Frustration. It’s still present on Baylor campus. It’s still somewhat present in the media.
Today marks 20 days since ESPN aired the “Outside the Lines” report pertaining to sexual assault cases at Baylor. For most media outlets, the sensationalism has worn off. Baylor was a momentary blip on the radar. For many students, however, sexual assaults and how the cases were and are handled are still looming issues.
The topic of sexual assault is emotionally charged. Phrases like “victim blaming,” “stonewalling” and “cover-ups” were at the forefront of articles covering the issue at Baylor. Students were angry, hurt and ashamed of a university they once took great pride in. It seemed as though each attempt made by President and Chancellor Ken Starr to address the issue just stirred up more animosity from students.
In a previous editorial, “Questions regarding sexual assault cases,” the Lariat editorial board asked for answers to questions we felt had not been addressed. There were only three questions. This number is much smaller than the questions buzzing around campus. However, Starr repeatedly stated that many things could not be addressed because it could impact the external investigation taking place. Even an apology, should it have been issued, could be seen as an admittance of guilt and render the investigation useless. Furthermore, due to the privacy surrounding sexual assault cases and the nature of external investigations, there are many things that even the highest level of administration may not know yet. Even if they did know, disclosing such information could be a detriment to the investigation as well as an extreme invasion of the reported victims’ privacy.
This is not what we as students want to hear. We want justice, and we want it now. However, until the investigations are complete, who is to say what justice is?
In response to the issue, a group of alumni created a petition that received over 1,700 signatures, and a candlelight vigil was held in front of the Allbritton House. Starr responded with a statement on Feb. 9, saying, “Thank you and we hear you.” This garnered mixed emotions from those involved with the vigil. Perhaps some felt that it was just another statement. The action plan approved by the Baylor Board of Regents on Friday, however, shows that Baylor is going a step further. This plan includes dedicating funds to increase the number of counselors on staff and mandating Title IX training for all students.
Student anger and pressure did make an impact. Some of the anger, though, while understandable, was misdirected. Even media outlets expressed an extreme distaste for Baylor administration. A lot of the frustration vented about Starr and other administrators distracted from the actual issue: sexual assault at Baylor. It is an issue worthy of anger. Let’s make sure this anger is purposeful and directed at the root of the problem. It is human nature to close yourself off in response to anger. Gearing anger toward individuals that are capable of changing things is counterproductive.
Baylor is trying to move forward. The board of regents is taking action, Starr is meeting with student leaders and the investigation is still underway. The initial student fury could very well be part of what spurred these efforts, but it is time to switch gears. As students, let’s do our best to hold the administration accountable for the changes being made, but understand that great changes don’t happen overnight.