Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to mention that Anderson pleaded no contest to unlawful restraint, not rape. The Mercury regrets this error.
I saw news of Jacob Walter Anderson’s alleged rape of “Donna Doe” on social media shortly after he was arrested. I felt a sinking feeling in my gut, worried that Anderson would be able to slide out of a courtroom like many before him. Instead, he found his way to UTD. Comets are“strong of will.” We “fight for right.” It’s not enough to deny Jacob Anderson the opportunity to walk at commencement. He violated another Baylor student and, given the opportunistic exploiter that he is, carefully bypassed the question of his criminal past by moving on from his crime before the dust could settle.
When Baylor officials lost their jobs in the wake of a series of swept-under-the-rug scandals and their Title IX coordinator alleging the university administration refused to allow her to do her job effectively, I had hope. Maybe Waco courts would do right by Donna, whose life was upended by Jacob’s crime. Maybe the national outcry after Stanford rapist Brock Turner’s slap on the wrist would result in a more meaningful trial. Maybe justice would be served. But Waco failed Donna. It costs $400 and a few counseling sessions to “unlawfully restrain” a woman in Waco.
When I read in a friend’s Facebook post that Jacob Anderson, who was indicted on four separate counts of sexual assault, was now a UTD student, I was disgusted. As a UTD alumnus, I am grieved to hear that we would allow a sexual predator on our campus. I have friends who are still at UTD. I even encouraged my younger sister to apply, and I was upset when she didn’t. Now? I’m glad she dodged the risk. UTD’s administration failed the current student body by allowing a violent predator continued access to potential victims until the allegations against him became public knowledge. FERPA laws may have prohibited Baylor from disclosing the nature of his expulsion, but they became public within a month of his arrest. A simple Google search would have revealed why he was expelled.
Our transfer program requires applicants to be“in good standing” with their previous university. Anderson was not transferring by choice – he was removed after a disciplinary investigation. There’s no way to read “in good standing” as “expelled for sexual assault.” He knowingly defied UTD’s admissions process. Many have suggested that if Anderson put in the work over the last two years, he should be allowed to graduate. Why? He entered our school under deceptive pretenses and hoped no one would connect his name with the headlines from Waco. These are not the marks of a student who lives up to our Code of Conduct.Will UTD’s administration now fail alumni by allowing Jacob Walter Anderson, an alleged rapist, to join their ranks?
This isn’t vigilantism. This is a call to protect our university’s name. We have a Code of Conduct to protect the student body not only for the four years we spend on campus – that Code helps guard the investment alumni have made in their degrees. It’s the standard we agreed to hold ourselves to, and the one in which we trust the university administration to hold future students.The graduation of Jacob Walter Anderson would represent a dereliction of that duty by the university administration.
So far, Anderson has been barred from campus and commencement. My sincere hope is that our university will not sully our respected name and devalue our degrees by allowing him to graduate. I would never want to sit across from an interviewer whose name-recognition of UTD was tied to “the school that accepted the accused rapist.”
Many of us came to UTD as kids, unsure if we’d belong, and found a home. We made lifelong friends, fell in love, participated in silly traditions and learned in classes. Earned our diplomas and began our careers. That’s the legacy of UTD in my life: one of friendship, new experiences and gaining knowledge in a safe environment. Let’s not tarnish that legacy — for me and countless other alumni — by allowing a sexual predator to exploit a loophole in the application process.
We can’t take back the injustice committed by Waco’s courts. But even though they failed Donna, UTD doesn’t have to fail her as well. We — as students, as an administration, as a university — must stop Anderson from stealing our school’s reputation and masquerading as a Comet.
Cody Owen received his undergraduate degree in historical studies from UTD in 2016.