One Year Later: Baylor Family Cites Failure of Leadership as Campus-wide Sexual Assault Scandal Lingers
May 26, 2017
WACO, Texas – John Eddie Williams, a member of the Baylor Class of ’76 and a 1978 Baylor Law School graduate, today issued the following statement on behalf of Bears for Leadership Reform (BLR) one year after the Baylor University Board Regents issued a scathing report detailing the University’s “fundamental failure” in handling allegations of sexual assault across the world’s largest Baptist campus:
“On this day one year ago, the Baylor Board of Regents made a big show in terminating the University’s president, athletic director and head football coach for a failure of leadership in handling numerous sexual assault allegations involving our campus community.
“In the “Findings of Fact” written by the Board of Regents last May, the University admitted that it failed victims of sexual assault by creating a culture and belief that sexual violence ‘doesn’t happen here,’ by failing to conduct adequate investigations of reports, by blaming the victims, and even by retaliating against victims for raising complaints of sexual assault.
“Baylor admitted that the conduct of these unnamed administrators and other officials had the effect of preventing complainants from receiving justice. But in a peculiar rejection of transparency and accountability, Regents have provided no specifics. The facts that gave rise to these admissions have never been revealed.
“Baylor has never assured its students or alumni that those responsible for the reprehensible Baylor culture have been removed from positions of leadership. There is good reason to believe that Baylor Regents continue to harbor those who turned a blind eye to sexual assault.
“Baylor Regents should use the occasion of the one year anniversary to stop and reflect on the immediate and long-term consequences of their own failure of leadership, tell the Baylor Family what really happened and whether changes in personnel and policy are adequate to protect victims, improve public safety, and ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
“We hope the new Baylor leadership, including incoming Board Chairman Joel Allison and incoming President Linda Livingstone, will help us resolve these important unanswered questions.”
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Documents: Baylor, Pepper Hamilton shifted relationship to establish attorney-client privilege
May 25, 2017
Midway through a nine-month probe into Baylor University’s institutional response to sexual violence, the investigating law firm and the university revised their legal relationship to, in anticipation of litigation, conceal the investigation’s most damning findings, documents filed in a Title IX lawsuit initiated by 10 alleged sexual assault victims state.
Communications between high-ranking Baylor officials and a Pepper Hamilton LLP attorney reflect the shift in relationship to establish attorney-client privilege around the investigation, which led to the firings of Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as head football coach.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in Wednesday’s filing argue Baylor’s release of pertinent information to the NCAA, the U.S. Department of Education, its accrediting agency and other investigators should cancel any attorney-client privilege and allow the information to be released in the discovery process for their suit.
The plaintiffs, former students who allege assaults between 2004 and 2016, are seeking documentation supporting a 13-page summary of the Pepper Hamilton investigation Baylor regents released one year ago. Between 2011 and 2014, according to that summary, university administrators and athletics department officials discouraged alleged victims from reporting their assaults.
“The basis for those findings, which are quite heinous, need to be known in order for us to proceed with our case,” said Jim Dunnam, a Waco attorney representing the women.
The motion includes a February 2016 letter from then-Pepper Hamilton attorney Gina Maisto Smith to Baylor regent David Harper, in which both parties agreed that the investigation’s findings and communications between them “are in anticipation of litigation and are privileged work product.”
Pepper Hamilton’s work constituted professional legal service to Baylor and is protected by attorney-client privilege, the letter goes on to say. The document is signed by Smith, Harper and now-Baylor General Counsel Chris Holmes.
The 8 biggest recent revelations in Baylor’s sexual assault scandal
Dallas Morning News
May 24, 2017
A full year has passed since Baylor was outed in its sexual assault scandal and subsequently parted ways with football coach Art Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw and school president Ken Starr.
Even as Baylor begins its rebuild – both in football recruiting and in rethinking its approach to sexual assault and dating violence – allegations of sexual assault and rape in the athletic department continue to mount.
Here’s a recap of the latest allegations against Baylor, what they mean and how the school got to this point:
1) The latest
This month, a seventh Title IX lawsuit was filed against Baylor.
A volleyball player referred to as Jane Doe says she was attending a party in February 2012 at an apartment where several football players lived. She said she became intoxicated and cannot recall portions of the night, but she remembers one football player picking her up and putting her in his vehicle. She was taken to another location where she says at least four football players raped her. Later, other people told her at least twice that as many as eight football players were involved.
