Friday, June 3, 2016

Will Chip Gaines be Next? (or Leadership is Lonely)

Robert and I had lunch together at our picnic table one day this week. Poor guy has been sick for over a week and has had laryngitis for six days now, so it was good to sit in the sunshine for a while, eating and chatting, which was a bit one sided, since he literally can't speak. Well, he can whisper, but even that is labored.

I was feeling so heavy hearted, because right before we walked outside I had read that Baylor's president resigned. This was only a couple of days after I read that Baylor's athletic director resigned. Two good men. Two men of integrity. One of whom I have known personally for about 15 years.  The other I have met in person and had a very special and meaningful conversation with.

"Chip Gaines will be next," I said, and the man without a voice choked out a laugh.

"No, I'm serious. I mean, as long as we're creating an atmosphere where upstanding men who love their university, and their town, and their jobs, and their God and have accomplished SO MUCH GOOD feel that they must resign, then surely Chip will be the next to go down. It only makes sense. And then at my funeral, you can tell everyone that I died of a broken heart, because that will be the final straw."

It may sound dramatic, but my true sentiments have not been far off. My heart is truly broken.

I think Robert whispered something about Jesus being worthy of life and worship beyond the Baylor scandal, and that He is sovereign over this whole thing anyway, but it honestly wasn't helping in that particular moment.

Apologies if you have no idea who I'm talking about, but I can't get this thing off my mind, and writing somehow helps remedy that. I would tell you to Google it, but I can tell you for certain that THAT will not give you an accurate account. I've even put off writing for a few days, because I know that "A tranquil heart gives life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones" (Proverbs 14:30) Believe me when I tell you that this passionate ISTJ has to use that verse often to pray and talk herself down.

Back in March this happened:

What I didn't mention in that Facebook post was that after the Vice President asked Kory what the Baylor administration could do better going forward and how students could be best reached with important information about protecting themselves and reporting incidents of sexual assault safely, Kory didn't answer right away.

Because he too has experienced the sting of criticism in the face of faithful leadership, Kory felt compelled to thank the man for his leadership on Baylor's campus. He told him how much he loves his school and how much the atmosphere on campus has caused him to grow as a student, a leader, a man, and above all, a Christian. He credited much of that to this man and to Baylor's president, Judge Ken Starr.

Can you guess what happened next? 

Those of you who have been in a similar situation might know exactly what happened next. Those of you who have been blamed for things you weren't directly involved in with no recourse. Those who've had your sincere efforts to lead people to growth and betterment rejected or mocked. Those who have had to make difficult decisions that outsiders would simply never understand, but which you could not defend or explain in order to protect others. Those of you who don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Those of you who serve faithfully, unnoticed and unappreciated because you love your Lord.

The man wept.

That's right. Tears streaming down his face. 

Probably tears of a release from stress for at least a few moments. Tears of gratitude. Tears of relief that at least one student acknowledged the difficulty of the job and appreciated it.

Do I believe some terrible things happened to young women at Baylor? Yes. Do I think justice should be done? Yes. Do I think similar and worse things have happened on other campuses? Oh, I KNOW they have. I've talked to the women myself. Do I think that many women put themselves at risk in romantic relationships? Absolutely. MUCH of the time in fact. (Again, I've spoken with them and heard the stories. They initiated things. They went to guys' apartments/dorm rooms/homes and took their clothes off, at times even when the guys could take them or leave them.) Am I blaming the women? Yes. Am I blaming the men? Yes. Do I think that even until the last possible moment the woman should be able to have her "no" honored? Yes. Have I watched the "Tea Consent" video? Yes. (I love it!) Do I think it's stupid for women to go alone, at night, to a guy's apartment, have a few drinks, and take her clothes off? Yes. Do I think the guy is still responsible if she does? Yes. Do I think some women lie? Yes. Do I think some men are violent, abusive, and narcissistic? Yes. Do I think leaders, coaches, bosses are sometimes at a loss and make mistakes that further harm the victims? Yes.

Would I enjoy trying to sort through all of these things as an administrator on the campus of a Christian University who happens to be winning a lot of football games and has a president who vigorously investigated a former president for sexual misconduct? No.

