Learning the hard way: Baylor fails to uphold sexual assault protocol, must use Ukwuachu case for corrections

As a victim of a crime, it’s reasonable to assume you’d want your offender shackled and locked away as soon as possible. On the other hand, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, even criminals who without a doubt committed the crime.

Painful as it is, rape cases walk the same fine line between due diligence and giving justice to the victim. But add the dynamic of student-on-student sexual assault, and it becomes even more complicated.

In the recent case of former football player Sam Ukwuachu, who was convicted on Aug. 20 of sexual assault of another Baylor student in 2013, the university’s handling of the situation following the assault has stirred compelling points of discussion over the past couple weeks.

This case brings to mind an in-depth series of articles, “Sex, Violation, Power,” published by The Lariat in the fall of 2013. The series outlined Baylor’s proactivity in addressing sexual assault and violence cases involving students.

Given the articles were published less than two months after the assault seems to negate much of what the article argued: that Baylor would take swift and steady measures to help the victim emotionally and mentally.

Specifically, the third story in the series published Dec. 5, 2013, titled “If we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything about it,” states that in order to uphold Title IX on campus, Baylor takes certain initiatives when investigating a report on behalf of the victims.

In an interview for the 2013 series with Bethany McCraw, associate dean for student conduct administration, and John Whelan, former Title IX coordinator and associate vice president for human resources, Baylor considers schedule changes if the victim and the perpetrator are in the same class or changes in living accommodations if they are living in the same residential building. This is to prevent the victim from forced contact with the accused perpetrator.

According to this week’s news story in the Lariat, Ukwuachu and the victim did in fact share classes, yet Ukwuachu was neither removed from the university nor any classes. He graduated from Baylor in spring 2015 and had already begun graduate classes here when the case went to trial.

On the other hand, the victim transferred to another school following the loss of part of her athletic scholarship due to failure to rehabilitate properly from a knee injury, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

The story notes the victim was not accommodated by the university in her last months at Baylor and had to alter her own class schedule to avoid Ukwuachu.

In the 2013 articles, McCraw mentioned Baylor recognizes sexual assault as “something that we take very seriously, and we are trying to be very careful with it so that everyone is handled very carefully throughout the entire process.”

Though the details of sexual assault cases and the aftermath are often convoluted, it appears the university did not follow the protocol it described in the 2013 articles. The safety and well being of students on campus should be the university’s utmost priority.

Now moving forward, the important part is finding where exactly the university’s process failed the victim in order to make certain it never happens to anyone else. Although the current investigation is temporarily painful, it is the only way to actively prevent further hurt on another student.

However, the Lariat would like to commend the university on its steps thus far in alleviating and investigating this problem.

As an editorial board, we are in support of President and Chancellor Ken Starr’s urgency in handling the matter as well as his statement Thursday night to the Baylor family, published in print with this editorial.

It is important to note that this editorial was written several days before the statement was released.

In addition, hiring a director position to oversee all student-athlete behavior is yet another step in the healing direction. The new Title IX efforts led by coordinator Patty Crawford are also needed efforts at this school through the “It’s On Us” campaign, which spreads sexual assault violence awareness and prevention.

When a tragedy as inexcusable as the Ukwuachu case happens, it is Baylor’s duty to see that action is taken to both accommodate the victim and educate on the heinousness of such a crime. Hopefully, this incident will both illuminate the mistakes that were taken and forge the path forward.

Editor’s note: Shehan Jeyarajah, writer of this week’s news story and regular member of the editorial board, refrained from discussion on this matter.