Months if not years could pass before the public learns better how Baylor University — already swept up in a runaway scandal involving student rapes and administrative indifference — got crossways with its own full-time Title IX coordinator to the point of irreconcilable differences. The clash led to not only her shocking resignation this week but also her decision to promptly fly to New York and publicly castigate Baylor’s “senior leadership” for resisting her efforts to improve implementation of Title IX policy on campus.
The terrible irony: The Baylor University Board of Regents has made clear that this is its priority, too.
So what happened? Did Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford, brought aboard less than two years ago, overstep her bounds in terms of helping implement some of the 105 recommendations offered by the Pepper Hamilton law firm charged with investigating years of shortcomings in Baylor’s athletics department and university administration relating to student assaults? Or did someone in the current Baylor administration decide that Crawford’s efforts might threaten the Baylor “brand,” as she alleged on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday?
We assume that whatever clash of wills prompted Crawford to resign and lash out happened recently, well after regents sent head football coach Art Briles packing and set into motion events that led to the departure of Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr. Assuming Crawford was on the level in her lengthy Q&A with the Trib a little more than 60 days ago, Baylor leadership has been “very accepting” of her efforts. At least, so she said at that juncture.
However, her remarks Wednesday indicate her differences with certain leadership at Baylor had reached a boiling point as early as July. She told CBS that reports to Baylor’s Title IX office under her oversight increased by 700 percent — and that some senior administrators found this reflected badly on the school. Reportedly, she has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which oversees the admittedly murky world of Title IX “guidance.” She alleges that her authority and independence were steadily undercut.
While we find this and other inconsistencies in Crawford’s remarks between August and now troubling, Baylor regents must shoulder much blame, given that they have opted to say less when more might have helped and even reduced the chance of others defining Baylor in an information vacuum. Crawford’s remarks are damning because they make a lie of all Regent Chairman Ron Murff and interim President David Garland have claimed — specifically, that Baylor strives to be a model campus in taking seriously student assaults and ensuring all Pepper Hamilton steps are fully implemented.
“There are 10 task force teams,” Garland told us in an in-depth Trib Q&A published July 24. “I meet with them once a week because we consider this so important. We’ve made incredible progress. It’s an all-hands-on-deck thing. This was a wake-up call for us, so we’re really taking this very seriously. We’ve invested a great deal of money in this, and at the end I would hope Baylor is seen as a model [for how to address these problems].”
None of us doubts the tension and strain at Baylor as faculty, administrators, students and regents seek to right what at times seems a foundering ship. But the loss of Crawford cannot be overestimated. Baylor officials had held her out to be one of the Christian university’s symbols of hope, student safety and institutional salvation. Baylor regents now need to investigate what went awry in this embarrassing debacle, determine if certain forces at Baylor are indeed resisting the very best in Title IX reforms and terminate anyone not with the program.