Rice University’s marching band used its halftime performance in a Friday night football game against Baylor University to mock Baylor’s recent sexual assault scandal.
Video uploaded to social media after the event shows Rice’s Marching Owl Band forming the Roman numeral IX, a reference to the Title IX ban on sexual discrimination, followed by a star and a rendition of the song “Hit the Road Jack,” in reference to the departure of university president and chancellor Ken Starr in the wake of the scandal.
A representative from Baylor was not immediately available on Saturday morning for comment on the halftime performance.
Rice University’s Office of Public Affairs released a statement on Saturday saying the Marching Owl Band has a tradition of satirizing Rice’s football opponents with performances that are not subject to prior review by the university administration. But the statement said Rice regretted any offense to the Baylor fans at the stadium in Houston and that the band did not mean to make light of the serious ongoing issues of sexual assault.
“Sexual assault is a matter of serious concern on campuses across the nation, and all of us have an obligation to address the matter with all the tools at our disposal,” the statement said. “The MOB sought to highlight the events at Baylor by satirizing the actions or inactions of the Baylor administration, but it is apparent from the comments of many spectators and Baylor fans that the MOB’s effort may have went too far.”
The scandal, involving multiple reports of football players being accused of rape with little or no action by the university, has rocked Baylor over the past several months.
A report commissioned by the university found that Baylor lacked proper procedures to address sexual assault complaints, arguing that university officials had “failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures, and that in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, or address its effects for individual complainants or the broader campus community.”
Pepper Hamilton, the law firm that conducted the investigation, also reported there were concerns among Baylor’s football program as it failed to identify a sexual violence pattern within football players. The report also suggests the program’s tone and culture should be accountable for athlete misconduct.
Starr was first reassigned from school president to law professor and chancellor in May amid the sexual assault scandals and the report filed by the Pepper Hamilton law firm. In June, he stepped down from the chancellor role, and in August he announced he was leaving the faculty, officially ending his tenure at Baylor.
This article was published in The Texas Tribune Sept. 17, 2016.