Code not direct on pregnant students

Oct. 12, 2000



The Baylor policy for sexual misconduct states, 'fornication' and 'adultery' are 'inappropriate.' It does not, nor has it ever, addressed pregnancy directly.

'There was a time when to be pregnant [out of marriage] would have been wrong,' Dr. Jimmy McCluskey, dean of student development and services, said. 'But with the changing of times and changing of culture, we have adjusted our policies accordingly.'

In October of 1987, Dawn Bonner was expelled when it was discovered that she was pregnant and unmarried. She sued the university in the fall of 1989 for enforcing an 'unwritten' policy that requires pregnant, unmarried students to leave the school. The case settled out of court in March of 1990.

'We have no policy against pregnancy, but our practice includes that we are redemptive,' McCluskey said. 'Certainly, the last thing we would want for a young woman is to do something drastic like abortion.'

The handbooks for students and faculty on the issue are the same: 'Baylor will strive to deal in a constructive manner with all who fail to live up to this high standard [of sex and procreation within marriage].'

Even with 'redemptive' measures, students still seem to be afraid to approach the university for help.

McCluskey said he does not 'remember having a student come before [him] saying that she was pregnant' since he became dean in 1994.

However, about 80 women a month between the ages of 18 and 22 go to AngelCare Pregnancy Resource Center in Waco, Cathy Sones, director of AngelCare, said. She said about five to 10 of those are Baylor students.

AngelCare provides services that a woman and partner might need when unexpectedly pregnant. These include pregnancy tests, parenting classes and counseling, among others.

'All of the girls that come in aren't pregnant, they just think they might be,' Sones said.

None of the Baylor women she has seen since 1991, when she became director, have been expelled.

The heart of the policy states that 'the university shall thoroughly review the facts and circumstances of each allegation of sexual misconduct ... and determine if the allegation is supported by credible evidence.'

'We deal with it on an individual basis,' McCluskey said. 'That gives us the freedom to work with each student in dealing with her specific circumstances.'

McCluskey said a female student would not need to worry about her status at Baylor if she did become pregnant.

'First question is, have you seen a doctor?' McCluskey said. 'Then, we talk about counseling and support. The question of if she can stay in school is not something she needs to worry about unless it involves her health.'

Baylor's intentions of maintaining standards and regulations over the social life of students and faculty have received criticism in publications like Atlantic Monthly. An October article in that publication, by Alan Wolfe, indicated evangelical schools like Baylor may be violating the right to privacy of faculty and students.

'We have a duty within our charter as a private institution to be distinctive,' McCluskey said. 'If we fail to discriminate based upon our Christian mission, then we could endanger our mission as a private, non-profit organization.'

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