Thursday, April 28, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: A timeline for sexual assault issues with the Baylor football team

So... yesterday Sharon Grigsby of the Dallas Morning News (whom I have worked with before) wrote a fascinating piece in that paper about the problems Baylor is facing with sexual assaults by football players.  Sharon is a Baylor grad, and often a proud one, but is this piece she makes an important point:

What began as a small cesspool has spread into a full-blown swamp. Does the administration not see that Baylor’s reputation — not to mention its fundraising and its enrollment — are drowning in this unseemly episode? And, more important, what does this kind of non-response do for the safety of its students?

For what it is worth, I worried about Baylor football in a more general way on the pages of the Waco Trib back in the summer of 2015, but the fuller story started to come out later that year.  Here is a timeline of some key events leading up to this challenging moment.

2012: Shawn Oakman is dismissed from the Penn State team after trying to steal food and grabbing the arm of a female cashier.

2013:  Sam Ukwuachu is kicked off the team at Boise State, where he had been a star. His girlfriend from this period later testified that he beat and choked her. Ukwuachu then enrolls at Baylor to play football there.

2013: Having transferred to Baylor to play football, Shawn Oakman is accused of assaulting a woman. A police report is filed and no further action is taken. The investigating police officer noted in the report that the woman had bruises on both arms and a “swelled up bottom lip” and bruises.

2013: Baylor players Tre'Von Armstead and Myke Chatman are named by police in a report involving sexual assault.

2013: Baylor wins Big 12 championship in football

2014: Baylor player Tevin Elliot is sentenced to 20 years for the rape of a Baylor student. Three other Baylor students provide evidence they were sexually assaulted by him as well.

2014: Baylor wins Big 12 co-championship

2015: Sam Ukwuachu is convicted of the sexual assault of a Baylor student.

April, 2016: Shawn Oakman is arrested for the forcible rape of a Baylor student.

April, 2016: With no sense of irony whatsoever, Baylor University heralds new faculty research with the headline "Supervisors, Coworkers Tolerate Unethical Behavior When Production is Good, Baylor Study Finds." [Yes, really

For the sake of accuracy, Oakman was not arrested for the incident in 2013. The police took the woman's statement, and filed a report, but no arrest was made and no charges were filed.
Oakman wasn't arrested in 2013 for assaulting a woman. The police were called, and a report was made, but there were no charges pursued and no arrest.
Also, the statement, "Shawn Oakman is expelled from Penn State for assaulting a female store clerk," seems misleading. I've never seen Bill O'Brien, the Penn State coach at the time, give an official statement on why Oakman was dismissed from the team, and I don't believe he was expelled from school. And he was charged with two counts of retail theft, one count of harassment, and one count of disorderly conduct related to the incident, not assault.

I'm all for discussing the ugly reality of the choices these athletes have made over the past few years, and the potential implications those actions have for Baylor and for the football program. But I don't think those facts need to be overstated in order to make that case.

Also, I'm fascinated by this quote, "Does the administration not see that Baylor’s reputation — not to mention its fundraising and its enrollment — are drowning in this unseemly episode?" What evidence is there of this? Baylor's enrollment has grown every year for the past few years, including the largest enrollment ever this fall. There is a direct correlation between enrollment/fundraising and athletics. This statement by the author seems more like wishful thinking than an actual fact.
Fixed those things. And RRL, if you go to my Waco Trib piece that is linked you will see I discuss those positives.

And now, RRL and AMT, do you really have no problem with this, see nothing wrong?
Also, shaping these stories is a repeated element: A victim files a report and then decides not to "press charges." This goes all the way back to Lacedarius Dunn (a basketball star at Baylor). His girlfriend showed up at the hospital with a broken jaw that required surgery, saying that Dunn hit her. Later, she said it was an "accident" and "refused to press charges."

Here is an important fact: Victims don't decide whether or not to press charges. Prosecutors do. Yes, it is more challenging to prosecute when a victim is too scared to cooperate, but often it is more important in those cases to do so, given the danger of the harm being repeated.
No problem with your edited phrasing or no problem with the actions/Baylor's reaction?
With the actions of Baylor and the prosecutors.
I can't comment on the LaceDarius Dunn case.

