Questions regarding sexual assault cases

Last Sunday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” presented multiple accusations against Baylor regarding the way sexual assault cases were handled. Since then, the university has been under fire nationally. Frustrations have been voiced by students, faculty and Baylor fans.

The Lariat editorial board is not removed from this frustration. As journalists, we endeavor to remain unbiased. As students, we don’t want to see our university ripped down. Above all, as humans, we want to see justice for all parties. With that in mind, we decided to share the questions we want answered.

What’s going on with the investigations?

The reports following ESPN’s accused Baylor of being silent to the point of stonewalling. As part of the response to these allegations, President and Chancellor Ken Starr both pointed to the investigations taking place. In his latest email to the student body, Starr wrote, “It is vital to the integrity of the ongoing review by Pepper Hamilton that we refrain from comment and observations about policies and practices until their review is concluded.” While that is a reasonable response to the silence regarding the external investigation, it does not speak for the internal investigation that was held in the fall in response to the Sam Ukwuachu case. Where are those results? Why have they not been made public? Jeremy Counseller, professor of law and faculty athletics representative, led the internal review. Upon the investigation’s completion, Stare wrote on August 28, “After reviewing the results of his internal inquiry, I am recommending that our Board of Regents retain the services of outside counsel to investigate thoroughly these matters and recommend continued improvements.” What did Counseller find that led Starr to advocate for an external investigation?

How much evidence does it take in order to conclude that a sexual assault case took place?

In an email sent out on Wednesday, Starr went into brief detail on the preventive and reactive measures that the school has taken in the face of sexual assault allegations. Among them, Starr wrote that when a student is found to have committed an act of sexual violence the school has a way of making sure that disciplinary action is taken. Although Starr explained that the person who determines responsibility between parties is ultimately left to an “experienced external professional,” the email leaves readers to question the evidential factors that go into making a decision like this. The answer to this is important in finding out just how consistent the criteria for resolving sexual assault cases really are. If the point of hiring an external professional is to prevent any potential bias from affecting the outcome of an investigation, there should be a way to ensure that no one piece of evidence is significantly weighed more than the other in reaching a conclusion until a holistic image of the situation is formed. The question remains, however, when exactly does the case reach this point?

After Pepper Hamilton makes its recommendations to the university with the conclusion of the investigation, will the university take any sort of action to reach out to those who claim they have been wronged by the system in the past?

In Starr’s most recent email sent out Sunday night, the he expresses his sympathies with those who have been affected by sexual violence. While he did state that the university is currently reaching out to “current and former students who have expressed concerns,” there was no indication made as to the future remedies Baylor will take to care for these students. Starr wrote that the university will determine how to implement the firm’s recommendations. What if the firm’s recommendations do not suggest any specific action to be taken to deal with these students? If so, will Baylor still make independent efforts on its own to address those who feel the university did not respond appropriately to their claims? While it might be too early to tell, in the meantime Starr did attempt to acknowledge the group of individuals who have publicly come forward with their stories by commending them for their courage in light of the situation.

The questions listed above are not intended to place blame on any one party. But rather, we ask these questions to see that the integrity of the situation is upheld. Since the ESPN report, Baylor has been put under a spotlight. And while opinions on the matter have indeed been plentiful, we find that there is no place for speculation on an issue as delicate and serious as sexual assault- there is only room for facts. This is all to ensure that any valid claims of wrongdoing do not lose their credibility and that the efforts of those who have worked to keep Baylor a safe environment do not go unnoticed in the midst of the ongoing investigation.