Critics say the Texas Baptist university has failed to take responsibility for sexual violence on campus.
Ken Starr, the Whitewater prosecutor whose investigation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, is on the defensive as president of Baylor University after questions about the Baptist-affiliated school’s handling of accusations of sexual assault.
Starr broke silence a week after an ESPN Outside the Lines report featured women claiming they were raped by student athletes and the school did nothing about their complaints with a Feb. 7 statement outlining a “comprehensive external review” of the university’s response to previous reports of sexual violence since last year’s conviction of former football player Sam Ukwuachu for sexual assault.
In the meantime, a Baylor graduate wrote a 10,000-word blog describing her first-person account of being raped by a fellow student who went on the work for the university and after suspension with pay was reinstated when administrators believed his story over hers.
“Our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence,” Starr said in the statement. “No one should have to endure the trauma of these terrible acts of wrongdoing. We must never lose sight of the long-term, deeply personal effects such contemptible conduct has on the lives of survivors. Let me be clear: Sexual violence emphatically has no place whatsoever at Baylor University.”
About 100 people gathered outside Starr’s home in a candlelight vigil Feb. 8 demanding a better response. More than 1,500 Baylor alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends and others signed a letter saying students “deserve more than mere assurances by administration officials that the University is doing its part.”
“Baylor’s most important distinction as a Christian institution drove many of us to apply in the first place,” read the letter coordinated by Baylor alum Laura Seay, assistant professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
“As a Christian university, Baylor’s actions in all matters must be above reproach,” the letter says. “Baylor’s failure to adequately serve survivors of sexual assault compromises the University’s Christian identity. Parents must know that their children will be safe at Baylor, and students must be assured that should the unthinkable happen, their decision to report sexual assault will be met with the University’s full support and resources. We can and must do better, for the sake of Baylor students, and for the sake of faithful Christian witness to the world.”
Starr said in his statement the university could not comment about specific reports of sexual assault because of federal laws protecting student privacy. He said the university is cooperating with a Philadelphia law firm’s independent investigation of Baylor’s handling of previous sexual assault allegations and “will determine how best to share the firm’s recommendations” when the report is complete.