Working together toward caring community

Baylor Magazine - President Judge Kenneth Starr portrait at Founders Mall in front of Pat Neff Hall - 02/16/2010

Since its founding in 1845, Baylor University has been a place of unwavering commitment to the Christian faith. Indeed, our devotion to Christ’s inspiring message of compassion and healing compels us to care deeply for one another, as well as for “the least of these.”

In stark contrast, acts of sexual violence utterly contradict every value Baylor University upholds. As a caring Christian community, our careful focus on equipping each student to live out the promise of his or her future requires us to address – firmly and effectively – the scourge of interpersonal violence. We therefore join universities across the entire landscape of American higher education committed to engaging this issue effectively.

So prevalent is this conversation across America that the month of April has been designated “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” (SAAM), a nationwide campaign organized by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. This highly visible campaign provides a timely opportunity for shining a bright light on the inestimable value of a community of faculty, staff and students who will take a firm stand against interpersonal violence and recommit to a supportive and respectful environment – one in which prevention of such horrific acts is the ultimate goal and in which compassionate care for victims is the order of the day.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most victims first experience sexual violence before age 25. This demographic reality puts a weighty responsibility on universities to better understand campus culture and then to create opportunities to address – and deal effectively with – this cruel reality of our fallen world. The powerful slogan of this year’s SAAM campaign, “When everyone is involved, prevention is possible,” lifts up the ideal of reciprocal moral responsibility.

In this context, Baylor’s aim is to educate all of our students, faculty and staff on ways they can prepare both to prevent and respond to instances of interpersonal violence. We are determined to provide our community members with the necessary tools not only to combat sexual assault, but to be more positive and respectful influences in each other’s lives. These are not just health and justice issues; they are issues of fundamental human rights – especially so in a Christian community.

There will be a number of ways for all of us to engage in SAAM. We can begin this very morning. First, during today’s Day of Action, our campus community will pause between 11 a.m. and noon to pray for survivors of interpersonal violence and for the commitment of our community to nurture and deepen a culture of care and respect. In addition, throughout the week, we are inviting students, faculty and staff to participate in an “It’s On Us” pledge drive, utilizing public displays of support located in the den of the Bill Daniel Student Center to champion our commitment to making Baylor a safer and more caring environment. Other activities are planned throughout the month. Please participate to the fullest extent possible.

Sexual assault education and prevention are vitally important to our University. Throughout Baylor’s storied 171 years of operation, the hallmark of a Baylor education has been our unwavering Christian faith. Our faith binds us together and calls us to love one another as Christ Jesus loves us. By God’s grace, our distinct Christian mission will continue to provide a guiding light for Baylor Nation.

Ken Starr

Baylor University President and Chancellor