On the Oakman situation, I'm not sure we know enough about the 2013 incident to determine what Baylor should have done/should have known. Is it possible that Waco PD notified the university, the athletic department, or the football team of Oakman being involved in an incident? Sure, it's possible, but we don't know that any notification was made, and it would be speculation to say otherwise at this point. Is it possible that the investigating officer was a big Baylor fan and realized that Oakman was a Baylor football player so the officer decided not to pursue things further independent of any input or pressure from Baylor? It's possible. We just don't know yet. We should wait until the facts come out before we rush to make judgments of who did what wrong.

In 2013, Oakman was a seldom used, raw backup. Potential as a football player there? Certainly, but let's not pretend that this is a football team trying to cover up a crime to keep a star player on the field. He wasn't a star player. I also have a problem with the idea that Oakman's theft and allegedly violent reaction to being caught was somehow an indicator that he'd later be accused of rape. Those dots just don't connect.

Furthermore, assuming arguendo that Oakman is guilty of the rape he's alleged to have committed, I'm not sure how Baylor is responsible for that. At the time the incident is alleged to have occurred, Oakman is a former football player who was not currently enrolled in the university. Title IX emphasis and training has been everywhere on Baylor's campus in the months leading up to Oakman's arrest. Heck, I can't use a bathroom in the rare times I'm up at the law school without seeing an "It's on US" poster tacked to the back of the bathroom door. I know specific talks and training have been directed at Baylor athletes in general and specifically the football team. Even after all of that, Oakman is alleged to have committed this crime. Is Baylor responsible for that? Is Art Briles? Should Ken Starr be out there babysitting former Baylor football players to make sure they don't get in trouble?

The problem with the "football program on the rise covers up crimes to keep winning" narrative that came out after the Sam U conviction. Sam U never played a snap for Baylor. He didn't receive, as far as I can tell, any special treatment because he was a football player. He was arrested, tried, and ultimately convicted. If that's Baylor trying to cover up crimes to keep winning, they did a pretty poor job at it.

Now, I will certainly agree that this internal investigation that Baylor hired outside counsel to conduct has taken way too long. Baylor should be more open and forthcoming with the results of that investigation.
I feel the same way about this narrative that I do about calling anti-discrimination ordinances "Bathroom Laws". Is there an element that needs to be addressed? Absolutely. Do we as Baylor alum/staff/faculty/supporters need to face up to whatever is unearthed? Of course. But the media feeding frenzy has really bitten on the "Baylor was completely complicit in the rape of its female students" narrative. And I don't blame them.
Kendall-- I see the media asking a question more than answering it at this point, and it is the right question. They are expressing a frustration with Baylor's lack of transparency in addressing these issues, and that is their role.

Do I think that it is troubling and sad that all of these incidents have taken place in the past few years and the response of the Baylor administration to these issues seems indifferent at best and criminally negligent at worst? Yes. Of course that is troublesome and infuriating.

If Art Briles and the athletic administration knew about sexual violence on the part of these students that took place before they came to Baylor should they be called to answer for their role in bringing these athletes to Baylor? Of course they should, and that could take a number of forms, including firing.

Do I think that Baylor is handling this well? No. Though, I must tell you, I've spent a fair amount of time with some really good attorneys thinking about the appropriate way to handle these types of issues given the potential liability a school could expose itself to from both the alleged victim and the alleged criminal, and it is a difficult question to answer. So, do I think they've handled this perfectly or even well, no. But I think sniping at them from the outside is much more difficult than actually trying to figure out what you would recommend for them to be doing.

So, that's what I think. At the same time, I don't like that this has turned into a football story. A couple of months ago there was a story about a fraternity president at Baylor that was accused of sexually assaulting a student. That story isn't getting national publicity because it doesn't involve a football coach that is winning games. But the underlying issue is the same: young men who think they are above the law and who treat women like objects. And that is a cultural issue, and one that exists on every college campus. So, anyone who attends another university or sends their kids to another university and is looking at the Baylor situation and saying, "not at my school, not my kids," is naive and ignorant, and needs to face up to the reality that the Baylor situation is an example of the problem, not THE problem.
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