Dear Baylor: Be The Standard

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Baylor vs. Kansas State, Dec. 6, 2014

Now that the dust has settled and everyone has had a chance to process the news, I will discuss the topic I have been wanting to discuss for months now – Baylor football.

As a recent graduate of Baylor University, I came into the system during the rise to the top and the quest for national recognition. The 2012 freshman class set a record for the university; the largest number of applications ever received and the fewest amount of students ever accepted. We were still the largest freshman class in school history (and my tiny less than 250 girls dorm was 50+ girls over capacity).

The “Year of the Bear” just happened. RGIII won the Heisman, the men’s basketball team had the best season in school history finishing at 30-8, the women’s basketball team won the national title and finished 40-0, Brittney Griner was named National Player of the Year, Coach Kim Mulkey received National Coach of the Year, and the baseball team went on a 24-game winning streak. As if that isn’t enough right there, all 19 sports programs on campus advanced to the post season. Things. Were. Booming.

I remember the athletic vibes throughout my collegiate career. The wins for football just seemed to keep coming. The “Has Baylor Lost Yet?” Twitter account was created. Football had become a religion on campus; everyone knew it and no one complained about it. We loved it.

In my three and a half years at Baylor I often advocated both sides of the argument – Baylor deserves national recognition but at the same time we didn’t. Of course I wanted the national title. I also recognized pummeling SMU straight into the ground in the 100-degree, season-opener game wasn’t enough. (I’ve wanted to see a Baylor-Oregon match-up for a while now).

Five years later, the university finally has the national recognition everyone in Baylor nation has so desired. But at what price?

In the past week, Baylor lost the university president, the head football coach, a number of faculty, and the respect we as a university have been fighting so hard to gain. The debate my freshman year always seemed to come down to the idea “can Baylor be both a top research institution and a powerhouse athletics school while maintaining their Christian values?”

Right now, many would say the answer appears to be no. Many other universities have been rooting for years for our good times to fade, unfortunately, this is not how anyone would have expected it to come.

In February, ESPN’s Outside the Lines released a report covering assault allegations on Baylor’s campus concerning the football players. The media went crazy; the university remained quiet. I began a post I had entitled “Dear Baylor: Start Talking.” However, I never published it because the article faded and nothing else seemed to come up, or so I thought.

Accusations continued to come. By mid-to-late May, ESPN released another report on the abuse and assault allegations against Baylor football players. Baylor still remained quiet. In a matter of days, my beloved university had been tried and found guilty by the media.

People no longer called for action, they demanded it. One report claimed Starr would take the fall, others declared head coach Art Briles be fired. Yet, amid all the media accusations, the university remained remarkably quiet.

On May 25, rumors began that President and Chancellor Ken Starr had been fired. On May 26, an early-morning rumor claimed Briles had been fired. By lunch time, the Board of Regents released a statement confirming the rumors. Starr would transition to role of Chancellor and law school professor only, Briles is suspended with intent to terminate, Athletic Director Ian McCaw is placed on probation, and the Pepper Hamilton summary (the law firm hired by the board to externally investigate the allegations) released.

May 26, 2016 became one of the darkest days in Baylor University history.

A black-eye hit the university that will now take copious amounts of time to recover from. Heart-breaking and extremely difficult to read due to the excruciating detail, the Pepper Hamilton summary stated sentence after sentence that Baylor athletics and administration failed in the handling of the allegations. From police reports, Title IX reports, administrative reports, and athletic reports, the break down and lack of action covered the entire chain of command.

Pepper Hamilton found during their investigation the benighted belief among administrators that sexual violence “doesn’t happen here.” The firm found the university instead resorted to victim-blaming by researching the complainants choices and actions rather than investigating the report to the fullest extent.

Humorous though, since my freshman orientation had an entire session entitled “Don’t drink the punch.”

Furthermore, Pepper Hamilton found the football program conducted their own investigations into the allegations, preventing the university to critically impose necessary disciplinary actions. Page 11 of the report stated the inappropriate involvement from staff “reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules.”

As a Christian university, Baylor urges the student body to #BeTheStandard, especially in athletics. What standard have we as a university set?

Seeing Briles go was hard. He took a mediocre team to a national contender team. The Bears have made their fans proud, but at a hapless cost. Of course the football boys were upset on Thursday. They found out their coach who invested so much time into them was gone.

Likewise, many female students began to speak out on how they never felt unsafe during their time at Baylor. I think we can all agree this is wonderful to hear. However, I pray everyone realizes this was not always the case. There were female students who felt unsafe, who feared for their lives, and who now live with the pain and trauma of what happened to them.

On May 26, Baylor decided to turn the standard.

The standard that Baylor is now setting is a moral one – no football victory is worth rape.

Baylor broke our hearts. The once Palace on the Brazos that became a beacon for the places Baylor and its football program would one day reach now lights the tragedy befallen upon its banks.

Baylor has a long way to go. The road to recovery will be hard. All-American players, national titles, and even single game wins are not worth campus safety. The Board of Regents are pushing Baylor back to being the standard, beginning morally.

When I learned the consequences of a gridiron glory, I was ashamed to be a Baylor alumna. I was upset and angry at what happened. Then Baylor started talking. Baylor started taking action. Baylor began to set the standard and started being Baylor again.

Pro Ecclesia and always Baylor proud.

Pepper Hamilton Findings of Fact
Pepper Hamilton Recommendations

Music Wednesday: All Sons & Daughters

All Sons & Daughters is one my favorite worship groups. Whether they are singing independently or with Third Day (i.e. Soul On Fire) I could listen to them all day, everyday.

