When I attended Baylor University at the end of the 1990s the traditional means of communicating pride or announcements for the school was to purchase boxes of simple white chalk and run all over campus to spread the news via sidewalk. There was fierce competition for the most visible spots. The artwork was often crude, but if one was clever then surely the attention would be garnered and people would show-up for the music festival, sporting event, or student body election.
I share this quaint story to follow this picture, because there are many traditions at Baylor, although not chalking, that need to change. In my opinion, the most important of these is a modern, conservative, Christian environment of protectionism that would rather duck and cover and “pray away” issues, than face-up and address them in charismatic, transparent, or proactive ways.
Recently, my beloved alma mater has come under fire for its lack of adequate, or even any real attention paid to multiple reports from victims of rape on campus – all women – whose voices have been tamped down while the university administration works with a third party law firm to apparently determine a course forward. The administrative side of my head has compassion and sympathy for the fact that the University faces such a complex problem. I, too, would want to gather more information and make informed decisions. But, I do not have patience for the style, tone, or timeframe with which the University has selected to express their position. In long emails and brisk “no comments” to the media and Baylor family, President Ken Starr has essentially said, “Dude, we know that there’s a problem, but we’re getting to it.” [Paraphrasing]
Just yesterday the AP reported that the State of Texas is going to allow Baylor to continue its campaign of secrecy surrounding the apparent investigation that it is either now or intending to pursue. Unfortunately, for the image of Baylor this is not an isolated method of handling “problems”. The most classic case being the active cover-up of a student murder by his fellow star basketball player (look it up). That sad choice by the University resulted in so much pain and suffering, and the termination of a several administrators, including the President. Despite such an obvious lesson, Baylor continues to believe that its own righteousness far outweighs public and transparent justice, and has repeated this policy of denying and ignoring human dignity when it comes to numerous issues, especially for students and the Waco, Texas community in which it is situated.
The real questions at stake for me as a burgeoning Christian minister, and a member of the Baylor Christian family, of course, is “is this Christian”? How are women served by such pretentious and minimized efforts to not only identify what has happened, but to commit to and then live into changing a traditional culture? Where is the justice? These are question for another time and place. But, unlike the chalked sidewalks of the Baylor campus, they cannot, nor will they be, washed away.