Cultivating Institutional Courage: Changing How Baylor University Responded to Sexual Assault by Athletes


In 2014, women students attending Baylor University began coming forward to report instances of sexual assault committed by Baylor athletes, specifically football athletes. These incidents sent Baylor University into the national spotlight over discussions about the role of athletics on a college campus. Baylor University’s case became nationally known shortly after Pennsylvania State University’s child sexual abuse case and just before Michigan State University’s case of sexual assault, both originating in athletic departments. The prevalence of similar instances of sexual harassment and abuse have become even more widely known in all areas of American life including the movie industry, television news, and government, with the #MeToo movement becoming more mainstream in 2017. Here, we examine Baylor University and its response to campus sexual assault and violence as a case of institutional betrayal, that is, the actions, and inactions, of Baylor University that exacerbated the traumatic experiences of their students.

In particular, this case highlights the incidents of sexual abuse on a college campus, how those in authority take deliberate actions or inaction that contribute to institutional betrayal, and how those who might otherwise speak up are silenced, further perpetuating trauma and potential for future assaults. Therefore, this case study seeks to help readers identify the correct course of action, that is, institutional courage, in responding to sexual assault.

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