5 Damning Findings From the Baylor Investigation

Baylor University on Thursday released a summary of a long-awaited investigative report into its handling of sexual-assault allegations — and, with it, word of a housecleaning of sorts. Its president, Kenneth W. Starr, was reassigned. Its head football coach, Art Briles, was fired. And its athletic director, Ian McCaw, was put on probation.

A glance at the investigation’s findings reveals why Baylor’s governing board took such broad action. In short, virtually everything that could be wrong with a university’s treatment of sexual assault was wrong at Baylor. Here are five damning findings on Baylor’s enforcement of the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX, based on Baylor’s summary of the report, by Pepper Hamilton LLC:

1. Administrators were ill equipped to enforce Title IX.

Administrators who handled Title IX complaints before November 2014 did not fully understand the complexities of reporting sexual violence on the campus given the Baptist institution’s policies prohibiting alcohol and premarital sex.

And, at times, the summary says, administrators actually discouraged students from participating in Baylor’s Title IX processes. They also engaged in “victim-blaming, focusing on the complainant’s choices and actions, rather than robustly investigating the allegations, including the actions of the respondent.”

2. The athletics staff went rogue.

When reports of sexual assaults by multiple football players surfaced, athletics and football personnel chose to not report the cases to administrators outside the athletics department, the summary says.

During those cases, football coaches or staff members met with complainants or parents of complainants directly, and didn’t report the misconduct. The complainants were not supported, and cases went unevaluated under Title IX, the summary says, because the football team did not disclose them to other university administrators.

At times the football staff window-dressed appropriate responses to complaints, but ultimately it did not provide meaningful responses under Title IX policies.

3. Baylor helped facilitate transfers with no questions asked.

Baylor didn’t do its due diligence in vetting incoming transfer athletes, and helped several of its own athletes go elsewhere. In at least one case, the summary says, the university failed to find criminal or student-conduct information for a transfer athlete admitted to the program.

The football program also sometimes dismissed players for unspecified team violations and then helped them transfer to other colleges.

4. The university utterly failed to assert its authority over the athletics staff in enforcing Title IX compliance.

University leaders were, in part, to blame for the cultural perception that football was “above the rules,” the summary says.

Pepper Hamilton’s finding is most heavily underlined by one of its recommendations for policy changes at Baylor. In that document, the investigators urge the Board of Regents to “ensure that the president and the athletics director have appropriate authority over department personnel.”

5. Baylor lacked basic Title IX policies.

Since the U.S. Department of Education began a new wave of federal enforcement of Title IX, in 2011, colleges and universities have rushed to carry out the department’s guidance on how to handle reported assaults. Baylor, apparently, lagged behind.

According to the summary, Baylor didn’t provide proper training about its Title IX policies to students, and didn’t train employees either, until the 2014-15 academic year. And it was only in November 2014 that the position of Baylor’s Title IX coordinator — now a mainstay across higher education — was not assigned to a senior administrator who had other full-time duties.

Read the summary and the recommendations.

For more, see these Chronicle articles.

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