The Big Conversation
Ken Starr was removed from his post as president at Baylor University last week amid a leadership shakeup over how the university handles sexual assault.
Now, Starr's future is unclear. While he was removed as president, he will maintain his position as chancellor and continue as a professor in the law school. As chancellor, the school's board affirmed the man would have no "operating responsibilities inside the university."
But it hasn't always been this way for Starr.
In fact, Starr's removal would have been unheard of just two years ago, wrote the Tribune's Matthew Watkins. At that point, he was instrumental in spurring a renaissance of sorts at the school, as it was thriving both athletically and academically.
Shortly after Starr found his footing at Baylor, the school's athletics teams started winning – the football team claimed its first 10-win season since 1980 and the women's basketball team won the national championship. In fact, the 2011 to 2012 school year became known as the "Year of the Bear."
But, as Watkins noted, "while football seemed to drive much of that success, it also helped usher in the university's current dark days." After defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was indicted on a charge of raping another student and reports from ESPN pointed to multiple women who reported being sexually assaulted by Baylor students or athletes, Starr called for an investigation into the school – the very investigation that would lead to his reassignment.
"And suddenly, the national story of a private university out-punching its weight was replaced by one of a Christian school whose outsize ambitions caused it to lose its moral compass," Watkins wrote. "Fair or not, that storyline will take time to recover from."
The Dallas Morning News' David Tarrant, Sue Ambrose and Holly Hacker wrote that, like the scandal at Penn State University, the fallout at Baylor will likely extend beyond the administrative shakeup and could include things like "wrongful termination lawsuits, federal investigations, victim settlements and scrutiny from the National Collegiate Athletic Association."
The Morning News report also found the school could face added pressures to release more details about the scandal that were omitted in the investigative report. The findings of fact published by the University did not contain specific names.
“What are the failures, who were the people?” Edward Queen, a professor at the Center for Ethics at Emory University in Atlanta, told The Morning News. “The more they prolong things, the worse and worse it’s going to look.”
Trib Must Reads
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Analysis: An Early Guide to November’s Competitive Texas Races, by Ross Ramsey – Most of the 218 races at the top of the state and federal sections of our general election ballots in November are not going to be competitive. Here's a look at those that are likely to be.
Suicide Prevention Efforts Are Placing an Emphasis on Small Texas Towns, by Edgar Walters – According to a Texas Tribune analysis of death records between 2004 and 2013, the rate of suicide was 15 percent higher in Texas counties with an urban population of less than 20,000 people than in more metropolitan counties.
Issue of Mental Health Assessment a Focus as 3 Fight Death Sentences, by Johnathan Silver – Criminal justice experts say that determining mental health can be hard for anyone, including judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors and jurors. They say the issues revealed in three cases are key in furthering the discussion in how mental health is gauged when weighing the death penalty for killers.
Texas Court Halts Execution in Dallas Murder, by Jolie McCullough – The execution of a man whose original trial included a hypnotized eyewitness was stopped by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Friday evening.
Cost of Texas Child Support Overhaul Doubles to $420 Million, by Terri Langford – The state's sidelined child support overhaul is now back on track, but its cost has more than doubled to $420 million and it is now two years behind schedule.
In Weighty Water Ruling, Texas' High Court Backs Landowner, by Kiah Collier – The Texas Supreme Court has strengthened protections for landowners who don’t have rights to the water underneath their property.
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Quote to Note
"After much reflection and prayer, I have decided that a change in athletics department leadership is in Baylor University’s best interest in order to promote the unity, healing and restoration that must occur in order to move forward."
— Baylor University Athletic Director Ian McCaw announcing his resignation within hours of the school hiring an interm replacement for Art Briles, who was fired as the school's head football coach last week
Today in TribTalk
Dear Baylor: Your Students Deserve Better, by Rick Gipprich – When asked what we think university administrators should be doing to support survivors of campus sexual assault, the answer my fellow coalition members and I give is quite simple. Ask for help. And when asked what I would say to Baylor University in light of this scandal, the answer is clear and direct. Your response to the rapes of your students is deplorable.
School finance ruling is a call to action for the Legislature, by Kendall Pace – The Texas Supreme Court's school finance ruling was narrow, unanimous and ended decades of numerous lawsuits that claimed the state public education financing system was unconstitutional in funding and design. While some fear the ruling will be seen as encouragement for the Legislature to do nothing, I believe it is a rallying cry for lawmakers.
Trib Events for the Calendar
• A Conversation with Ryan Sitton, Texas Railroad Commissioner, on June 3 at The Austin Club
• The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin