This has been a positive day.
As some of you know, I’ve been depressed for months. Part of that depression has been the natural grieving process after my friend’s death. But my depression grew darker and scarier over the past five months, coinciding with the revelation of the sexual assault crimes and attempted cover ups at my alma mater, Baylor University.
In fact, last March I started writing a post about Baylor’s series of prayer services for the school’s sexual assault survivors and Baylor president Ken Starr’s “appearance” at the first meeting–he showed up long enough to fist bump a male student and have his photo snapped for the local newspaper. Then he left.
I was too depressed to finish the post.
Today, my depressive burden feels lighter as my university has taken steps to finally do the right thing. As Pat Forde wrote on Yahoo, this is “a sad day for Baylor football, but a good day for Baylor University.”
Baylor football coach Art Briles was fired. Baylor president and chancellor Ken Starr was stripped of his president title.
After I heard the news, I emailed a Baylor friend the school’s investigative report on the assaults. He asked me if I appreciated the Board of Regents’ response to the reports.
I told him I felt “good” about most of it. “Of course, ‘good’ is such a poor choice of words because this saddens me deeply.” But I also told him I’m disappointed that Starr is staying on as chancellor. I’ve met and exchanged emails with Baylor graduate Stefanie Mundhenk, the rape survivor/missionary kid who sat down with Starr, told him about her sexual assault by a fellow Baylor student and what she perceived as her mistreatment from Baylor’s administration. Starr replied that he’d get back in touch with her, but he didn’t–until Stefanie went to the press with her story. As I told my friend, that makes me think Starr should be thrown off campus, too, because–in my opinion–he lied to her.
To Starr’s credit, though, he reportedly has expressed some remorse for the school’s (lack of) response to the crimes.* I’m not aware that Briles has. Still, there’s the old cliche of the buck stops here and because of that I think Starr should go. As I also told my friend, I just hope this makes the good football players–the athletes who are innocent in this tabloid trash scandal–stronger men and stronger players.
In fact, more than 12 hours after the news of Starr’s demotion and Briles’ firing hit the news, my sadness deepens for those good athletes. I know they’re grieving. They must be angry. They probably feel betrayed. By Baylor. They love Briles. They believe in their coach. They think he’s a good man. I used to believe those things, too, and a part of me still wants to believe.
But more important than my magical thinking is the knowledge that crimes have been committed and that Baylor can no longer ignore that fact.
So to Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly, thank you for your story revealing the case of Sam Ukwuachu and the silence at Baylor. To Paula Lavigne at ESPN, thank you for refusing to let this story go. To Baylor graduate and Dallas Morning News columnist Sharon Grigsby, thank you for being an alum who was willing to publicly stand against our school and insist that the Board of Regents do the right thing. I rejoice over your “Today’s victory for Baylor women towers over all Briles’ football wins” column.
Thank you to Stefanie Mundhenk, who proudly stated her name as she publicly and gracefully discussed her assault and made believers out of many who had previously been deniers of the sexual assault crimes at Baylor.
To all the Baylor sexual assault survivors–in fact, to sexual assault survivors everywhere–thank you for refusing to be silenced. Thank you for forcing my university to admit the truth. And thank you, Baylor, for trying to return to our core principles and ethics. Don’t let us, don’t let your students, and don’t let your survivors down.
And to those Baylor athletes–those good men who are innocent of crimes–know that we members of the Baylor Nation love you, appreciate you, and honor you. This fall, we’ll be in the stands rooting for you.
*UPDATE: Since I wrote this on May 27, 2016, Ken Starr has resigned as chancellor and given a few media interviews. He giggled through portion of his ESPN interview. Then he gave three different answers to one question during a KWTX interview–did he see the “I was raped at Baylor email” that was sent to him.
Though Art Briles has not granted any interviews. He has released a statement:
My heart goes out to the victims for the pain that they have endured. Sexual assault has no place on our campus or in our society. As a father of two daughters, a grandfather, and a husband, my prayers are with the victims of this type of abuse, wherever they are. After 38 years of coaching, I have certainly made mistakes and, in hindsight, I would have done certain things differently. I always strive to be a better coach, a better father and husband, and a better person.
Keep in mind, the complete scope of what happened here has not been disclosed and unfortunately at this time I am contractually obligated to remain silent on the matter. The report prepared by Pepper Hamilton, the law firm hired and paid for by Baylor’s Board of Regents, has not been shared with me directly, despite my full cooperation with the investigation. I can only assume that the report, which is not independent, supports the conclusions that the Board has already drawn. I hope to share with you what I was aware of as soon as I can so Baylor Nation can begin the healing process.
I have the utmost admiration for Baylor University, its community, and its important mission. I am truly grateful for having had the chance to coach hundreds of young student athletes at this University. I am deeply humbled for having had the opportunity to be a part of Baylor Nation.
Coach Art Briles
The Baylor Sexual Assault Survivors also issued a statement: