This week we learned of yet another Title IX lawsuit filed against Baylor University, the seventh such suit. The case alleges a 2012 gang rape perpetrated by members of the university’s football team against a university volleyball player. Equally disturbing, one case alleges a 21-second video recording of the gang rape was later circulated among football players.
The lawsuit also highlights an appalling culture where sexual assault by football players was considered a “bonding experience.” To add insult to injury, victims were reportedly alienated and could find no relief from their school. This could very well be the largest scandal ever in U.S. collegiate athletics .
Where there could have been accountability, there has been shortsighted, institutional collusion. Where the athletic department had the opportunity to address the crimes of their athletes, they instead sought to cover up their violence to protect their cash-cow football program. They neglected the very women who were initially drawn to the university’s noble message.
As the mission statement proclaims: “The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.” Instead of ousting the board members when the systematic cover-up became public, they remained in their leadership positions, even after their own version of an independent investigation — known as the Pepper Hamilton report — claimed the board had “governance issues” and conflicts of interest.
Thirteen members of the board served through the time period in question and to this day have maintained their positions, further undermining Baylor’s recent claims of comprehensive reform.
A complete report of what took place at Baylor has never been released to the public. The Pepper Hamilton “Findings of Fact” report was written by the Baylor University Board of Regents themselves and fails to mention which officials were responsible for the actions, or inaction, we already know about.
The Texas Rangers have begun their own independent investigation into the board of regents and members of the athletic department, which may uncover everything that happened. The simple improvements Baylor has made are just a facade and we clearly have all the information needed to demand a complete regime change of higher-ups at Baylor.
It is ridiculous and outright shameful we are considering going into a special legislative session to pass the notorious “bathroom bill.” In fact, we have already passed legislation in the past month that hurts insurance-policy holders, endangers minorities and decreases women’s access to family planning. Just where are our priorities?
Protecting our higher-education institutions from sexual assault ought to be an obvious, bipartisan emergency item. Not only are we failing to protect our students but we are allowing a criminal administration to operate at one of our college campuses.
Yes, some of the athletic department staff were fired, but this is not a sincere attempt by the university to address the allegations. Responding to a student’s cry for help shouldn’t be a difficult task and should always take priority over athletic success. Baylor leadership failed to listen to these victims, failed to be transparent, failed to take punitive measures toward the administration and now must be removed altogether.
As Muhammad Aziz, lawyer for the latest plaintiff, stressed, “what we are seeking to enforce is just a safe education environment for the girls at the school.” The fact that a safe educational environment for students — some of them paying $56,628 a year — remains in question is inconceivable.
As this legislative session winds down, I am disappointed in the path we continue to travel. Sexual assault is an epidemic and it is taking place on our college campuses. How far are we regressing if we do nothing but wait with baited breath for another to speak up? I applaud the bravery that these survivors show every single day as their stories continue to be buried by people who care more about a university’s reputation than the post-traumatic stress these victims will go through.
As an elected state official and, more importantly, as a father of two girls, I will never grow weary of fighting for a safer environment at institutions of higher learning. Our daughters, wives, sisters and friends deserve at least this much. This is why I call for removal of any board member who has served since 2010.