Baylor Issues Statement on Playboy

Aug. 29, 2002

Baylor's decision to discipline more than 50 students for their participation in Playboy's "Women of the Big 12" issue has made national news, but not all of the reporting has been accurate.

The Reuters news agency on Aug. 28 distributed a story saying that the university had "suspended" for a year more than 50 students who posed for the magazine. A Reuters editor caught the error and sent a corrected story in the early evening, but some media outlets across the country ran the original story.

In reality, Baylor suspended the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, which had a number of its members pose clothed with some female students in bikinis at an off-campus sand volleyball court. Most of the 50 students involved were required to write a paper and perform community service. Only one student who separately posed for the magazine was suspended. No students were expelled. The fraternity, which is in the process of appealing the suspension, will not be able to sponsor activities or recruit pledges during the 2002-2003 academic year.

The basis for the University's disciplinary action was its expectation, as detailed in the Student Handbook, that students conduct themselves "in accordance with Christian principles as commonly perceived by Texas Baptists. Personal misconduct either on or off the campus by anyone connected with Baylor detracts from the Christian witness Baylor strives to present to the world and hinders full accomplishment of the mission of the university."

While acknowledging that all but one of the students who appeared in the magazine were clothed, Vice President for Student Life Eileen Hulme said that by associating themselves with a magazine that is clearly antithetical to Baylor's mission, the students violated the code of conduct as outlined in the Student Handbook.

"Aside from the fact Playboy magazine exploits women, the publication clearly is in business to sell sexuality and does so in a manner that is inconsistent with the Christian principles to which Baylor seeks to adhere," she said. "The object of this feature in the magazine was to showcase students at Big 12 institutions, thereby bringing into their presentation the Baylor name and image. We could not allow that to happen without consequences."

Last spring when Playboy announced that their photographers would be coming to Waco to solicit Baylor student participation, the Baylor Lariat ran a news story that quoted Dr. Hulme as saying that such involvement "was not something the university administration would look upon favorably."

She went on to say that posing for Playboy would fall under one of the Student Handbook's definitions of misconduct: "expression that is inappropriate in the setting of Baylor University and in opposition to the Christian ideals which it strives to uphold."

The Lariat also ran an editorial encouraging Baylor women "to stand up for yourselves as women and for us all as a university by not participating in the magazine's 'Women of the Big 12 Conference' edition."

"We recognize that some of our constituents may not understand Baylor's actions," Dr. Hulme said. "But the university clearly communicates its mission as a Christian institution and its expectations of students in being a part of the Baylor community. Our disciplinary process seeks to be redemptive in the lives of the individuals involved and to witness to the high moral standards of the Christian faith.

"These decisions are very difficult for us because we care deeply for our students," Dr. Hulme said. "We struggled with these sanctions, but believe they reflect our firmly held values - values that we hope to impart on our students."

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