Baylor

Baylor University regents and administrators will face questions under deposition within the context of litigation the school faces related to its sexual assault scandal. 

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte

Prominent Baylor University regents and administrators — both current and former — will face questions under deposition about how the school handled sexual assault claims from students, according to a motion filed on Wednesday by lawyers representing 10 women suing Baylor under Title IX.

The motion was filed in response to a Tuesday motion by the university and asks the judge to allow the deposition of a former Baylor Title IX Office staffer to proceed. It accuses Baylor of stonewalling regarding both the staffer’s deposition and related discovery.

Wednesday’s plaintiff’s motion also signals the first time the Baylor leaders would speak under oath about the sexual assault scandal that has lingered through several lawsuits and investigations. It is unclear whether the depositions would be made public before a trial, which is tentatively set for October 2018.

Regents Ron Murff and J. Cary Gray were named as having received deposition notices, along with former regents Richard Willis and Neal “Buddy” Jones, who were both chairmen. High-level administrators Reagan Ramsower and Kevin Jackson have also received such notices, according to the motion.

Associate Dean for Student Conduct Administration Bethany McCraw and Associate Director for Judicial Affairs David Murdock are also named. Finally, former Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford and Sarah Ritter, a former case manager in the division of student life, also received the notices.

Jim Dunnam, who represents the plaintiffs, called the people “central figures” to the operations of the university.

Dates to depose former Baylor President Ken Starr, former Vice President for Constituent Engagement Tommye Lou Davis, former Athletics Director Ian McCaw, former Deputy Athletics Director Todd Patulski and former Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak have been requested, according to the motion.

Gabrielle Lyons, the former Title IX office staffer whose deposition is at the heart of Wednesday’s filing, is scheduled to be deposed Thursday in Chicago. Lyons is also suing Baylor in separate litigation, claiming the university retaliated against her because she raised issues with Baylor’s Title IX processes.

Dunnam accused Baylor of stalling her deposition and delaying the release of her discoverable text messages, which allegedly mention at least one of Dunnam’s 10 unnamed clients. Lyons’ lawyer, Rogge Dunn, also avoided communication with Dunnam for months until Tuesday, when Baylor also expressed concern the deposition may include questions about records protected by federal privacy laws.

In its Tuesday motion, the university said Lyons is precluded from testifying about private student information she learned in the Title IX office.

Baylor has consistently fought to protect student records in this litigation and intends to seek an appellate opinion on the release of records of students not involved in the lawsuit.

“These are current and former students who did not choose to file suit, nor did they choose to tell their very personal and difficult stories publicly, even using pseudonyms,” the university stated. “They deserve, and have the right under the law, to receive notice and an opportunity to object before their private information is shared in litigation.”

A Baylor spokesman said the notion that the university has collaborated with Dunn — also Crawford’s lawyer who last year waged a public battle against the school after Crawford’s resignation — to delay Lyons’ deposition is untrue.

“Plaintiffs’ speculative assertions are supported by no facts, and there is no indication in Plaintiffs’ response that any reasonable inquiry was made before publishing these false insinuations to the Court,” a motion Baylor filed later Wednesday in response to Dunnam’s states. “Plain and simple, there has been no collusion between Baylor and Lyons, a former employee with a pending lawsuit before this Court.”

Almost every person named in Dunnam’s motion has made headlines in connection with the sexual assault scandal. Ramsower, the senior vice president and chief operating officer, feuded with Crawford last year and is accused of losing oversight of a Baylor police department that did not investigate sexual assaults. He announced in August that he will leave Baylor in May of next year.

McCraw botched the cases of several women who accused former football player Tevin Elliott of rape, the women told ESPN almost two years ago. Elliott was later convicted and is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Four women, including the woman Elliott was convicted of sexually assaulting, testified at his trial that he raped them, and a fifth was prepared to testify.

And Doak, the former police chief who retired in 2014, discouraged rape victims from reporting their incidents, according to sworn testimony by former interim President David Garland.

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

Recommended for you