Her mother later met with a Baylor assistant football coach at a Waco restaurant, providing names of players involved. And according to the filing, the players “admitted to ‘fooling around,’ calling it ‘just a little bit of playtime.'” They said the coach determined that the accusation was in a “gray area.”
In-depth book about Baylor rape cases to be published in fall
May 24, 2017
VIOLATED: Exposing Rape at Baylor University amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis by Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach is scheduled to hit the bookshelves August 22.
Center Street Books of Hachette Book Group announced Wednesday it will publish the novel written by the two award-winning ESPN investigative reporters.
Friday, May 26, marks the one-year anniversary since Baylor University released the findings of an investigation into the school’s handling of sexual assault complaints, which led to the firings of former head football coach Art Briles and former university president Ken Starr, and resignation of Athletic Director Ian McCaw.
Big 12 review into Baylor reform to pick up in June
May 7, 2017
In February, the Big 12’s Board of Directors took an odd step to withhold 25 percent of the Bears’ conference revenue pending a satisfactory review of the school’s procedures following the sexual assault scandal that pushed out Art Briles, Ian McCaw and Ken Starr.
“By taking these actions the Board desires to ensure that the changes that were promised are actually made and that systems are in place to avoid future problems,” Big 12 board chairman and Oklahoma president David Boren said at the time. “The proportional withholding of revenue distribution payments will be in effect until the Board has determined that Baylor is in compliance with Conference bylaws and regulations as well as all components of Title IX.”
Three months have passed since then, so where does that review stand?
According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby‘s comments at the league’s meetings in Phoenix this week, not much has been done. But there’s a reason for that.
Baylor has, of course, hired a new AD in Mack Rhoades and a new football coach in Matt Rhule, and the third key leadership post has been hired but is not yet in place. School president Linda Livingstone starts June 1. And with that in mind, the Big 12 will begin to expect answers from Baylor after Livingstone has started her new job.
Royce Starnes, guest columnist: New Baylor presidency doesn’t negate unanswered questions
Op-Ed: Waco Tribune-Herald
May 6, 2017
Many in the Baylor University community who are understandably weary of nearly two years of continuous public embarrassment, nationwide scorn and ridicule will see Dr. Linda Livingstone’s appointment as president as a signal that we can finally move forward again. Yet I say: “Not so fast. We still have unfinished business that needs tending.”
Which brings me to Baylor University regent Cary Gray’s April 22 column in the Waco Tribune-Herald — one voicing strong resistance to determined state legislative efforts to force the Baylor University Board of Regents to hold open governance meetings — and an equally resolute rebuttal offered by Baylor Line Foundation President Fred R. Norton.
Norton’s statement that Gray’s column “indicates a startling lack of accountability” is absolutely true. Even after incurring more than $220 million in estimated settlement costs and legal fees, as well as through donations now being withheld and unknowable additional costs linked to the university’s damaged reputation, not to mention the pain and suffering of sexual-assault victims over a nearly five-year period — even after all this, not a single member of the Board of Regents has been held accountable for what happened on their watch.
Anyone who does not believe that at least some of the BU regents played a significant role in creating this mess is a fool. How else can one explain how quickly the regents caved during settlement negotiations with fired head football coach Art Briles? How else does one explain the regents’ steadfast refusal to provide honest answers to the fundamental questions of: What happened? Who knew about it and when did they know it? What did they do, or not do, when they got this information?
Senate Bill 1092 — legislation to compel open board meetings at private universities receiving at least $9 million in taxpayer-funded tuition equalization grants for low-income college students (in other words, Baylor) — would not be under consideration if the Board of Regents had simply come clean with all the facts when this first started to come to light. Now we are left to wonder what else is still unknown. What else might we discover about the past, or about what may still be going on? What other dark things are in our future? Is Baylor’s accreditation at risk? Will there be more public spectacle when people wearing badges start delivering subpoenas to members of the Baylor University Board of Regents?
And, as Norton asks in his broadly issued statement of April 24, how might things have been different if there had been more transparency in how the BOR conducts business and if we had a different way of selecting our leaders?
Waco: Dept. of Education opens new investigation of Baylor
May 3, 2017
The U.S. Department of Education is opening a new investigation of Baylor, this time focused on the school’s crime reporting process.
In a message sent to the school’s faculty and staff, Vice President for Facilities and Operations Brian Nicholson said, “Baylor has extended our full cooperation with this DOE review, as it provides another opportunity to demonstrate the significant enhancements that have been made within the Baylor University Police Department and the Department of Public Safety for the benefit of our students, faculty, staff and guests, as well as in the administration of the Clery Act.”
