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Baylor prepares for protests
of Janet Reno’s campus visit

WACO, Texas (BP)–Baylor University officials are preparing for protests by conservative students and off-campus groups upset at the university’s decision to allow former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to speak at the President’s Forum on Sept. 13.

Reno, who recently announced her intention to run for governor of Florida, will address the importance of public service as well as share some reflections on the 1993 Branch Davidian standoff during the Baylor University President’s Forum, set for Sept. 13 at Ferrell Center.

Larry Brumley, associate vice president for external relations, said the university anticipates protests from both campus and off-campus groups. He declined to discuss additional security measures that may be enforced during Reno’s visit.

“Students will be allowed to protest within designated areas but they will have to make previous arrangements,” he said. “We won’t allow any protests inside the arena or on the property of the Ferrell Center.”

Chris Allen, state chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas, said he believes a large group of students will demonstrate against the former attorney general.

“We would like to encourage [Baylor President] Robert Sloan to check with Janet Reno before she comes to campus to make sure she approves of our religion,” Allen, a 2000 Baylor graduate, quipped. “We sure wouldn’t want her raiding the school or burning down the student center.

“We don’t want to embarrass the university but we do want to be there and let Janet Reno know that we don’t approve of her beliefs or her actions as attorney general,” Allen said.

“We want her to know that we haven’t forgotten about what happened at the Branch Davidian compound,” he added. “We will be respectful, though, and we will not boo her down.”

Brumley told Baptist Press Reno’s visit is intended to promote dialogue on campus.

“Inviting Janet Reno does not imply that the university supports her political views or lifestyle,” Brumley said. “We are a university.”

Brumley said Reno’s visit was initiated by her speaker’s bureau and the invitation was accepted after consulting with community leaders.

“There was a great deal of discussion about her visit,” Brumley said. “President Sloan met with community leaders and there was a consensus that despite some of the negative aspects, there was some potential good.

“For her to come to Waco and to make some comments about how things could have been handled better or acknowledge the pain it caused the community and the legacy it left, we believe that it was something worthwhile,” Brumley said.

Brumley said the annual speaker’s forum intentionally alternates between conservative and liberal speakers. The most recent conservative speaker was former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.

Reno’s planned visit to Baylor has caused a stir among the largely conservative student body, said John Drake, editor of the Baylor Lariat, the university’s student newspaper.

“There is a lot of anticipation that there could be protests and demonstrations,” Drake told Baptist Press. “We are a pretty conservative campus and we are expecting some backlash.”

Drake said the scheduled speech has received mixed reviews, but many students at Baylor are curious about Reno’s visit.

“To have someone this liberal on our campus is a little surprising,” Drake said. “People are really curious.”

Still, from a news standpoint, Drake said Reno’s appearance at Baylor is a big event. “We’re glad she’s here. It’s going to be a national event,” he said.

Reno’s visit also was the subject of a Lariat column written by Baylor student Will Shurley.

“… this speech could end up more like rubbing sandpaper and salt into barely healed slashes,” Shurley wrote. “Now, even Baylor University itself will be tied to the connotations created by the bloody raid and deadly inferno.”

In an interview with the Baylor Lariat, Brumley would not disclose how much Reno is being paid for the speaking engagement.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes