board meeting

Then-Baylor University interim President David Garland is accused in a Title IX lawsuit of victim blaming in an email to another school administrator.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson, file

Then-Baylor University interim President David Garland cited Scripture while writing that victims of sexual assault “seem willingly to make themselves victims” in a 2016 email to a senior administrator, according to documents filed late Wednesday in a Title IX lawsuit against the university.

Garland also wrote that his predecessor, Ken Starr, was rightly criticized in the media “for his blatantly obvious self-serving attempt to protect himself and his reputation” in the days after Baylor regents fired Starr in May 2016 at the peak of a sexual assault scandal.

Garland sent the message to Vice President for Student Life Kevin Jackson after he said he listened to a radio interview with Sarah Hepola, an acclaimed writer and the author of “Blackout: Remembering Things I Drank to Forget,” a book chronicling her alcoholism while in college. Hepola spoke to Baylor students in February.

Garland, who will return to teach at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary in August after a yearlong sabbatical, told Jackson the radio interview “added another perspective for me of what is going on in the heads of some women who may seem willingly to make themselves victims.”

He then cited verses in the New Testament book of Romans that refer to God’s wrath on those who commit sexual sin.

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed,” one of the verses states.

Garland has said he is writing a book about this section of the Bible.

Timeline: Baylor sexual assault controversy

The plaintiffs, 10 former Baylor students who allege they were sexually assaulted, argue it is “telling and central” to their case that Garland “would conclude that these young women made themselves willing victims of sexual assault” and “would then immediately find relevance in ‘God’s wrath’ upon them in connection with their ‘sinful desires,’ ‘shameful lusts’ and ‘unnatural’ sexual relations,” the motion filed Wednesday states.

In a Thursday statement, the university said it will file a response regarding the ongoing discovery dispute between both sides.

“As stated previously, we will maintain our efforts to keep discovery focused on this specific case while protecting the privacy of our students and their records,” the statement said. “This filing is one step in a long process, and out of respect for the legal proceedings in this case, the university will decline to comment further.”

Garland did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Waco attorney Jim Dunnam represents the 10 women with Houston lawyer Chad Dunn.

“Unfortunately, it reflects an attitude at the top of the university, which, frankly, anyone who loves Baylor should be disgusted by,” Dunnam said.

Emails between David Garland and Kevin Jackson in plaintiffs' filing in Title IX lawsuit against Baylor.

The email chain started with Jackson’s report on a June 2016 demonstration by sexual assault survivors on Baylor’s campus.

“It was heartrending to hear the deeply wounding experiences of the survivors, yet at the same time, the courage each demonstrated was inspiring,” Jackson wrote. Garland then suggested he meet with the four students who shared their experiences.

According to the emails, Garland later decided only to meet with survivors at their request, in order to avoid a “constant stream of meetings.”

“To be honest, it would not heal,” Garland told Jackson. “That takes a miraculous intervention from God and the scars on the soul will always be there.”

On May 31 of this year — Garland’s last day as interim president — he said in a deposition that he was largely unaware of details behind the school’s sexual assault scandal, such as why Starr was fired as president and why Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP investigated Baylor’s institutional response to sexual violence in the first place.

In the deposition, Garland testified that he held three meetings with three victims of sexual assault at Baylor throughout his term as interim president.

Garland’s private criticism of Starr came days after the former Whitewater prosecutor resigned as Baylor chancellor. Starr, at the time, told the Tribune-Herald he hopes Baylor regents “will move forward with full transparency, but as each day goes by, that need becomes more and more pressing.” Starr also said he disagreed with the regents’ notion that the football program “created a cultural perception that football was above the rules.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered Baylor to produce information uncovered by Pepper Hamilton between September 2015 and May 2016. A 13-page document released by Baylor and a February legal filing by three regents had given the most thorough recounting of the investigation.

Baylor faces six Title IX lawsuits and has settled four others. It faces investigations from the NCAA, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Texas Rangers.

A tentative trial date is set for October 2018 in the 10 Jane Does’ Title IX case.

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

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