The department will review Baylor’s annual Fire Safety and Security reports which include the university’s drug and alcohol abuse prevention program.
“This is a comprehensive process that will take a significant amount of time to complete,” Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jason Cook said Wednesday.
Federal judge denies Baylor motion in “Jane Doe” lawsuit
May 1, 2017
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman denied an appeal Monday on behalf of Baylor University asking the judge to allow the university to appeal to a higher court to have multiple Title IX complaints thrown out before a trial is held.
The judge says the request by Baylor, which was denied, is reserved for “exceptional” cases.
“We’re pleased that we’re not going to have any further delay,” Waco attorney Jim Dunnam told KWTX. “We can now move forward and get these young women their day in court.”
On March 7, Pitman ruled that some of the causes of the action for the 10 Jane Doe plaintiffs Dunnam represents could be thrown out, but none of the plaintiffs was dismissed from the case.
On March 24, Baylor responded by filing a motion called an “interlocutory appeal,” seeking to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans now, rather than wait until after a trial to appeal.
All 10 of the Jane Does allege that they were sexually assaulted while students at Baylor and that the school did nothing or almost nothing in response to the reports when they sought the school’s assistance and protection.
Mark White, Don Adams, guest columnists: Time to open up Baylor regent conclave to frustrated alumni, public
Op-Ed: Waco Tribune-Herald
April 29, 2017
In 1913, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis introduced the idea that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Last week that shining idea of transparency took on added local significance when Baylor University regent Cary Gray dared to defend the university’s unrelenting cloak of secrecy in response to dozens of alleged sexual and domestic assaults involving Baylor students.
In a column in Sunday’s Waco Tribune-Herald, Mr. Gray argued against legislation authored by Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger that would require regents to hold open meetings and make certain records available to the public for the first time in the institution’s 172-year history. Mr. Gray claims Baylor’s legal risks would increase if board deliberations are conducted in public view.
Maybe he knows something we don’t know about those secret deliberations. But open meetings don’t create liability, bad decisions do. Baylor is where it is — having admittedly violated federal Title IX procedures, enabled sexual assault and now facing a tidal wave of litigation — because of decisions regents made in the darkness of the Baylor boardroom. Mr. Gray’s attitude is part of the problem and it’s time for those who defend Baylor’s policy of secrecy to step aside. Regents instead are working overtime to kill Sen. Seliger’s bill and any effort to shed light on regency actions. Unfortunately, such an accounting is precisely what might enable Baylor to finally move past this scandal.
Regent Gray and others in board leadership have struggled mightily to conceal their role in this explosive scandal. Here’s a partial accounting: There are several pending lawsuits, a Texas Rangers investigation, a Title IX investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a Big XII review of campus reforms and an NCAA inquiry. Even the university’s accreditation agency has put Baylor on notice.
These indict more than a troubled football program, reflecting an institution-wide problem in training, protocols, funding and sufficient scrutiny by leadership. Baylor’s lack of leadership allowed three years to pass without a full-time Title IX office after federal guidance in 2011 clearly suggested this need to all universities and colleges. Add to this mix allegations of hidden police reports and a secret regent athletic committee that the inquiring Pepper Hamilton law firm described as operating beyond the scope of proper responsibility.
To date, an estimated $25 million in severance has been paid to ensure silence, despite supposed justification by Baylor for firing certain individuals with cause. Moreover, regents have allowed the person in charge of public safety during this crisis to not only keep his job but also be given new oversight over Title IX. This has led to resignations, accusations and dysfunction. Amidst all this, the Baylor Board of Regents has not held itself accountable in any way…
Sen. Seliger’s open-meetings bill (SB 1092) offers a rare opportunity to take a meaningful step toward frank and informed discussions of university business. Public universities have thrived under Texas open-meetings statutes for more than 40 years. There’s no reason why these sorts of open discussions wouldn’t foster a more informed, engaged and inclusive Baylor community…
Statement on Baylor University’s New President
Bears for Leadership Reform
April 18, 2017
Houston Attorney John Eddie Williams, a member of the Baylor Class of ’76 and a 1978 Baylor Law School graduate, issued the following statement on behalf of Bears for Leadership Reform (BLR) in response to the announcement of Dr. Linda Livingstone to be the next president of the 170-year-old Baptist campus:
The Baylor Family congratulates Dr. Linda Livingstone on being named president of Baylor University. Baylor has a special place in our hearts. It is in desperate need of reform. We believe Dr. Livingstone can play an instrumental role in that process.
