Monday, April 3, 2017

Baylor University Football: Sexual Assault Scandal (2016)

Baylor University Football: Sexual Assault Scandal (2016)

*Note: For the purpose of this exercise, the case study will examine the events leading up to May 26, 2016. Any details reported after that date will not be considered in this blog.

Case Overview
The 2014 Baylor Bears celebrating their Big 12 Conference Championship victory
Baylor University is a private Baptist institution in Waco, Texas that has an undergraduate enrollment of 14,189 students. The Bears participate in 19 intercollegiate sports at the NCAA Division 1 level as a member of the Big 12 Conference. Their most prominent athletic program is their football team, which had an impressive 40-11 record from 2012-2015. During this time span the Bears were consistently ranked in the top 25 of college football’s highest division. They won two Big 12 Conference Championships, played in both the Fiesta and Cotton Bowl’s, and boasted a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Robert Griffin III.                                                                                            
However, the football program’s success was put on the back burner when the University announced that then head football coach, Art Briles, and University President, Ken Starr, were relieved from duty on May 26, 2016. Their dismissal came after the release of a nearly 9 month long external review conducted by Philadelphia based lawyer Pepper Hamilton. The report found evidence that the
Left: Ken Starr / Right: Art Briles
University neglected to follow Title IX procedure in relation to several sexual assault cases filed against Baylor football players. The incidences in question included three prominent players: Tevin Elliot, Sam Ukwuachu, and Shawn Oakman. Elliot was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for two separate sexual assaults committed against Baylor students in 2012. Ukwuachu was indicted on two counts of sexual assault in 2014. He served 180 days in a county jail and has 10 years of felony probation. Oakman was indicted by a grand jury on charges of second-degree felony sexual assault in 2016 and has yet to be convicted on the charges.                                                         

Despite the egregious acts committed by these three players, the real ethical issue at hand involves the coaches and administrators who failed to comply with NCAA rules and ultimately cultivated an environment that encouraged athlete misconduct. In particular, the University neglected to comply with the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). Furthermore, Baylor failed “within both the football program
The popular Title IX logo that appears on college campuses across the country
and Athletics Department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player, to take action in response to reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, and to take action in response to a report of dating violence.” Essentially, the athletic department failed to institute NCAA mandated procedures when handling sexual assault allegations against its student-athletes. Members of the football staff flat out allowed these players to remain part of their program despite being aware of their murky legal status. Not to mention the fact that both Ukwuachu and Oakman were transfer students recruited to play at Baylor after having legal trouble at their previous colleges.

There are several notable stakeholders in this particular case, listed in order from the largest group to single individuals. The football community as a whole was impacted by this case, because its current reputation of being rough individuals was further perpetuated by this issue. The Waco, Texas, community can
Current and former students at a rally to protest sexual assault
on the Baylor University campus
be considered a stakeholder of this case, because the safety of their citizens is now in question. Baylor University including its students, staff, and alumni were affected by this case, because of their inherent proximity to the issue. The football team, both players and staff, are stakeholders of this case, because they are directly involved with the problem. Specifically, head coach Art Briles and several members of his staff lost their jobs and had their reputation obliterated by this incident. Former University president Ken Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw, and several other Baylor staff members also lost their jobs, because of this problem. Last, but certainly not least, the women who were victims of these crimes had to suffer with little support from the University.

Individualism is an ethical theory primarily focused on Friedman’s Economic Theory. Individualists seek to make ethical decisions based on how they impact the finances and public opinion of the company. In this particular case the company in question is Baylor University and it is without
A well-circulated advertisement that appeared on several social media platforms
a doubt that the University was negatively affected both financially and in the court of public opinion. According to a financial analysis commissioned by Bears for Leadership Reform, a group of notable donors, the scandal will cost the school at least $223 million. These costs include legal fees, public relations costs, fines and sanctions, settlements with employees, and other costs associated with the scandal. Such a significant loss outweighs the revenue generated by the theoretical extra success brought to the team by improperly disciplining its players and allowing them to remain on the football roster. An individualist would recognize how these decisions negatively impacted the schools profit margin and would consequently rule the actions of the coaches and administrators as unethical.

Utilitarianism seeks to make decisions based on how the outcome will affect the happiness of the majority of the stakeholders involved. For this case, one must consider that during the years where
A happy group of Baylor fans cheering on the Bears football team
the misconduct was taking place that the success of the football program made basically every stakeholder happy. What must be evaluated is if that short-lived happiness outweighs the long term sorrow that comes with a highly publicized national scandal of this caliber. For the majority of the stakeholders it does not. Therefore, a utilitarian would claim that although there was a brief period of happiness for all those involved, the decisions made by the administrators and football staff members in question actually brought an immense amount of long term shame to the university. Therefore, their actions would be deemed unethical according to a utilitarian.

Kantianism is probably the most complicated of the four ethical theories discussed in this blog post. This school of thought is all about rationality and operating with goodwill. To evaluate decisions from a Kantian perspective, ethical theorists use the formula of humanity to assess decisions. This
A visual representation of the NCAA rule book, containing the bylaws
ignored by Baylor administrators and football staff members 
formula examines the relationship between the means and end result of one’s decision making process. In this particular case the administrators and football staff members knowingly took advantage of a flawed system at the expense of several young women who were assaulted by football players, all to win football games. The Kantian perspective would recognize that this is irrational, because clearly written NCAA rules were broken and individual rights were not respected. Subsequently, a Kantian would consider this case to be unethical.

Virtue Theory
Virtue Theory is in large part based on Aristotle’s Ethics. A virtue theorist considers the function and circumstances involved with a specific decision. Moreover, a virtue theorist looks at the four primary virtues when evaluating a decision. These four virtues are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice.
An image presented by ESPN's Outside The Lines,quoting
Briles in an interview following his termination as
head football coach at Baylor University
In this particular case the administrators and coaches in question certainly took a risk, but they did so on the wrong end of the courage-spectrum. They failed to stand for what was right and opted for the cowardice route that ultimately lead to their occupational demise. They obviously were not practicing honesty, as they intentionally misreported facts to their superiors. Their temperance was flawed, because they created a culture that failed to live up to the standards declared reasonable by the NCAA. Perhaps least virtuous of all, they did not comply whatsoever with the justice virtue. Their actions encouraged corner-cutting and discouraged hard work, while operating in a consistent state of unfairness towards the rest of the competition. It is for these reasons that a virtue theorists would consider this whole case as unethical.

Justified Ethics Evaluation 
As a college football player I understand why Baylor University administrators and football staff members broke the rules. The ultra-competitive environment fostered at the Division 1 level encourages smaller schools, like Baylor, to gain an edge wherever they can. It's the only way they can compete with juggernauts like Alabama, Michigan, and Notre Dame, who have more prominent programs that receive more funding and better resources. However, with the current climate in football at the collegiate and professional level, it's hard to comprehend how decision makers can allow this type of issue to go by the way side. "Sexual assault" and "football player" are appearing more frequently in news headlines across the country. Huge penalties are being levied on the programs and players involved in these types of cases and with that said, it's hard to see how these individuals thought their decisions were justified. 

Works Cited
Braziller, Zach. "'Horrifying' details of Baylor sexual assault scandal revealed." 28 October 2016. New York Post. 30 January 2017.

CBS News. "Baylor sex assault scandal far worse than previously disclosed." 31 October 2016. 30 January 2017.

Ellis, Zac. "A timeline of the Baylor sexual assault scandal." 26 May 2016. Sports Illustrated. 30 January 2017.

Kirk, Jason. "We finally know more about why Baylor fired Art Briles." 28 October 2016. SB Nation. 30 January 2017.

            Regents, Baylor University Board of. "The Facts." August 2016. Baylor University: Our 
Commitment. Our Response. 3 March 2017.

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