If you thought the leadership at Baylor could not look any worse than they have over the past week, think again. On the day he announced he was resigning from his position as chancellor a week after being demoted as university president, Ken Starr sat down for an interview with Joe Schad of ESPN and served up some even more tone-deaf statements regarding the situation at Baylor than you could imagine.
While admitting Baylor’s response to various sexual assault allegations did fall short of what was expected of them, Starr claimed none of the incidents happened on Baylor’s campus, as if that makes the situation any more tolerable.
“We’re an alcohol-free campus,” Starr said in his interview with ESPN. “It’s not happening on campus, to the best of my knowledge. They are off-campus parties. Those are venues where those bad things have happened.”
OK, fine. But those bad things happened involving representatives of your university and football program, and your coaches reportedly interfered with the investigation process, thus protecting them from more extreme punishment and failing to give your victims, who are students at your university, a fair chance at justice in any form possible. Just because an incident happens off your campus, does not mean you are excused from failing to uphold the investigation process and response accordingly. Your students may not live on your campus, but they are a part of your community and it is your job as a university to assure all students they can feel safe and secure while attending your university. Starr’s ridiculous comments about “those bad things” happening at off-campus parties does nobody any good in this conversation.
Making things worse, Starr went out of his way to sing the praises of now former head coach Art Briles, who was placed on an indefinite suspension by the university wiht the intent to terminate his contract. His replacement, Jim Grobe, has already been hired this week amid a flurry of changes at the university. Praising a man fired for overseeing a program riddled with such negative attention connected to “bad things” is a bad public relations move.
“Coach Briles is a player’s coach, but he was also a very powerful father figure,” Starr said. “[It’s] not one strike and you’re out. That’s not coach Briles and that’s not what Baylor is.”
Can we pause for a brief moment and come to an agreement that all strikes are not considered equal? Stealing ketchup from a Burger King o a can of soda from the university book store is one thing. Sexually abusing another student at your university is something else. Not every crime or incident may be deserving of a one strike and you’re done response, but what was happening at Baylor warranted that kind of action. Even if it happened off your campus.
It is somewhat amazing Starr was allowed to sit down for this kind of interview with ESPN. On the one hand, getting Starr in front of a camera could help shed some light on the situation from a different perspective, and perhaps that was the intended hope for Starr or Baylor. On the other, there should have been a PR representative on hand to interrupt and drag Starr out of the room the moment he started praising Briles and saying some of the things he said on camera.