We welcome Dr. Livingstone back home to Baylor where she was a beloved teacher, and we look forward to working closely with her to ensure positive reforms are made so that the Baylor Family can heal and move forward.
Bill Whitaker: Baylor alumni, donors and now state lawmakers ramming university regents’ door
April 8, 2017
Last week Bears for Leadership Reform joined calls to legally force Baylor University to throw open the doors of its long-cloistered regents meetings. The group of BU alumni, donors and past regents formed amid controversy over Baylor’s questionable handling of sexual-assault cases and governance decisions. And now it has backed state legislation that would use Tuition Equalization Grants to strategically strike at embattled Baylor leadership.
Admittedly, Bears for Leadership Reform chose a bizarre way to do this, calling on regents to support the legislation. That’s like asking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to support transparency regarding his use of chemical weapons. But then requests for transparency over many months have come to little while matters have worsened.
“Every week we’re seeing new accusations, new leaks,” BLR President and major Baylor donor John Eddie Williams said. “It’s a drip-drip-drip of bad news with no end in sight. We find ourselves in a situation where we have a Texas Rangers investigation [of Baylor] in Waco, we have Title IX investigators [from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights] on campus, we have the accreditation agency looking into issues at Baylor, we have several bills in front of the Texas Legislature calling for open meetings and then we have lawsuits where the depositions and discovery should begin soon and even more lawsuits possible on the horizon….”
Now ongoing calamity at Baylor is fueling a gutsy legislative proposal to end closed governance meetings there and elsewhere. That can’t make Baylor too popular among private universities. As shrewdly written, the bill requires such transparency only of Baylor — Texas’ oldest continually operating institution of higher learning — and University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, which just happened to fall within the legislation’s narrow and punishing parameters. But that could well change.
Last month’s Senate Higher Education Committee hearing was ostensibly focused on state Sen. Kel Seliger’s bill demanding private universities and colleges accepting more than $5 million annually in Tuition Equalization Grants have governance meetings open to the public — in short, Baylor and UIW. However, the hearing quickly became an inquisition over Baylor’s handling of its sexual-assault controversy, all directed at its interim, low-key president, David Garland, whose explanations were peppered with nervous reminders he was not privy to the Pepper Hamilton law firm’s now-infamous oral presentation of its investigation to regents. He mentioned he was on sabbatical during much of the time in question.
From the outset, Seliger has made clear his legislation is all about Baylor regents’ reluctance to furnish sufficient accountability for their actions in matters directly involving students and public safety. Criticism focused not only on regents’ May 2016 decision to remove a winning head football coach, athletic staffers and a popular president after the Pepper Hamilton report but also on whether other officials contributing to the scandal were still working on campus. Key thrust: Regents’ closed-door meetings had contributed mightily to Baylor’s widening problems.
“If these meetings had been open to the public in the past,” Seliger thundered, “maybe some of the things we read about today might not have taken place….”
Bears for Leadership Reform supports open meetings legislation
April 6, 2017
“Let the truth come out,” John Eddie Williams, a Houston lawyer and president of Bears for Leadership Reform, said in a teleconference announcing the letter his group sent to Baylor’s board.
Regents have “squandered precious resources” that could have benefitted students in an effort to maintain the board’s “cloak of secrecy,” said Williams, a major donor to Baylor, for whom the school’s football field is named.
Williams and others—including Temple businessman and major Baylor donor Drayton McLane and former Gov. Mark White—organized Bears for Leadership Reform last November.
Randy Ferguson, a former Baylor regent who serves on the Bears for Leadership Reform board, pointed to the recommendations from the Pepper Hamilton law firm that investigated Baylor’s response to sexual assault complaints.
He noted the recommendations included governance issues not addressed in the regents-produced Findings of Fact, and asked why the board did not choose to include any information about its own failures in the document.
“Is this why the Findings of Fact came from the board instead of Pepper Hamilton?” Ferguson asked. “It really begs the question: Is this intentional? Could it be an intentional cover-up just to protect certain board members?”
Ferguson called on regents to answer several questions:
- What are the “actual or perceived conflicts of interests” alluded to in the recommendations?
- How have board members’ conflicts of interest affected the victims of the sexual-abuse tragedy at Baylor?
- Did the conflicts of interest constitute a breach of board members’ fiduciary responsibilities?
- Who are the board members—past and present—with conflicts of interests?
- Has the board failed to exercise due diligence standards in selecting current or former board members?
- Who are the regents who failed to exercise due diligence in board member selection?
- Which regents—past and present—were elected outside of due diligence standards?
