It's time to lift the 'veil of ignorance' when it comes to campus assault
Baylor's former president and chancellor Ken Starr sat with ESPN's Joe Schad for a televised interview after a Pepper Hamilton report alleged systematic disenfranchisement of students who reported being sexually assaulted by other students, including some players on the football team.
Starr called for transparency and simultaneously hid behind his "veil of ignorance," a garment that can be found next to the cloaks of deniability in Aisle 5. It's a gutsy move, calling for others to be forthright when you can't lead by example.
Starr was evasive throughout the interview, even on a question about how Baylor handled the assault claims.
"From what I know -- I've had limited access; I've had some background briefings but I've not had full access to the full panoply of information -- we did not adjudicate well, we did not counsel well in a number of respects," Starr said. "Overall, I think we were a very good operation and we cared about the students because we are caring community."
So it was terrible and then very good. You can see why he's keeping his post at the law school. Holding two opposite positions in one thought is a skill. As for his last contention, one woman (called Sarah for the purposes of the interview) appeared on OTL (listen to the podcast here) saying she sent an email to Starr personally to inform him of her assault but didn't see much of that caring community. She said he never responded.
At one point in the interview, after much hedging, Starr said: "I don't believe there is any episode of [sexual assault] on campus."
This wasn't a hard thing to check. ESPN's Paula Lavigne, who has done an excellent job investigating the Baylor case, tweeted after Starr's interview aired that there were 10 incidents on campus recorded by the campus police department going back to 2010. But whether an assault involving a student is alleged to have occurred on or off campus, according to Title IX and the Clery Act, the university has a duty to investigate.
Starr seemed unclear about that, and so many other facets of the issue, which is unacceptable when it comes to keeping students safe. How can a person with such a lack of clarity hold a leadership position for so long?
The fallout at Baylor isn't over. Lavigne reports that more football staffers have been fired. Investigations by the NCAA and the Department of Education could follow, as could reprisals from scholarship loss to bowl bans. Seven football recruits who signed national letters of intent have requested they be released. Baylor should grant that immediately.
"The captain goes down with the ship," Starr said.
Except that he will still cash a Baylor paycheck. Starr finally stepped down from the fundraising chancellorship but will stay on as a law professor.
He can teach a class on how power takes care of its own.
Other things on my mind this week:
Venus Williams reached the fourth round of a rainy French Open before losing to Timea Bacsinszky. She's still competing at a high level on the clay, and that's not even her favorite surface. Why retire, ever?!
For those who have followed my utter resentment of the elitists and celebrities who have seen Hamilton, I confess that I broke down and took my daughter. (She'd been singing the soundtrack in the shower for months.) So now I'm that jerk who's raving about it, but I'll spare you. Luckily, Joe Posnanski took his daughter and wrote so eloquently about it that there's really nothing to add.
I'll risk sounding like a total homer for the company that pays me: You must watch the upcoming 30 for 30 O.J. Simpson documentary, "O.J.: Made in America." It's engrossing, in the full sense of the word.