The following is an open letter to my fellow Baylor students,
As a current student, I have been present for what one could argue has been the greatest time in history to be a Baylor Bear. Unprecedented success in athletics, constant renovation and construction of academic buildings and residence halls, new apartment complexes opening every year, revitalization of the Waco community with new restaurants and hotels popping up seemingly every week, and larger, more exclusive freshmen classes joining the Baylor family each year.
There's no doubt that Art Briles and Ken Starr were key players in bringing about this golden era at Baylor. And having seen the findings from the Pepper Hamilton reports, that fact feels dirty. Disgusting. Memories of some of the best years of our lives have now been tainted with guilt and shame. The thought of the New Baylor being built on the backs of women exiled into darkness for being sexually assaulted and having the nerve to talk about it is a nearly impossible one to grapple with, and many of you have already been discouraged.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
It is easy to stay there forever once you have fallen into the valley.
It is easy to hate Baylor for the mistakes made by administrators.
It is easy to be outraged at the university for firing Art Briles and Ken Starr, men many students had come to know and love over the years.
It is easy to be upset at your fellow students for not sharing the same opinions that you do on these issues.
It is easy to avoid acknowledging the pain and suffering the victims have felt.
It is easy to mourn the loss of "the good ole days".
It is easy to forget who we are.
It is easy to let guilt or shame or anger or disgust or contempt or other similar emotions consume you in times like these regardless of whether you believe Briles and Starr should have been fired or not. But that is not who we are. We, more than anyone else, are Baylor. And we will be defined by the things we do that are hard.
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
So to the recently graduated alumni, you will be under more scrutiny than many of you have ever felt as you go out into the world with fresh resumes and degrees in hand that read "Baylor University." Let this still be a source of pride. The failures of some university administrators cannot take away the lessons you have learned, and should not ruin the community you have helped build for so many years. Fling your green and gold afar forever as the amazing representatives and leaders Baylor needs now more than ever. You define Baylor.
To returning students, our campus is in distress, and we will not recover without first showing each other compassion and love. That extends to football players and administrators as well. We can't let the mistakes of the few define the many. If we are the people we claim to be, the university we claim to be, the fans we claim to be, we will stand behind our new football coach and more importantly our new president as they take over. These people are stepping into a difficult situation and we need not make it more difficult for them with scorn. Each and every one of us has been called to serve. Whether formally or informally it is our duty as Baylor students to serve each other, to serve those who have come before us, to serve those who will come after us, to serve the community, to serve the world, and above all to serve our Lord. We must not forget this calling in the coming days but must show more dedication to it than ever. Those of us who serve as mentors to the freshmen class in any capacity - Line Camp Leaders, Welcome Week Leaders, Community Leaders, etc. - are tasked now more than ever with showing the freshmen what Baylor truly is about. That we are more than this scandal. That we are a community of caring brothers and sisters steadfast in dedication to our own education and self-improvement as well as others'. We define Baylor.
To incoming freshmen, you have not yet had the opportunity to make your mark on Baylor University but you have been given the opportunity to write history. You are coming to Baylor at a time of transition from one era to the next, and ultimately, the creation of Baylor's new legacy rests in your hands. We current students will do everything we can to welcome you into our beloved community, to foster a love for Baylor in your heart similar to ours, but it is up to you to determine Baylor's fate. As we graduate y'all will be the ones to determine if Baylor remains a tight-knit family and a Christian university that can be taken seriously in academics and athletics or if it will fade into obscurity clouded by scandal and shame. Take care of this university. Take care of our traditions. Take care of our reputation. But above all, take care of each other. You will define Baylor.
Do not face the future with timidity nor with fear. Face it boldly, courageously, joyously. Have faith in what it holds. Sorrow as well as happiness must come with time. But know that only after sorrow's hand has bowed your head will life become truly real to you, for only then will you acquire the noble spirituality which intensifies the reality of life. My own faith as I approach eternity grows stronger day by day. The faith I have had in life is projected into this vast future toward which I travel now. I know that I go to an all-powerful God wherever he may be. I know that he is a personality who created man in His image. Beyond that I have no knowledge--no fear--only faith.
-Samuel Palmer Brooks, The Immortal Message