“Doesn’t the Baylor Family have the right to know the answers to these questions?” Ferguson asked.
“In our opinion, the failure of leadership described in the (Pepper Hamilton) recommendations is enough to suggest a serious breach of fiduciary responsibility on the part of the leaders of the board of regents,” the letter from Bears for Leadership Reform said.
“The failure of leadership has had a profound impact on the victims of this tragedy and the reputation of Baylor. Indeed, Baylor has become the national poster child for sexual assault on campus, due to the lack of proper programs, policies and procedures. More significantly, the board is an example of how failed leadership that operates and deliberates in secret can allow a scandal to continue to engulf a university.”
Baylor scandal inspires raft of Texas campus assault bills
April 5, 2017
Texas lawmakers are pushing for tougher sexual assault reporting requirements on college campuses in response to the ongoing investigations into Baylor University’s handling of sexual assault allegations involving its football program.
The Legislature convenes every other year and is in session for the first time since the Baylor scandal blew up and led to the firing last year of its successful football coach, Art Briles, and the resignation of its president, Ken Starr.
The nation’s largest Baptist university is facing federal lawsuits from more than a dozen women who contend that school officials ignored or suppressed their sexual assault claims and fostered a culture of rape within the football program.
Lawmakers have reacted by proposing bills that would require school employees and student leaders to immediately relay reports of assaults to the school’s investigations office or face possible criminal charges or expulsion, bar schools from using student conduct code violations to intimidate victims and witnesses, and make it easier to report assaults anonymously and online.
“It’s time we changed the culture on college campuses,” said state Sen. Joan Huffman a former prosecutor and judge from Houston. “Texas must lead the way on this issue.”
No surprise that state lawmakers don’t buy Baylor’s sexual assault defense
Editorial Board: Dallas Morning News
April 3, 2017
That’s Baylor University’s feeble excuse for not requesting a written report into the campus’ sexual assault scandal.
Almost a year later, questions only boil, most recently during a hearing before the state Senate’s Higher Education Committee.
And just think, in the time since regents heard the findings, Pepper Hamilton could have completed that written report of fact-based evidence almost twice over.
We understand the frustration of Austin lawmakers who were thwarted in getting many questions answered last week by Baylor’s interim president. But remember that David Garland didn’t even hear the Pepper Hamilton presentation, so his litany of “I don’t know” and “I wasn’t there” was unsurprising.
Baylor leaders seem oblivious to the fact that credibility isn’t built on repeated use of the word “transparency” but rather on answers that demonstrate that value in action.
At one point, as Garland argued that Baylor was not trying to “cover up what happened,” Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, responded: “I don’t buy that for a minute. I think that is exactly what was going on.”
State lawmakers are troubled by the same nagging questions raised by victims-rights advocates, Baylor alumni and this newspaper: Why no written report? Why have several key administration officials managed to keep their jobs? Why do the regents seem less than forthcoming?
The Senate committee’s grilling of Garland came during his testimony against a bill that would require any school receiving more than $5 million in Tuition Equalization Grants from Texas to comply with state open records and open meetings laws.
Frustrated Texas senators call for transparency from Baylor after rape scandal
March 29, 2017
A Texas Senate panel on Wednesday lambasted Baylor University over its recent sexual assault scandal and pondered taking the dramatic step of requiring the private university to comply with state open records laws.
At a Senate Higher Education Committee hearing, senators peppered Baylor’s interim president, David Garland, with questions about whether the university worked to cover up or failed to properly respond to numerous accusations of rape by football players and other students. Senators also questioned why some people who appeared to be involved in the scandal have been allowed to keep their jobs or administrative titles at the school.
Garland pushed back against those complaints, saying the school is “trying to be transparent.”
“We were not trying to cover up what happened at Baylor,” he said.
Senators weren’t convinced.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that for a minute,” Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, told Garland, repeating himself for emphasis. “I don’t buy that for a minute. I think that is exactly what was going on.”
Garland had come to the Capitol to testify against a bill filed by Seliger, who chairs the Higher Education Committee. The bill seeks to require any school that receives more than $5 million in Tuition Equalization Grants from the state to comply with state open records and open meetings laws. Only two schools in Texas meet that threshold — Baylor and the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
Seliger said the situation at Baylor “is exactly why this bill was filed.”
But while the open records bill was ostensibly the main focus of the hearing, the conversation soon veered to broader frustrations. Senators asked why the law firm hired to investigate the scandal for the university, Pepper Hamilton, never produced a written report. They asked why the administrator in charge of judicial proceedings at the school — Bethany McCraw — remains in her job, even though her office had failed to take action against numerous male students accused of rape. And they expressed suspicion about whether there had been full transparency regarding the involvement of Baylor’s board of regents in the scandal.
