Several years ago I published Legal Street Smarts (Texas Edition) by Scot Courtney, a criminal defense attorney and collegiate rugby coach. It carried much information about just what constitutes sexual assault under Texas law.
I never expected to make much, if any, money, but released the book as part of Great Texas Line Press's socially conscious mission in hopes of curbing the sort of problems racking the Baylor University campus.
Authoritative, yet not preachy, the book despite good reviews was an over-the-top flop commercially. College students wouldn't fork over $9.95 for the book, and neither would their parents, who thought their kids were angels.
HEAD IN THE SAND
Every major college book store across Texas bought copies -- except Baylor's.
After inquiries, the Baylor book store manager made clear to me he did not want the title in his shop whatever the price.
I offered to donate hundreds of books to the Southern Baptist school's interim president, then the current president. I made a visit to the athletic department. Each time I got polite replies, but Baylor declined to accept free copies.
This week's news that Baylor had PR operatives infiltrate sexual assault survival groups so it could better frame its image-rehab efforts came as little surprise. Baylor keeps shooting itself in its collective foot, giving priority to image polishing and crafting winning teams than changing campus culture and protecting its students.
We felt so strongly about the issue that I suggested to Scot that he write an Op-Ed piece on what Baylor and other universities should do. The article, which appeared in the Houston Chronicle and the Waco Tribune-Herald, suggested:
"Schools can use freshman orientation programs and encourage social media, campus ministries, student-run radio programs and newspapers to make sexual aggression socially abhorrent, at the same time showing that actively intervening is admirable on so many levels.
"And why not make repairing the wrongs a university goal?
"In addition to the university's president or chancellor personally reaching out to the victim (instead of crisis PR advisers and image consultants), a school should make assurances that she will be emotionally and financially supported through graduation - even if there's the possibility of a lawsuit. How about providing each victim a faculty mentor, confidential counseling and extra time to reach educational goals? In short, do the right thing."
Not Giving Up
We are in talks with a private university to publish a customized version of Legal Street Smarts for its freshman orientation program.
In the last few weeks, book stores at private and state universities in North Texas gladly accepted hundreds of copies of Legal Street Smarts as giveaways for freshman buying their first textbooks. They went fast. Free is good. And hopefully it will do some good.
My offer to Baylor stands.