christian university.” This is a direct quote from the first sentence on the university’s website.

So is Christian now synonymous with cover-up? That’s the question some may be asking since the release of an independent report about the handling of sexual assault allegations by the university’s football program and administrators.

Pepper Hamilton, the law firm engaged by the university to do the investigation, concluded that Baylor failed “to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).” Specifically, Baylor didn’t provide female students who alleged that they had been assaulted or harassed reasonable support. More than once, “the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, or address its effects for individual complainants or the broader campus community.”

More troubling, though, is that university administrators were implicated directly in the worst ways. The investigation found that two of them “directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes.”

The football program and athletics department were found to ignore “a pattern of sexual violence by a football player” and failed “to take action in response to reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, and … a report of dating violence.”

The same day that the report was released Baylor announced that it was planning to fire its head football coach, Art Briles.

"We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,” said Richard Willis the chair of the university’s board of regents. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”

The acts referenced in the report include the rape convictions of former Baylor football players Tevin Elliot and Sam Ukwuachu.

Baylor’s response also raises questions. Yes, the university has initiated Briles’ termination and taken away from Ken Starr the title of president, allowing him to keep the title of chancellor. But Starr’s “punishment” seems like barely a slap of the wrist. And sanctioning Baylor’s athletic director, Ian McCaw, and only putting him on probation seems equally tepid.

Lives were ruined at Baylor. Innocent reputations were unjustly tarnished. Bodies were violated. Spirits were assaulted. And people who claimed to lead with spiritual authority covered it up.

Ken Starr should be fired. And so should Ian McCaw and anyone else remotely implicated in covering up or in any way enabling rapes and sexual assaults on the Baylor campus.

Anything less makes all official apologies and recriminations seem less than genuine — and definitely not befitting of a Christian university. 

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