Baylor moves to dismiss Title IX lawsuit alleging 52 rapes by 31 football players
March 28, 2017
Baylor University on Tuesday moved to dismiss the lawsuit of an alleged gang rape victim who claims the school’s football program had “the most widespread culture of sexual violence and abuse of women ever in a collegiate athletic program.”
In a response to the Title IX lawsuit filed in January, Baylor said the plaintiff’s allegations are barred by a two-year statute of limitations.
The plaintiff’s Title IX claim also fails because her allegations do not rise to the level of “deliberate indifference,” according to the university’s filing.
The former student, who filed the suit under a pseudonym, said she is the victim of an alleged 2013 gang rape committed by then-football players Tre’Von Armstead and Shamycheal “Myke” Chatman.
Armstead and Chatman were both arrested last week and have been indicted.
The university also pushed back on the suit’s claims alleging a widespread culture of sexual violence including 52 rapes committed by 31 football players between 2011 and 2014. The suit also states that members of a female hostess program called the Baylor Bruins were expected to have sex with potential recruits of the football program.
Lawyer asks judge to issue order for evidence in BU scandal
March 28, 2017
A Waco lawyer has filed a request with the federal court that could result in the Baylor Board of Regents and its law firm having to turn over documents that relate to the extensive review of the school’s handling of sexual assaults involving athletes.
Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, represents several “Jane Doe” clients who have filed lawsuits against Baylor University.
He is asking for an order that would require regents and the Pepper Hamilton Law Firm, of Philadelphia to turn over all documents, recordings and electronic communications that relate to the Pepper Hamilton investigation into sexual assaults on the campus and all responses from regents to the law firm investigators.
Dunnam represents 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the university.
“Every time you see them in the news Baylor’s board says they’re being transparent,” Dunnam said.
“We’re beginning the discovery phase now and we need to get that information,” Dunnam said.
Baylor scandal sparks effort to end sexual assault statewide
The Texas Tribune
March 28, 2017
While sexual assault on college campuses isn’t a new issue at the Capitol, legislators from both parties say the recent scandal at Baylor University has sparked abipartisan effort to address the issue at the state level.
One Baylor alum, state Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, has filed a package of legislation aimed at fighting sexual assault on college campuses. Another, state Rep. Jeff Leach — a Republican from Plano — is carrying two of Watson’s five bills in the House and told The Texas Tribune the events at Baylor were “certainly something that motivated and propelled me to delve into these issues.”
Leach said he and other state officials with Baylor ties have been “communicating on a regular basis on what we could do to address it.” And they’ve consulted with Baylor officials before and during the legislative session, according to a Baylor spokeswoman.
Jane Does seek materials from Pepper Hamilton in Title IX lawsuit
March 27, 2017
Calls by Baylor University constituents for the school to be more transparent have flooded in during the unfolding sexual assault scandal that has enveloped the university for more than a year and a half.
However, the lawyers for 10 women who were assaulted while students at Baylor hope that if the school won’t listen to prominent donors, a former board chairman, a former Baylor president or distinguished alumni, they will listen to a federal judge.
Jim Dunnam and Chad Dunn, who represent 10 women known in their federal Title IX lawsuit only as Jane Does 1 through 10, filed notice Friday to subpoena materials from Pepper Hamilton, the Philadelphia law firm that conducted a nine-month investigation into how Baylor handled reports of sexual assault, including several against members of the Baylor football team.
Starr reflects on Baylor years and tumultuous end to presidency in new book
March 8, 2017
In a wide-ranging interview, former Baylor University President Ken Starr said he thinks former head football coach Art Briles is “an honorable man,” while also saying a need remains for full transparency regarding the school’s damaging sexual assault scandal.
Starr also said he expected a more comprehensive report from the law firm that investigated Baylor’s institutional response to sexual violence, and he voiced concerns about federal interpretations of Title IX during President Barack Obama’s tenure.
Starr’s new book, “Bear Country: The Baylor Story,” was released this week. He called it “a love story to and about Baylor.”
Starr was removed as president in May after Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP found “fundamental failure” in the school’s Title IX implementation, regents reported in a 13-page “Findings of Fact” document. Briles also was fired amid the tumult.
“However, we don’t have all the facts. We have these email and text messages (made public through a legal filing by regents earlier this year), and I don’t know how to assess them. I’ve always been of the view that you need to have all the facts and then you assess them. So it would be my hope that we have all the facts because we need to have transparency. We need to have truth out there so we can come to informed judgments.”
