It remains a stunning display of arrogance, of cynicism, of self-preservation, and of downright evil. Baylor’s conscious decision to not produce a report on its failure to handle multiple sexual assault cases was made with one goal in mind: to protect Baylor. It is not possible to remind yourself too often of just how horrifically fucked up this is.
Which is why you should read today’s New York Times story on Baylor’s deliberate lack of a paper trail. There is no new ground covered here—nothing we weren’t screaming about on the day Baylor released a 13-page report summarizing the investigative findings of an outside law firm, a summary that provided zero details or names or pieces of evidence—but it’s good that more people will understand just how unreal this is, and how, as the Times puts it, the decision could only have been made “to protect [the university] from criticism, lawsuits or both.”
Outside firm Pepper Hamilton conducted scores of interviews and examined millions of emails. But the firm’s report to Baylor’s Board of Regents took the form of an “oral presentation,” which Baylor then summarized. So all this evidence exists somewhere—but if Baylor doesn’t have it and isn’t allowing its release, that’s entirely by choice.
Which leads to this incredible quote from a Baylor spokesperson:
A spokeswoman for Baylor declined to say why the university had chosen not to have a written report. “We believe the release of findings and recommendations that so starkly identify the failures of an institution is virtually unprecedented,” said the spokeswoman, Tonya Lewis.
The balls on that statement! Baylor’s handling of this was indeed “unprecedented,” but sure as hell not for its transparency.
Transparency would be a detailed, written report containing investigators’ findings—like most universities do in a situation like this. Transparency is not a response that boils down to “we know what happened, we fired a few people, you’ll just have to trust us that it’s all fine.”
It’s an insidious strategy, and, I’ll begrudgingly admit, a genius one: just don’t release a report. Hope it all goes away. I don’t know why every university doesn’t do this to brush over its scandals! (Imagine if Penn State simply hadn’t commissioned the Freeh Report.) I don’t know why every university won’t do this going forward. Because Baylor specifically declined to produce a report in the hopes that this would all blow over without serious consequence, and unfortunately, it appears to be a success.