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Baylor University football
Baylor University football

Baylor officials failed to investigate, or investigate fully, several rape cases against football players. Photo by Troy Figgins. Creative commons license.

Baylor University’s football team is 5-0 this year, and ranked 13th in the country.  You may not have known that.  But you also may not know that the university has been suppressing sexual assault charges against its football players, a scandal which led to the dismissal of the team’s head coach, the athletic director, and the university’s President.  

This all started back in August of 2015, when a Baylor football player was indicted for sexual assault on a female student.  The player, Sam Ukwuachu, had been a transfer from Boise State University, where he was kicked off of the team for an incident involving the assault of a female student. At Baylor, Ukwuachu was allowed to continue team activities even after they found out about these charges.  

This obviously raised eyebrows about the program, and an independent law firm was hired to investigate.  In January of 2016 their preliminary findings were that Baylor “either failed to investigate, or adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence.” This was in at least eight allegations against five former players.  The allegations included one from a girlfriend of a player, who said both the coach, Art Briles, and University President Ken Starr were aware. That player was not disciplined.     

Does the name Ken Starr ring a bell?  He led the investigation of then President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.  Much of that investigation was criticized, as Starr’s report exaggerated elements of the case and made accusations later proven to be false.  Many found his handling of the case to be political maneuvering. Earlier this year Starr even apologized for his actions, calling it “the unpleasantness,” according to the New York Times. So, yeah, that beacon of trustworthiness was the President of Baylor for all of this, and the irony of him burying a sexual misconduct case would almost be comical if it wasn’t a heinous crime.

Related: Why Are We Still Surprised by Leniency for White Rapists Like Brock Turner?

As media outlets became more and more involved, ESPN’s Outside the Lines found that Baylor took two years to investigate a sexual assault charge on a player. Two years.

When the full report was released in May of this year, it found that the school interfered with investigations and possibly with criminal proceedings, regarding sexual assault charges against football players.       

Just last week, Baylor’s former Title IX Coordinator said she was retaliated against for her handling of these cases. Title IX is part of the U.S. Education Amendments and prohibits sexual discrimination in education.  

How can schools keep doing turning a blind eye to assault, and becoming a huge part of the problem that allows sexual assault to go unpunished? Many people are rightfully upset about the handling of the Brock Turner case, which led to him getting a slap on the wrist three-month jail sentence. And that seems like it was too extreme for Baylor.  Were they acting in the interest of the school in their minds?  If so, I think they lack a fundamental understanding of what schools are meant to do.  

Much of the Presidential election process this year has focused on education — making it more available and more affordable for all.  While that’s good, maybe we should also be looking at what environment we are inviting these students in to.           


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