A letter to Baylor as I leave

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

By Alishia Griffin | Contributor

As I prepare to leave Baylor Nation this December, I find myself worried about remaining and future peers. Perhaps I’m a stranger to them, but we share an academic community built on Christian faith, therefore we’re all Bears, and I hope that’s enough for you to heed my concerns.

In September, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made changes to Title IX that mainly affected campus assault cases, leading me to wonder how Baylor’s Title IX office would handle these adjustments in 2018. After all, our school went from being written about as a university known for rape to being praised by Campus Safety Magazine for making 105 Title IX improvements.

The university has been my home for half a decade, so when I graduate, I want to leave knowing that Baylor is a place where Bears will protect Bears and non-Bears alike.

I came to Baylor already a rape survivor during a time when the “football rapes” were still occurring. I remember small instances that showed me the school’s dark side: during my summer orientation, when a director discussed what young women should do to not get raped instead of denouncing current and future sexual assaults, when other students told me to avoid parties with certain populations in attendance, when my friend vented her frustrations to me about Baylor authorities while she was being stalked. In no way is this meant to shame Baylor, but it’s a personal outlook on why I think something like the football scandal could have occurred.

I also remember when “It’s On Us” billboards came up, when completing the online Title IX course became mandatory, and when Title IX information was in all of the course syllabi that I received.

Students adopted aggressive stances against sexual assault, on campus and in Waco. This semester, the NoZe Brotherhood fundraised to get backlogged rape kits processed. I’m proud of the strides my soon-to-be alma mater has taken to correct its history.

Now that DeVos has dismantled previous guidelines, merged Title IX with the Clery Act, and made five changes that could possibly tilt campus assault cases in favor of the accused, I’m concerned on how this could possibly set back our improvements. DeVos cited vague guidelines and lack of due process for the accused as her reasons for the adjustments.

I agree the accused and accuser should be afforded protections that don’t impede each other and that it’s a constitutional right to remain innocent until proven guilty. Plus, there’s always the possibility that not protecting these rights can cause cases where the accused is guilty to be dismissed when reviewed by judicial courts.

While Baylor has chosen not to adhere to this, I’m troubled with some schools’ choice between “preponderance of evidence” and “clear and convincing evidence,” as well as the lack of time limit for schools to investigate reports. I understand the logic, but my concern is that the first change will again push the burden of proof on the accuser, while the second may delay the legal process.

Sexual assault cases are notoriously complex and personal, and “clear and concise” is a potential loophole for guily parties to exploit. Furthermore, while an investigation must be started promptly, completing it is on good faith of schools, possibly allowing investigations to lapse to unknown lengths. Fortunately, being private means Baylor has some leeway in approaching these situations and can put students first.

Not doing the utmost to protect each other would be a failure to learn from past misdeeds and uphold the Christian values the school was founded on. Even if you disagree, consider my words as you journey through Baylor: Please keep each other safe.

Sic ‘Em Bears,

Alishia Griffin

Baylor Class 2017