Texas Rangers launch Baylor investigation
March 1, 2017
The Texas Rangers have launched a preliminary investigation of sexual assaults at Baylor.
The Department of Public Safety issued a statement in which it said, “The Texas Rangers are working with the local prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if further action is warranted.”
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said the Rangers have been working with his office “to review any information obtained from Baylor University for the presence of any potential criminal conduct.
“Baylor has already cooperated and been providing our office information regarding specific instances of sexual assaults, ” he said.
“We are now going to sit down with Baylor, through their office of general counsel, and discuss the disclosure of the information referenced in the Pepper Hamilton report. The Texas Rangers have been kept in the loop of these communications,” he said.
Texas lawmakers call for financial sanctions in response to Baylor rape scandal
27 February 2017
A group of Democratic state representatives on Monday called for financial sanctions and a criminal investigation into how Baylor University handled widespread allegations of rape against football players and other students in recent years.
“What has happened at Baylor is so far different than any university in the state,” said Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio. “We can’t stop bad things from happening, but we sure as hell can demand accountability and we sure as hell can demand that people protect our children.”
Baylor responds to legislator’s request for investigation into sexual assault scandal
Dallas Morning News
27 February 2017
AUSTIN — Three days after a state representative filed a resolution calling for an investigation by the Texas Rangers into the Baylor sexual assault scandal, the university said it would cooperate with an investigation.
“Baylor University renews its pledge to extend our full cooperation with governmental and law enforcement authorities surrounding the issue of sexual assaults that occurred within our campus community several years ago, as we have done with other external inquiries that are currently underway,” the university said in a written statement Monday.
EDITORIAL: Coach Mulkey’s anger is one part of Baylor’s festering frustration over scandal
27 February 2017
No doubt excited by her 500th coaching win and the Baylor Lady Bears’ Big 12 Championship following a pummeling of the Red Raiders Saturday, Lady Bears Coach Kim Mulkey abruptly offered an unvarnished defense of Baylor University amid furor over a plague of sexual assaults. If she meant to provoke, she got her wish.
Likely referring to fiery ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith and others advising parents against sending their daughters to Baylor, Mulkey declared: “If somebody around you ever says, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face. Because these kids [Lady Bears athletes] are on campus and I work here and my daughter went to school here and it’s the damn best school in America.”
BU reform group wants legal fee answers; sets scandal cost at $220M
February 24, 2017
A reform group formed in the wake of Baylor’s sexual assault scandal is demanding to know how much the university is paying a Texas defense attorney and another law firm the school has hired to continue the work of implementing recommendations from the Pepper Hamilton firm, which investigated the university’s handling of sexual assault reports.
The university responded that it’s defending itself “appropriately in litigation” and that it’s on a sound financial footing.
Bears for Leadership Reform said in a press release Thursday it wants to know how much the school is paying the Philadelphia law firm Cozen O’Connor and Houston defense attorney Rusty Hardin.
“By most estimates, the events of the last year will cost Baylor University at least $223 million – not to mention the immeasurable damage to our school’s reputation and the value of our degrees,” Bears for Leadership Reform President John Eddie Williams.
““With $223 million, Baylor could provide 1,408 four-year, full-tuition scholarships and over three years of rent-free housing to all undergraduate students,” Williams said.
Bears for Leadership Reform says that Hardin frequently charges hourly fees in excess of $1,100, adding that In November 2013, he charged more than $1,300 to produce a single email for the University of Texas System and a legislative committee investigating former UT Regent Wallace Hall.
Reform group seeks figures for Baylor’s legal fees
February 23, 2017
A group of alumni, students and faculty known as Bears for Leadership Reform on Thursday criticized Baylor’s decision to hire more attorneys to represent the university and demanded that regents disclose legal fees associated with the new firms.
Baylor Board Chairman Ron Murff did not return phone messages Thursday. Regent Cary Gray, of Houston, deferred comment to the Baylor public relations department.
“Baylor University and our volunteer regent leadership will take reasonable steps to address concerns that have been raised over the past year, and we will defend ourselves appropriately in litigation,” Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman wrote in an email. “(Interim President David) Garland stressed the current financial strength of the university following last Friday’s board of regents meeting.”
Regents recently hired Philadelphia law firm Cozen O’Connor and Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, and BLR officials want to know how much it will cost the university.
