David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

Supporting Baylor's "Cover-up"?

This past weekend I downed some coffee and perused the Dallas Morning News before heading to Waco for Homecoming football action at Baylor University. A headline in the Metro Section caught my eye.

SMU, Baylor bare souls over 'Playboy'
Dallas school won't fight photo shoot; Bears clothes-minded

The headline writers obviously had some fun with their jobs but the story was serious. Here is an excerpt from the piece written by DMN writer Michael E.Young.

Separated by 100 miles of interstate, the Southern Baptists' Baylor University and the United Methodists' SMU seem even farther apart when it comes to students posing in states of undress in a men's magazine. Southern Methodist University's approach is decidedly hands-off. When Playboy magazine photographers set up temporary shop next week near SMU for a "Girls of Conference USA" pictorial, they'll do so without university opposition.
"SMU is not a participant in or a proponent of this project, which is sponsored by an off-campus publication," said Kent Best, director of media and communications, in a prepared statement. "Any student's decision to participate is strictly between that student individually and the publication."
Playboy "will not be on campus," Mr. Best added. "It's an individual student's decision" whether to pose.
Not so at Baylor.
When Playboy ran a photo of four bikini-clad coeds and much of the membership of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity four years ago for a "Girls of the Big 12" spread, Baylor's administration quickly responded. School officials suspended the fraternity for a year and required the 50 or so students to perform community service. One student, who posed individually, was suspended.
Not again.
Playboy returned to Waco this spring for another Big 12 shoot. This time, Baylor made a pre-emptive strike.

Dr. Dub Oliver, vice president for student life, sent out a universitywide e-mail warning that posing for "a magazine that is clearly antithetical to Baylor's mission" would violate the school's code of conduct and be penalized accordingly. 

Regular readers of these humble ramblings know that I rarely use the all-caps blog weapon. But in this case it is merited.


Before I proceed I must issue a couple of disclaimers.

  1. I have three sons and two daughter-in-laws who are Baylor Bears. Two sons have graduated and one is currently enrolled at Baylor.
  2. I am friends with Dr.Dub Oliver.

I support Baylor on this issue for a number of reasons. But allow me to offer a few counterbalances to the disclaimers.

  1. I am not Baptist. So don’t think I am merely drinking the “Convention Kool-Aid”.
  2. I am not a pastor or professional Christian. I am a television sports director so I am all too well aware of “progressive” attitudes toward sexual issues.
  3. I regret to inform you that I was once a regular reader of this magazine so I am not speaking out of “self-righteous” ignorance.

I am so proud of Baylor University for having the courage to stand for their convictions and principles. I have sat with three sons during the student indoctrination sessions for Freshmen at Baylor. The leadership makes it extraordinarily clear what Baylor is and what the university expects from students. If you leave those sessions not understanding what Baylor stands for then you are likely not ready for college. The Student Handbook also makes it clear that Baylor has standards that make it unique. In the Student Handbook it straightforwardly states that  students must conduct themselves "in accordance with Christian principles as commonly perceived by Texas Baptists. Personal misconduct either on or off the campus by anyone connected with Baylor detracts from the Christian witness Baylor strives to present to the world and hinders full accomplishment of the mission of the university."

Such a strong stand may not make this university right for everyone. Baylor does not hide the light of it’s mission under a basket and why should that not be admired? I am a huge fan of accountability. There is no hidden agenda if you choose this university. When you enroll at Baylor you have not agreed to be a Christian but you have agreed to certain standards of conduct. I for one do not want a picture of a scantily clad young woman next to a Baylor pennant. There are over 1250 NCAA member schools. There are only a handful that would take the stand that Baylor has decided to take on this issue. Students who wish to appear in this magazine have 11 other choices in the Big 12 and several private school options in the North Texas area.
A columnist for the school newspaper presents this argument.

Our university is taking on an in loco parentis role by threatening to punish students who choose to pose in Playboy's Women of the Big 12 issue. The Student Policies and Procedures Web site states: "The provisions of the Student Policies and Procedures do not constitute a contract, express or implied, between Baylor University and any applicant, student, student's family, or faculty or staff member."

If these are merely guidelines and not a contract, how can they be enforced? Under this definition, they are merely suggestions. Christian students may decide against posing for moral reasons, but everyone has the right to make this decision personally.

I think the primary issue (and my main problem) here is that Playboy shamelessly markets the Big 12 conference and it’s member schools. A Baylor student who made a personal decision to appear in a photo shoot not related to the conference or university would be a different debate. This issue of the magazine clearly reflects on the conference and on Baylor. The columnist then proceeds with the obligatory disclaimer and then tips over the sacred cow of personal freedom.

I am not advocating pornography. I am simply advocating the right of a student to choose to participate in activities if they are of age. Some may feel these comments promote the objectification of women. This is not the case as I'm not saying Baylor women should jump at the chance to appear in the magazine. But they should make their own decision and not feel threatened by administrative action.

A student posing for Playboy has made a personal decision. The policy is only in place so students don't sully the university's reputation, and this isn't reason enough to infringe upon each of our personal freedoms.

Bully for you for not advocating pornography. Hope you are against meth amphetamines as well. Here are some counter arguments from a “loco” parent.

  1. You may certainly make your own decision about posing in this photo shoot. But then you will face the consequences of those actions. That is life.
  2. Students are not being threatened. They are being fairly warned about the consequences for their actions. You have total freedom to do what you want. You also have to deal with the implications of those decisions. Again, that is life.
  3. I would argue that posing in Playboy with the school logo displayed does, in fact, sully the university’s mission.

The magazine had this comment about another editorial from a female columnist at the school paper.

Some Baylor students believe the university overstepped its authority. But at least one, Lauren Burris, disagreed, claiming in the student newspaper that "there is no appreciation for women in the people who read this magazine. Actually, there is appreciation, but only in the most disturbing and sick manner. The men who look at these magazines don't look at your body and appreciate your mind or hard work ethic. They view you as a sex object."

Ouch. Lauren appears to have the uncanny ability to form an opinion about something without actually having read it. That's a great skill to have at college.

So allow me to defend Lauren. I have “read” the magazine. I do know why men read such magazines. And Lauren is exactly right. Incredibly, it is not for the articles! Any many who tries to rationalize that is disingenous at best and a liar at worst. Christian men should have no part of it. I am stunned by men who make threatening comments to young men that come to date their daughters and then go out and ogle and lust after the daughters of others. In New Man Magazine author Matthew Paul Turner writes that “pornography alters your view of humanity by objectifying people. And, it's almost impossible for a porn habit "not to affect the relationships you hold most dear."
That is truth. You can believe it now or find out, to your dismay, later.
I work in a secular and testosterone driven world. There may be a small percentage of men who can view these types of magazines and not lust. I have not met any of them yet. If you are that man would you join me for lunch (and bring along a lie detector)?

Our only daughter was born with a terminal birth defect. She would have been twenty-one this past March had she lived. She would have been, as the earlier writer flippantly stated, of age. Had she lived I would have encouraged her to attend Baylor University as one shining example of principle and integrity. A place that still believes in the quite outdated idea of virtue.
Baylor is not perfect. You will find all of the problems that you find at other universities and in life. But I believe you will find these problems in smaller percentages because of the clear vision, mission, and leadership at the school.

I am proud that my sons are Baylor men. That still means something special because Baylor University still stands for Christian values. Sic’em Bears! And don’t back down.


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