Baylor is more than a coach or administrator

A sports columnist recently wrote that Baylor--all of Baylor--should be embarrassed about the recent goings-on that have been in the news.

He was wrong.

Baylor--all of Baylor--is not defined by one or two people, or a group of people, who did or didn't--or allegedly did or didn't--commit terrible acts or not follow protocol when told about terrible acts. That is not Baylor.

What is Baylor? Baylor is the 2,537 men and women who graduated in May, the men and women who are taking the next steps in their lives on their way to becoming graduate students, teachers, social workers, pastors, writers, professional athletes, designers, stay-at-home parents, engineers, CEOs, volunteers, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, missionaries, TV home improvement stars, politicians, musicians, coaches.

Baylor is the more than 120,000 living alumni who have chosen to fling their green and gold to every corner of the world, doing good work and meaningful work and making an impact on their communities, no matter how large or small.

Baylor is the 16,787 current students who volunteer their time at schools in Waco; who donate more than 12,000 volunteer hours on a single day each semester; who go on countless mission trips every year; who lead efforts to send aid to disaster sites around the world; who are preparing for a life of service … to the poor, to their country.

Baylor is the tennis student-athlete who completes her assignments on a long bus ride; the law school valedictorian who battles Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a debilitating form of spinal muscle atrophy; the first person in his family to attend college; the 53 student-athletes who earned 4.0 grade point averages in the fall semester; the engineering graduate student earning national recognition for his work; the 34 student-athletes, coaches and trainers returning from a mission trip to Brazil.

Baylor is the hundreds of faculty members volunteering to make their neighborhoods and their campus and their places of faith and their children's schools better for all; professors and lecturers and adjunct faculty members who share their passions and their knowledge with students on a daily basis, in the classroom, in the hallway, at Starbucks, in dining halls; the faculty members whose office doors are always open; the researchers striving to make a difference in their fields; the religion professor who prays over his class before each test; the human performance professor who holds and comforts a student's fussy baby--for 55 minutes, while lecturing--when a babysitter cancels at the last minute; the numerous faculty members who oversee the smallest details in 130 different study-abroad programs; the 13 faculty members and their families who live in on-campus residential communities, as faculty-in-residence.

Baylor is hundreds of staff members who keep the place running; who turn on the lights first thing in the morning; who answer calls from frantic students hoping to get into a closed class; who answer calls from a frantic parent whose child is hoping to get into a closed class; who ensure that those 2,537 men and women who graduated in May actually completed all their degree requirements; who work in departments whose very jobs are to help students succeed, academically when they’re on campus and in the real world when they leave; who mow and sweep and clean and serve food.

Baylor is not simply one coach or one administrator or any one person, no matter the national recognition or the achievements or the fame or the anything else, good or bad. Baylor is those 16,787 students and those hundreds of faculty and staff members and the 120,000 alumni...going to class, going to work, going to their volunteer sites, doing the best work they can to make this world--at least their small corner of it--a better place.

Kevin Tankersley, BA '93, is a senior lecturer in journalism and public relations at Baylor University. A version of this letter was published as a column May 29, 2016, in the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Take the lead

As a Baylor graduate and a survivor of intimate partner abuse, I am heartbroken over Baylor women's experiences and our response to sexual violence. One in four women are (or will be) victims of intimate partner abuse. It is never okay. These Baylor women needed protection and support, and these Baylor men need to be held accountable. Football rankings cannot trump safety. Yet, in light of Title IX, all campuses are struggling to effectively implement changes. No university is doing this perfectly! I have personally found Judge Starr to be a man of genuine humility and faith, and his leadership team to share these character qualities. While I am sad to see his departure from the Office of the President, I applaud the Regents' decision to act rapidly to impact systemic changes that will protect our students. Now that we are a case study for other universities on this critical issue, the country is watching our Baylor response. We have been offered a national audience to truly show our values, but Baylor family, this shake up is not just for our Board of Regents to administer! The time is now. Let's all provide our resources to make certain Baylor will well respond to violence. I implore Baylor--each one of us--to take this chance to lead on our campus and our communities on this issue. Talk about intimate partner abuse. Offer help to those in need (including abusers) and do everything possible to support those whose work is first response to domestic violence.

C. Elizabeth (Holcomb) O'Neal Mason, BA '01, Founder, Lion Heart Society, The Charity for Domestic Violence Task Forces

Do not lose heart

It's funny how quickly circumstances can change.

For some students and alumni of Baylor University, significant change and shocking information seemed to arrive overnight and grip our hearts with great sadness. For others, like student victims of sexual assault, the change has been a slow process that they have seen coming for months on end.

As we all know, the University's Board of Regents just announced that there will be a considerable change in leadership at the school, due to an investigation that proves Baylor's failure to implement Title IX for student victims of sexual assault.

There will never, not in a million years, be an excuse for the failure to take appropriate action for these reports of violence. It saddens me deeply to know that young women have been inflicted with this incredibly unfair burden, and that they have suffered in silence. Victims of assault should never be made to feel as though they cannot or should not speak out. And they have.

How is this the Baylor we have grown to love so much?

As a result, two of the most prominent men in Baylor's leadership have been asked to abdicate their positions, and this truly marks the end of an era. I know I speak not only for myself when I say that it has been a very deep disappointment to witness two men who I once thought were untouchable, face consequences of very real, very human mistakes.

But hey, that's life.

Now, the blame here should no doubt rest on the shoulders of the rapists, but if these criminals are not held accountable for their actions, and if victims were ignored or brushed aside, then of course this supposed leadership needs to go.

But amidst this very dark time, I want to challenge you, Baylor Nation. I want to remind you that, despite what the rest of the nation may say in the months to follow, the actions of individuals do not define us as a University. We now have over 15,000 students attending Baylor, and I'll bet my bottom dollar that any given student you run in to on campus is heartbroken about the mess and the sin that is so prevalent here today.

I want to challenge you to remember that Baylor is so much more than scandal, sadness, and past social injustice. We have world-class scholars, professors and groundbreaking, innovative technology. Baylor equips its students with the tools needed to excel in whatever profession they so choose, with a strong moral compass to do right in the eyes of the Lord as the most important tool of all.

I want to challenge you to remember every reason why Baylor is your home. Remember your first trip to Independence. Do you remember how the bond of your new Baylor family was so strong that you swore it was tangible? Because I do. Remember that one professor who made you believe in yourself when you felt alone and hopeless? I do. Do you remember running the line for your very first time? Do you remember being packed shoulder-to-shoulder, with the screams of the entire University and all its fans rumbling beneath your feet and sending chills up your spine? Do you remember running hysterically onto the field, behind Ken Starr, feeling as if you were a part of history, and that that moment could really last forever?

Yeah, I do, too.

Do not lose heart. The challenge for us in the foreseeable future is going to be sticking together in a community of righteousness. We are called to put on the whole armor of God and stand against what we know to be wrong (Eph. 6:10-20). And let me tell you, folks, the enemy is going to want to tear us apart and remind us of our sin every step toward our recovery.

The good news amidst all of this very real pain is that our God is one of hope, restoration, and forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Those who choose to misrepresent this University will not tarnish its name forever, at least not if those who fight for righteousness have anything to say about it. God has already begun His work here, and His plan for us is one we cannot begin to fathom.

Natalie Galerne, Junior Journalism major from Houston.

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