Ad battle over Baylor sexual assault scandal continues in newspaper

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Baylor University)The Burleson Quadrangle at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

AUSTIN (Christian Examiner) – Another full-page editorial advertisement on the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University has appeared in an Austin newspaper and, this time, it is wholly uncharitable to Kenneth Starr, who was ousted as university president last month.

Last Sunday a full-page advertisement in the Austin American-Statesman praised Starr for his service to the Baptist university.

The ad, which directly addressed the former judge and special prosecutor, thanked him for his service to Baylor and extolled his "integrity, leadership, character and humble nature." It also thanked him for his "exceptional care for students and their well-being."

That ad, which cost many thousands of dollars, was paid for by seven prominent Baylor alumni couples in the Austin area. It avoided mentioning – and some say ignored – the sexual assault allegations a private investigative report claims Starr did little to address while still president.

Isn't caring for victims of assault far more important in a Christian community pledged to compassion? Or has the Baylor version of the Good Samaritan parable been rewritten to praise the 'righteous' high officials who walk on by, ignoring the victims of assault lying by the side of the Baylor road?
- Roger Sanders

The new ad was paid for by a single 1966 Baylor alumnus, Roger Sanders, who called himself a "country lawyer" from Sherman, Texas. By contrast, Sanders whitewashes little.

"Whatever his other contributions, the overriding disgrace of Judge Starr's tenure will linger," Sanders writes. "But he had help."

Sanders then charges the university's board of regents with "exchanging the abiding character of Judge Abner McCall [formerly president] for the checkered national prominence of Judge Starr."

The regents, the latest editorial says, approved Starr's approach and gave him free reign on the path to choosing "quick victory over abiding integrity."

"Look, we all like to win. I entered Baylor in 1966 when Baylor had suffered a zillion straight losses to Texas in football," Sanders writes. "I hated it. But trying to correct that at the expense of one rape by one football player tolerated by one Baylor president, administrator, or Board member – that is flat disgusting."

Sanders is also critical of the advertisement that appeared the week before, claiming it should have been a full-page apology to the rape victims (7-8 of them, Sanders writes) on behalf of the entire Baylor community, "especially since the Board and Judge Starr can't seem to find the words."

"Isn't caring for victims of assault far more important in a Christian community pledged to compassion? Or has the Baylor version of the Good Samaritan parable been rewritten to praise the 'righteous' high officials who walk on by, ignoring the victims of assault lying by the side of the Baylor road?"

Sanders writes that the failure to apologize to the victims of sexual assault on Baylor's campus have left the degrees of alumni "muddied," the reputation of Baylor faculty "sullied," and the school's reputation "debased."

"Personally, I can live without the apology. What I can't live with is a deafening silence when a full-page ad praises a man ultimately responsible for an athletic, rape-tolerant culture, while ignoring its victims," Sanders writes.

We have adopted Pepper Hamilton's recommendations as mandates. We are activating immediately to assess and begin implementation of the recommendations to ensure progress toward the safety and well-being of all our students. Student safety demands our commitment and concentration.
- David Garland, Baylor University Interim President

Baylor announced June 10 it had commissioned implementation teams to enact the policy changes recommended by Pepper Hamilton, LLP, the law firm that investigated the sexual assault allegations and Baylor's mishandling of them.

Among those teams is a sexual assault task force, led by the school's senior vice president and chief operating officer, Reagan Ramsower. It will work to improve the schools Title IX protocols and policies, athletics department responses, public safety, and counseling services for victims.

The school has also launched a task force on spiritual life and character formation.

"We have adopted Pepper Hamilton's recommendations as mandates," David Garland, Baylor's interim president, said.

"We are activating immediately to assess and begin implementation of the recommendations to ensure progress toward the safety and well-being of all our students. Student safety demands our commitment and concentration."