Former Baylor University President Ken Starr said Wednesday he hopes Baylor’s board of regents will release to the public the full findings of fact from a Philadelphia law firm’s scorching nine-month investigation of campus protocols and practices regarding sexual assaults, some involving Baylor football players.
Starr made his comments to the Tribune-Herald following his Wednesday decision to voluntarily step down as chancellor, only days after Baylor regents demoted him as president. Starr said he has limited knowledge of what those findings of fact include.
Asked if he would like to see a report of findings by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton released to the public, Starr said: “Yes, but I don’t want to have word quibbles because I’ve heard there will be a (full) report in four months. I want the Pepper Hamilton body of information (already reviewed by Baylor regents) released to Baylor Nation and the world so we can move forward. I’m eager for there to be a path forward.”
Starr, 69, a former federal judge and U.S. solicitor general, countered criticism that Baylor had not acted on the threat of sexual assaults until the controversial trial and conviction of former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu in August 2015. Starr said he first began enlisting administrators, staff and students in an effort to craft protocols regarding campus violence in fall 2010 following a U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights report regarding the death of a student in a sexual assault at Eastern Michigan University.
“Promptly upon the campus beginning in 2011, I established this committee,” Starr said. “It was a student-dominated committee with a lot of staff representation. I personally had conversations with Michael Wright, then president of the student body. And this is in the public domain, that we had sessions about campus safety generally, which included but was not limited to safety with respect to interpersonal violence. That task force met. It met regularly. We have a record of those meetings, and that was a task force that I established.”
Starr said the task force later “ripened into the creation of a committee on campus safety that included a Title IX set of issues (involving sexual assault), so I believe — not having seen the totality of the Pepper Hamilton findings of fact — that the administration was working all along, including designating a Title IX coordinator, early on. I had that designation given to a senior officer.”
While that designation was initially given to a Baylor official with other duties, a full-time Title IX coordinator was hired in November 2014. Baylor regents have bolstered the office’s staffing and oversight since then.
A Department of Education Office for Civil Rights letter of April 2015 reiterating universities’ Title IX responsibilities noted that federal officials had “found that some of the most egregious and harmful Title IX violations occur when a recipient fails to designate a Title IX coordinator or when a Title IX coordinator has not been sufficiently trained or given the appropriate level of authority to oversee the recipient’s compliance with Title IX.”
Baylor regents last Thursday released a broad summary of Pepper Hamilton findings involving the athletics department and campus administration, as well as announcements of administrative changes that included the termination of Baylor head football coach Art Briles and the sanctioning of athletics director Ian McCaw, who resigned his post Tuesday. Starr was sheared of the presidency last Thursday but was left with his standing posts of chancellor and law professor — at least until Wednesday.
Regents’ action last week came after months of relative silence by Baylor higher-ups during which a growing chorus of critics voiced concern about indifference by Baylor regarding sexual-assault victims.
Starr has stressed since last Thursday that he did not know of any systemic failings regarding the handling of sexual-assault victims until the Ukwuachu trial and an online Texas Monthly article fueled criticism.
At one point during Wednesday’s Tribune-Herald interview at the president’s campus home, when asked why Baylor had not done more in recent months to publicly explain any methodical efforts to battle sexual assaults involving students even before the 2012 arrest of former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott — who, like Ukwuachu, was eventually convicted of sexual assault — Starr acknowledged the failings.
“We (Baylor) have not communicated as well as we should and we have not told our story as well as we should,” Starr said.
He begged off answering Trib questions about specific Baylor individuals and their possible roles in failing to address problems of sexual assault because, he said, he has not been permitted to review the entire Pepper Hamilton findings.
“I am aware of some of the facts,” Starr said. “I’m behind a veil of ignorance — not totally, I don’t want to overstate it. I was privy to significant briefings by Pepper Hamilton (while) sitting with the board the evening of Wednesday, May 11, and then briefly on Thursday, May 12. Leaders of the board, I was told as recently as yesterday, had 30 hours of briefings by Pepper Hamilton, so I can’t sit in judgment as a hopefully fair person when I’m behind a veil of ignorance.”
For an in-depth Q&A with former Baylor President Ken Starr, see Friday’s Tribune-Herald. A video of the full interview will also be posted on WacoTrib.com.