Music Wednesday will therefore be dedicated to my favorite All Sons & Daughters song. They have quite a few I love listening to, but I think this song is powerful (not to mention I love singing the harmony in it).

Anyway, I’ll stop babbling now. I say just listen to the lyrics and enjoy! I present to you now…All the Poor and Powerless:

Music Wednesday: Graduation Throwback

This past Saturday practically all my friends from college graduated. It was a sad yet exciting day filled with lots of memories (of course).

Anyway, all the graduation fun got me reminiscing on my high school graduation. My mom and I made a trip to Huntsville this weekend and she heard a song that was on the Top 40 the year she graduated high school. Therefore, I got curious about what songs were popular the year I graduated.

According to billboard.com, here are the top 3 songs of the year 2012:

3. We Are Young by Fun

2. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

1. Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

Enjoy your throwback guys! Go check out what songs were popular the year you graduated high school! P.S. It can be pretty mind-blowing, or face-palm worthy (I mean Call Me Maybe, really?!)

Why Does Eye Contact Matter?

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Honesty time…this is a post I have been debating and drafting since I started this blog. I knew this was a story I wanted to publish, I felt like this was a story I needed to publish, yet I’ve never quite been able to figure out the best way to go about telling this story – until today.

This morning I was at my church helping out with a funeral by providing childcare. When the funeral was over and all the kids were gone, I was wandering through the building looking for my dad when I ran into my youth minister. He and I spoke for a couple minutes and then parted ways for a grand total of five seconds.

As I walked through the copy room still looking for my dad he came back into the copy room (and almost hit me with the door in the process). Turns out, he was actually coming back to look for me.

We walked into the hallway and he asked me if I remembered the mission trip he took me on to San Francisco. Internally I thought “How could I forget?” but instead it came out as “Yeah of course.” He proceeded to ask me what I thought about the trip, some things that stood out to me, etc. since he was taking the youth group on a trip to New York through the same mission group.

I realized in that moment my own youth minister didn’t realize the effect the San Francisco trip had on me. The trip to San Francisco changed my life. Here’s what I mean:

I place my hands on the counter and try to look the middle-aged man in the eye. He immediately turns away, making eye contact with the young man next to me instead.

“How long have you lived in the United States?” I ask, still trying to make eye contact.

Again, he looks at the young man standing next to me. “30 years,” the middle-aged man responds.

I close my eyes and stay calm. I remind myself he and I come from two different cultures. Surely, he is not deliberately trying to disrespect me.

I feel compelled to keep trying. “If you could change one thing about your time in the United States, what would it be?”

Much to my shock, he turned and bent down to my height. My dark hazel eyes came in direct contact with his bright brown eyes.

“When I moved to America, I had business from everyone in San Francisco. Since 9/11, the only business I receive in my store comes from other Iranian and Iraqi refugees,” he said, his voice full of sorrow. “I am thankful to be out of Iran, but I did not leave Iran to be treated like this.”

As a 17-year-old high school graduate, I was stunned by his response. My heart shattered.

This was a memoir I wrote as a writing sample for my advanced PR class, but the story goes so much deeper than a school assignment. I was very young when this happened to me. I had barely experienced other cultures until this trip. At 17, I met someone who would change the course of my life forever.

I could tell my youth minister was shocked when I told him this (and I felt horrible I had never told him before). I opened up to my youth minister and told him the trip he took me on to San Francisco is part of the reason I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Public Policy and International Affairs.

My time in San Francisco was different than any trip I had been on before. I quite literally just walked around and talked to people. I went to places of the city that most people would never dream of going to. The impact the trip had on me was profound. The impact helped propel me forward into the person I am becoming today.

This is why eye contact matters. If I had never met that Iranian man, and if he had never made eye contact with me, I would not have the heart for God’s kingdom that I do now. He and I broke cultural boundaries that day, even if it was only for a couple seconds.

We never fully understand the work our Father does for His kingdom. I have not seen that man since that day back in 2012, but I know I have never forgotten him and I never will. That day I was simply a young girl in his store, but for me I realized there are so many other people with stories like this man. Even more, I realized I wanted to be apart of their stories, I wanted to show them the love of Christ, the same way I had for my friend from Iran.

My youth minister said my story was a huge encouragement to him today. I appreciate that but I think he was more of an encouragement to me. He was the one who reminded me that God works in mysterious ways. He is the reason I decided to share my memoir I wrote for class. As confusing as my life has felt lately, he helped me remember that God is in control of it all, working all things in His kingdom for His glory.

Music Wednesday: Mussorgsky

The time has come…I mentioned in my very first blog post that I often listen to composers with Russian surnames. It’s simply a fact of life. I love classical music and the Russians are my favorite.

Modest Mussorgsky is one of the best. He was one of the biggest influencers of Russian music during what is technically the Romantic period, however, his music largely influenced the strong Russian nationalist movement of the mid-to-late 1800’s. He was heavily involved with the Romanov’s in their quest to make music and literature purely Russian. Basically all the fun cultural stuff that went down before the firing squad.

Anyway, here is my favorite piece ever written by Mussorgsky. I love the brass at the beginning, it’s very heroic (and a large piece of national music). I could go on all day about the different movements in the song, but here is Pictures at an Exhibition!

Music Wednesday: Wicked

GUYS GUESS WHAT?! I am going to see Wicked this Saturday in Dallas. I am SO excited! It should be such a great time, especially since this is one of my favorite shows (I mean who doesn’t love Wicked?).

Anyway, because Wicked is this Saturday. It’s only fitting this music Wednesday is dedicated to the musical itself.

Therefore, I present to you the best song in the show – Defying Gravity!

After all, everyone deserves the chance to fly!