There is a growing mountain of evidence suggesting that Baylor University does not give a fuck about investigating rapes, especially but not limited to those committed by football players. First, it was Sam Ukwuachu and the university’s lackadaisical at best Title IX investigation into allegations the football player raped a freshman. Baylor found him innocent and was ready to send him back onto the field until a criminal court found him guilty. Next, ESPN’s Paula Lavigne reported for Outside the Lines how, when five women tried to report rapes by a football player, Baylor “either failed to investigate, or adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence.” That football player, Tevin Elliott, also was found guilty in court.
Perhaps the most damning evidence is the personal account of a recent Baylor graduate who says she was raped by a fellow member of the university’s mock trial team and went through hell after reporting it. At various points in Stefanie Mundhenk’s account, different groups in charge of her welfare—the police, human resources, and Title IX—either don’t seem motivated to investigate or, when they do, come off as uninterested in diligently out the truth as opposed to what’s convenient for Baylor. In the HR case, she said the investigator interviewed all of the accused rapist’s witnesses and none of hers. In her Title IX case, she says, the judge’s final decision “directly misquoted my original statement.”
And then there’s this.
“I found out later that my rapist had actually been kicked off of the mock trial team his freshman year because 3 female students had reported him to Student Activities to harassment. When we got a new coach sophomore year, he was allowed back on the team because this information was not communicated to the new coach.”
Mundhenk’s essay is a difficult read, as it should be (and you should read it), because she describes the kind of events that deter some victims from reporting their assaults. It’s the moral math rape victims do every day, the pain of living with what happened versus the pain of going through the reporting process, reopening the old wounds, opening yourself to the expected rebuttal that you wanted it, and knowing it’s unlikely anything will ever happen to your attacker. Every option sucks.
By Tuesday morning, a petition demanding Baylor “promptly take action to improve its responses to sexual assault” had gathered more than 1,500 names. More than 200 students held a vigil Monday night outside the home of university president and chancellor Kenneth Starr (yes, that Kenneth Starr). The school’s response, like every response before it, has been to issue a press release. This time one came just two hours before the Super Bowl, when it was certain to be overlooked.
They say they’re conducting investigations, on top of those they’ve already done, but none of the results have ever been released to the public. When hundreds held a vigil in front of his house, Starr issued a statement saying, “We hear your voices loud and clear,” as if listening alone was what they were asking for. After so many women have come forward with accounts of how Baylor failed them, Baylor’s response, in all its audacity, is trust us.
The fact is this blog could be so much longer because the allegations against Baylor contain multitudes of failure. They didn’t hire a Title IX coordinator until more than three years after the federal government said they had to. They continue to cite FERPA as a reason for not disclosing anything, even though two women signed FERPA release forms so Baylor could discuss their cases with ESPN. There is no shortage of horrific details, and more were added at last night’s vigil.
A Baylor senior who gave her name as Pam announced at the prayer service that she on Monday finally reported to the Title IX office a sexual assault she suffered in May 2014 at the hands of a coworker at a Baylor dorm.
“Why didn’t I report it until now? I was afraid,” she said. “With the past treatment of assault victims, I thought I had reason to be afraid. ... I was scared no one would believe me.”
While all of this is new to you and me, much of it is not new to Baylor. Baylor has all the investigatory files. They have all the reports, the statements, the emails. The problem, from their perspective, is that the public found out. And they might have to settle some more lawsuits. They already settled one, with the former student raped by Ukwuachu.
Over and over again, I find myself going back to Baylor’s motto “For Church, For Texas.” Oh, they all have these, I know. My own alma mater boasts “the welfare of the state depends upon the morals of its citizens,” as if anyone ever worried about Aaron Hernandez’s morals while he was catching passes. Yet Baylor’s has a beautiful succinctness to it, encapsulating so much of what colleges sell to students and parents—a sense of faith, a sense of responsibility, a sense of doing more than just cashing checks and handing out degrees.
Now there’s no ignoring how many facts portray a Baylor that did everything the wrong way, regardless of your church of choice, while cashing those checks. Yes, there are real concerns about how Title IX is working, but that’s no excuse for ignoring the law. But Baylor seems intent on ignoring its student victims for as long as it can get away with.
Image via Associated Press