(Do I know that some of you reading this despise him and think him "one of the monumental sleazeballs of our era"? Yes. But I happen to like him. I wrote about meeting him here.)

Do I think Baylor is the perfect target for a scandal and media smear campaign? Yes.

Once, way back in our Texas youth ministry days, we took teenagers on a retreat which included a ropes course component. It was a faith-building and team building exercise, but one kid refused to participate.  Way too cool to climb up a telephone pole or walk a tightrope or jump for a trapeze or zip line to the next element, he sat on the ground and watched his peers try and do scary and seemingly impossible things.

But he didn't only sit and observe. He mocked. He laughed. He ridiculed the other teens when they expressed fear, slipped and fell, dangled from their harnesses, etc.

The youth pastor (a.k.a. Robert) said something like this: "Must be a nice view from the cheap seats."

But I get it. The captain goes down with the ship. It happened on their watch. Having authority implies accountability.

Kory interviewed Ian McCaw for a Leadership Night at Baylor. If anyone has modeled humble
 leadership and encouraged Kory's love for leadership aside from Robert, it's Ian.

I just think we ought to have a little more respect for those risking responsibility and stop scoffing at things we really don't know a whole lot about. Can we humble ourselves for a few moments and consider what it is like to be in those shoes?

I just hope none of the thousands of Magnolia employees ever do anything wrong in their own homes or interpersonal relationships and that Chip misses the email about it, because he's busy trying to lead a business and family. But you know what? That might happen. And the headlines might fly. And the columnists might rake him and his sweet family over the coals. And no one will really get down to brass tack truth, because we'd rather believe the lies. And the good and funny and beneficial things he's done might be forgotten in the blink of an eye. And then, if I survive this week, I really might die of a broken heart.


Will Joyce said...

I think Baylor would gain much more respect, admiration, and understanding among the outside community if it's response to this scandal showed more humility, introspection, and repentance. Instead, we've seen defensiveness, obfuscation, victim-blaming, and cries of persecution.

I don't know if the judgment of Baylor officials is fair or not, but their response to the accusations and findings of an independent investigation do not reflect, to me, the desire for truth and justice we should expect from an institution with a mission like Baylor's.

Melanie said...

Hi Will! First of all, congrats on your election. That is so great!

Thanks for reading my post and leaving a comment. I've been doing a fair amount of reading on this and haven't necessarily come across "defensiveness, obfuscation, victim-blaming, and cries of persecution." (Random alumni comments on Facebook, yes. But from the Baylor leadership, no.) Have you come across examples of these things from the men who have resigned or been terminated?

Though it was early in April, I appreciated this news article:

And this article seems to express apology and responsibility:

And honestly, I'm sure I am biased due to my personal experiences at Baylor and with these men who are in leadership there. I love the things that are happening on that campus and in and through the students and faculty there. Things which unfortunately get overlooked due to incidents like these.

Will Joyce said...

Thanks, Melanie; it's been a whirlwind so far. :)

Your personal knowledge of people and circumstances certainly gives you more insight than I have here. I have no doubt that these leaders have strong personal character and in many ways it's tragic to see what's happened to them. It can seem that relatively understandable misjudgments have been used to takedown a career's worth of good work.

At the same time, the BU community needs to understand the reality of how this situation looks to the outside world, and to recognize that this perception is also important and has some truth. We see high officials failing to protect victims of assault, and a culture in the athletics program that seems to let stars get away with actions others would not. We see allegations that have been made in the mainstream media and among fan groups for many years now, but denied by BU, being confirmed by independent investigations. We see a university with at least one major athletics scandal in its recent past fail recognize that it will always be under greater scrutiny.

As a Christian and a member of a Baptist church, it frustrates me to see the scorn BU's actions have brought on my faith because they didn't act fast enough and with the transparency and humility I would expect of church leaders in a similar circumstance.

There is absolutely an unfair level of condemnation of good men at BU in this situation. But it's difficult for me to conclude that they did not bring much of this on themselves.

Melanie said...

Thanks, Will. I get the frustration. I just don't think there's as much fault as the media makes it seem. I truly believe it's an unfair portrayal, but I could be wrong, and hopefully time will tell.