Baylor Family criticizes hiring of Philly law firm, Houston attorney by university
February 23, 2017
WACO – Members of the Baylor Family are criticizing the university’s Board of Regents for hiring another outside law firm and a high-priced criminal defense attorney to represent the institution in the yearlong, campus-wide sexual and domestic assault scandal.
In a statement from the Bears for Leadership Reform Thursday, the organization is demanding disclosure of legal fees associated with the hiring of Philadelphia law firm Cozen O-Connor and Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Rusty Hardin.
EDITORIAL: Baylor regent reforms useful if part of a major transformational shift
February 18, 2017
After months of questions, protest and criticism regarding its role in addressing a plague of sexual assaults, the embattled Baylor University Board of Regents moved Friday to what some might call greater transparency, others might dismiss as mere formalities only hinting at it. Still, in the overarching picture of this sprawling scandal, regents’ vote under alumni pressure to adopt governance reforms at least indicates they recognized the need to do something.
So long as they understand that their limited steps last week are but a beginning to broader governance reform and the sort of transparency that helps put to rest so many rumors and questions festering among alumni, donors, parents and the press, we welcome regents’ action. But if regents demonstrate little resolve in practicing these reforms passionately, if they show even less resolve in explaining the actions that drove their decisions on May 26, 2016, the hard feelings and misunderstandings will continue.
Regents attending the Baylor Line Foundation’s town-hall meeting last Wednesday night got an angry earful from 150 or so alumni churning over the scandal that threatens this Christian institution’s worthy athletic and academic aspirations. One alumnus even suggested state officials step in and put Baylor into receivership so it can be reconstituted. You know things are bad when someone thinks politicians can help make things better.
The three alumni-elected regents who showed up more or less had to be there, given that the Baylor Line Foundation celebrated their elections last June. But regents Jennifer Elrod, a respected U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and Mark Rountree, a tax accountant, did not have to attend. Yet there they were, busily scribbling notes as questions were raised, solutions proposed and criticism hurled.
By Thursday, Bears for Leadership Reform — a group of prominent alumni and donors who have aggressively pressed for more about the sexual-assault scandal and have lambasted regent leadership — asked the board to postpone its vote on governance reforms “to try to find some middle ground between [regents] and Bears for Leadership Reform.” That idea unfortunately fell on deaf regency ears.
Update: Baylor tries to boost transparency after sexual assault scandal
Dallas Morning News
February 17, 2017
WACO — Top Baylor officials offered a rare update on their efforts to reform a university under siege Friday, as the school’s protracted sexual assault scandal hit its 18-month mark.
Baylor has responded to 85 of the 105 recommendations laid out by the law firm Pepper Hamilton, which unveiled Baylor’s failure to respond to sexual assaults last year, interim President David E. Garland said.
Baylor has seen a “small drop” in donations since the scandal, he said, but the number of people contributing annually has actually increased — to more than 13,500.
The board of regents, which governs the school, has made changes that chairman Ron Murff said would make Baylor’s leadership “one of the most responsive and transparent of any major private university.” At the same time, Murff dug in his heels on one of the most controversial aspects of the Pepper Hamilton investigation and said the board was unlikely to ask the law firm to create a much-demanded written report.
“The important thing is we’re focused on moving forward,” Murff said.
Their comments came during two short press conferences during and after a board of regents meeting Friday. It was the first time Baylor, a private university, hosted the media on site during a board meeting.
The event was a marked change in tone for Baylor, which has been under attack for its secretive handling of the sexual assault scandal. But it may not be enough for the school’s most vocal critics, who want top-to-bottom reform.
“What transparency?” John Eddie Williams, a major donor and president of the Bears for Leadership Reform group, said Friday.
Baylor regents approve governance changes (Some would say dosen’t go far enough)
February 17, 2017
WACO—Baylor University regents approved governance changes that increase the size of its executive committee, create a task force for regent selection and grant voting rights to regents who represent certain constituencies.
However, the changes did not include opening board meetings to the public or loosening restrictions on what regents other than the chair can say about board meetings.
Regents also heard an update from the search committee seeking the university’s next president. Ron Murff, chair of the board of regents, noted the committee hopes to have a candidate to recommend before the end of the semester, and regents hope the new president can begin work by June 1.
Murff characterized the board discussion about the governance proposals, presented by an ad hoc governance-review task force, as “robust” and the vote as “overwhelmingly positive.”
“It was in full open session, with both voting and nonvoting regents present, along with members of the administration,” he said.
“Combined with the changes we’ve already taken, these actions today will make Baylor’s governance model one of the most responsive and transparent of any major private university.”