By Riley Choquette | Guest Columnist
Blame for the mishandling of Baylor sexual assault cases has surpassed the outrage that should exist over the occurrence of actual rapes. Now some faculty and students, along Baylor alumni — powerful, valued alumni whom I believe actually care for the university — have set themselves in opposition to the Board of Regents. This effort centers itself on assigning blame (a thin, yet distinct line between that and accountability) for the mishandling of assault cases. People in authority at Baylor did not live up to the requirements of their authority. Perhaps this was intentional, but their failures were more likely due to the sheer difficulty of fulfilling their immense roles. There will be a time to further address and handle the issue of their failures, but now is not that time.
In seeking retribution amongst administrative figures rather than justice for the victims of sexual assault, we as a university (students, faculty, administration, alumni) have mistaken the proper order of steps toward resolving the issue of sexual assault. The reason the controversy has yet to be put to rest is because justice for the victims of rape has not been fully sought. So what do we as a university do?
Administrators: You are responsible for fulfilling the mission, part of which establishes Christian commitment as a priority for us. I hope I am not the first to tell you that the gospel does not mix well into any substance in which it is not the active ingredient; that means that in pursuing our mission, faith in Christ comes first and last, and soaks everything in between. Your job now, administration, is to seek justice and comfort for each of the victims of sexual assault. It will require deep humility. This is a not a photo op.
This is a real, person-to-person interaction in which we apologize for our failings without expecting anything in return but the grace of God. We humble ourselves, and on a case-by-case basis, admit wrongdoing where it exists and seek to make amends. If the victims then choose to publicize that justice has been enacted, praise the Lord. If the victims of these terrible assaults say nothing at all, so be it. If they take this opportunity to spit in our faces, to take us for every dime that they can in litigation, to defame us further, then we take our lumps and look up.
Please don’t mistake my idealism for naiveté; I am keenly aware that this opens Baylor to very costly and damaging possibilities. As Christians, we are required to pursue peace and justice without regard for personal cost. And I know that the God we believe in will use this for His own glory and for our good. We are accountable to Him alone (not to the opinion of humans or to the numbers on our bank statement), and He is always faithful to provide for us.
Students: First and foremost, stop sexually assaulting people. I have been shocked at the amount of negative media attention that the administration, the Title IX office, the football staff has borne on our behalf. The administration never raped anybody. Title IX coordinators never perpetrated assaults. The coaches mishandled sexual assault cases, but they never raped students. Yet here we students sit, content to be part of an inevitability, as if these things just happen completely beyond our control.
“The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women…”, but we murmur and point fingers like little kids. I have mocked this line from time to time, but today I hear it more truly than I ever have: “It’s on us.” Well, I didn’t sexually assault anyone, we say. As if there were nothing we could do to prevent it. As if we already takes these crimes as seriously as we should. We have comfortably ignored responsibility for participating in a community that allows these crimes and blames those in charge of enforcing the rules that we ourselves break.
Sexual assaults are committed by people, by our classmates, by us students, and we must hold accountable those who perpetrate these crimes if we ever hope to be absolved of guilt. Sexual assaults are done to people, to our classmates, who must be cared for and loved. Man or woman, grow up. We may no longer shrug our shoulders instead of using them to bear this burden.
Christians: Pray and agree. Christians pray, so Christians, please pray! Do it without ceasing, with seriousness and desperation, with fasting and with trust and joy. When we go to our God with our needs and struggles, He promises to come to us with double measures of peace and clarity. Trust Him to do as He says He will, because He is who He says He is.
Christians are accountable to be in agreement, but I pray that all members of the Baylor family heed this last point, for the sake of peace and unity for our institution. Until justice is sought and realized for every victim of sexual assault, there is no profit in tearing down those who are in authority over us.
In disagreements with the Board of Regents, please prayerfully submit and trust that they are seeking God’s will for our community. If they are not, the God we serve will judge them for it, and He never mishandles justice. Make every effort to be at peace, to give grace and understanding, and to care for the victims of these horrific crimes rather than devote attention to assigning blame. There will be a time for such things, but now is not that time.