Professor Koller discusses sexual violence, athletics at Baylor

Professor Dionne Koller, director of UB’s Center for Sport and the Law, is quoted in a Friday, May 27 story in Inside Higher Ed about upheaval at Baylor University over its football program. An analysis commissioned by the Texas university found numerous cases in which reports of sexual violence by members of the football team were mishandled.

On Thursday, May 26, the university’s president, Kenneth W. Starr, was removed from his position, though he is to remain as Baylor’s chancellor and as a professor at the law school. The university’s football coach, Art Briles, was fired.

Earlier this month, Pepper Hamilton, a law firm hired by the university, presented a report to Baylor’s Board of Regents that blamed Starr and other administrators for the mishandling of allegations of sexual violence by football players.

Baylor, the world’s largest Baptist university, on Thursday released its “findings of fact” from the law firm’s investigation.

Wrote Inside Higher Ed: “The statement said that the firm ‘found examples of actions by university administrators that directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment.’ In one instance, the university said, ‘those actions constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.’”

But Starr, the former independent counsel whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton‘s impeachment by the House of Representatives in the Monica Lewinsky affair, was popular among many, including alumni. The Baylor football program had soared since 2010, when he became president, according to the article, which described the program’s rise as “meteoric.”

Nearly 2,000 Baylor alumni signed a petition demanding Starr remain as president, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The publication quoted an alumnus, who wrote, “I want to say that college football is a sport of second chances.”

Koller took issue with the notion of second chances when it comes to sexual violence and college athletics.

“Second chances appeal to our sense of fairness and justice,” Koller told Inside Higher Ed. “The problem with the ‘second chance,’ as it is commonly used in sports programs, and was seemingly used at Baylor, is that it appears to be more about privileging and protecting those in power, and not about promoting greater justice. A culture of ‘second chances’ where issues this serious are going on is really about avoiding bringing those responsible to justice. In this sense, the ‘second chance’ sends a message of entitlement — that those in the athletic power structure are above the rules.”

Learn more about Professor Koller.

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