If such a thing as the “Baylor Family” truly exists, then the message it increasingly presses these days is beyond misinterpretation: the Baylor University Board of Regents must in good conscience release to the public all underlying evidence upon which it reportedly based its overly broad “findings of fact” released on May 26. That evidence presumably served as justification for demoting Baylor President Ken Starr, booting football coach Art Briles and putting athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.
Should Baylor regents fail to heed demands by different segments of the Baylor constituency — ranging from students to watchdogs of the Baylor Line Foundation to former president Starr — then they risk the reputation, integrity and honor of Baylor University for many years to come.
While some critics have called for the heads of certain Baylor officials for almost a year now in the scandal involving sexual assaults and subsequent institutional failures to address these matters, the simple fact remains that the public has no idea how or even if Starr, Briles, McCaw and other figures at Baylor actually failed in their duties. In the absence of regent accountability, some have suggested that certain individuals at Baylor were simply sacrificed in a desperate bid to appease stinging criticism and make the scandal just go away.
If this is not so, we implore Baylor regents to consider how other universities and colleges have handled such situations — beginning with transparency — and to rethink their destructive strategy and bunker mentality.
Baylor regents may have been absolutely right to make the sweeping administrative changes that they did. Their decisiveness is justified if the evidence actually backs it. Yet since release of basic, unspecified findings last month and a press conference in which three regents read statements, then ducked out after a few questions, the board has stowed its responsibility to those who demand answers, whether sexual-assault victims who seek to understand the institutional failures or administrators and staffers who may feel they’ve been thrown under the Baylor bus.
For way too long, Baylor boosters — including the regents — have insisted they want some of the adoration, prestige and respect that go to other high-profile colleges and universities, not only in the Big 12 but nationwide. And when one considers the research, faculty and student accomplishments and aspirations at Baylor that this newspaper chronicles daily, it’s hard to argue with them. But when an institution of higher learning seeks to run with the big dogs of academia and athletics, it must also assume a stronger sense of accountability when things go wrong.
Sure, Baylor is a private institution legally entitled to hide justification for its actions. Its regents can huddle behind closed doors and dodge the alumni. But when Baylor presses the state of Texas to maintain funding for tuition equalization grants and convinces city taxpayers to invest some $35 million in a state-of-the-art football stadium, pragmatism suggests that it needs to explain its decisions better than it has, especially when those decisions have the potential to adversely impact our city. No wonder many besides Baylor supporters are frustrated and confused.
Baylor leadership further insulted the intelligence of the Baylor Family and surrounding community Friday night by formally excusing itself of any accountability in the name of the victims’ privacy — outrageous, given that some of the victims also demand transparency. Surely regents are acquainted with the art of redacting names. To insist they’ve been as “forthright as is possible” only raises graver doubts. As one upset BU alumnus told us Friday, “We’ve got to wait till we see the actual facts — and we haven’t seen them at all.”