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Temple businessman Drayton McLane, namesake for Baylor University’s riverside football stadium, addresses a group at a Bears for Leadership Reform meeting. McLane signed an open letter Tuesday with 13 other former regents raising concerns related to the school’s sexual assault scandal.

Staff photo— Rod Aydelotte, file

More than a dozen former Baylor University regents penned an open letter to the sitting board raising concerns with how it has handled the school’s sexual assault scandal.

The letter focuses on concerns with an investigation into institutional responses to sexual violence, specific recommendations for board improvements and a warning label from the school’s accrediting agency.

The 14 former regents released the letter through a press release from Bears for Leadership Reform, a group of prominent donors and alumni that has regularly criticized regents since it formed in November.

The letter is signed by Mary Chavanne Holmgren, Randy Ferguson, Randy Fields, Gale Galloway, Gracie Hilton, David McCall, Drayton McLane, Jaclanel McFarland, Laree Perez, Ella Pritchard, John Starky, Emily Tinsley, Hal Wingo and John Wood.

Ferguson, Galloway, McLane and Tinsley are board members of Bears for Leadership Reform.

The group has “great concerns” about the investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, which found “fundamental failure” in Baylor’s Title IX implementation, regents said in May.

Written report sought

“The details of the assaults certainly should not and do not need to be released,” the letter states. “However, we strongly believe that the pertinent facts of the investigation in the form of a written report and the agreed-upon scope of the investigation should be released to the Baylor family.”

The former regents said it is difficult to determine the legitimacy of the investigation because the board has not said what the scope of the investigation was.

Last week, in a legal filing, three regents released more details of the law firm’s findings, including text messages allegedly sent by former head football coach Art Briles and former athletics director Ian McCaw, both of whom are no longer associated with Baylor.

Since May, regents have said Pepper Hamilton gave them an oral presentation, not a written report, and they have said privacy laws restrict what information they can release.

Pepper Hamilton also gave Baylor 105 recommendations to improve its response to sexual violence, which the board immediately accepted. A group of recommendations for the board include resolving governance issues, undergoing board training, evaluating board size and composition, reviewing membership standards and reviewing actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

Another recommendation calls for regents to follow reporting protocols and stay in official communication lines when addressing administrators and athletics department officials.

“If the office of regent has been compromised through the lack of exercising proper fiduciary responsibility, lack of appropriate due diligence or conflicts of interest by regents, the regents responsible for these actions should resign their duties and allow their position to be filled by another person,” the letter states.

In a statement, board Chairman Ron Murff said regents welcome the letter from their predecessors.

“Many of the actions requested in the letter to demonstrate transparency and accountability already are well underway,” Murff said. “We are passionately committed to ensuring the victims of these horrendous crimes receive the support they need and deserve. That process is ongoing.”

Murff said Baylor has moved to the forefront of Title IX compliance, and the board is set to vote on a set of governance reforms later this month.

December notification

Baylor’s regional accrediting agency gave the school a one-year warning in December. Interim President David Garland has said the school remains accredited and expects to show full compliance for its review at the end of the year.

“The fact that (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) has felt it necessary to put Baylor under a ‘warning’ status appears to be just further indication the regent board is not providing the governance leadership that a major university board should be providing,” Tuesday’s letter states.

Murff said regents take the accreditation seriously.

“We, of course, thank the BLR for their ongoing input and support throughout this process,” Murff said.

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

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