Baylor University announced new measures Tuesday afternoon in its ongoing effort to improve prevention of sexual assaults and its response to reported assaults.
Last month, Baylor’s board of regents approved a $5 million “administrative action plan to prevent sexual violence.” The improvements announced Tuesday, which include increased Title IX resources, expansion of counseling services and enhanced public safety, are part of that plan.
Additionally, an executive-level task force has been established to prepare for impending recommendations from Pepper Hamilton LLP, a Philadelphia-based law firm hired by Baylor to evaluate how the school responds to sexual assault allegations.
“We feel a deeply personal responsibility to our students to evaluate and improve continuously our educational efforts, processes and support resources around the response to interpersonal violence,” President Ken Starr said in a statement. “I have called upon and worked closely with University leadership and the Baylor Board of Regents to identify and operationalize improvements focused on our commitment to care for the needs for the needs of students and ensure their safety.”
Baylor’s Title IX office will receive immediate funding for additional full-time staff dedicated to education and training, complaint investigation and administration coordination.
Case management systems also will be improved to enhance the connection between students and services they need, Baylor announced in a release.
Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon because of training sessions.
On March 8, Baylor Vice President of Student Life Kevin Jackson revealed that $900,000 has been spent to expand Baylor’s counseling centers. Tuesday’s announcement said that money has been used to add licensed, local counselors and overall staff capacity so students who have experienced interpersonal violence receive “timely, seamless assistance.”
The money also has been dedicated to establish weekly sexual assault survivor programs and expand training for all counseling staff.
Baylor police will continue pursuing accreditation from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. The group “advances public safety for educational institutions by providing educational resources, advocacy and professional development services,” according to its website.
The accreditation process will guide BUPD while it reviews ways to improve campus safety and security. Additional staff will help coordinate Clery Act compliance and training.
The Department of Public Safety will broaden its security coverage, and security officers will be consolidated into and supervised by BUPD. Baylor police also will increase Thursday, Friday and Saturday patrols in neighborhoods adjacent to campus, according to the release.
Starr and board of regents Chairman Richard Willis will establish a task force to act promptly once recommendations from Pepper Hamilton are received.
“As we await the results of the Pepper Hamilton review, we will continue to address areas where improvements will lead to a safer campus culture,” Starr said.
It is unclear when the independent review will be completed. Calls to Pepper Hamilton spokesman Dan Pulka were not returned Tuesday afternoon.
A January ESPN “Outside the Lines” report featured multiple women claiming they were raped by former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott and that the university mishandled their cases. Elliott was convicted on two counts of sexual assault in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In August, former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting another Baylor athlete in 2013. The university’s response to the allegations against Ukwuachu were put under a microscope and criticized throughout the trial.
Two former Baylor students in recent months have blogged about their experiences of sexual assault and the university’s alleged missteps during investigations. One even said a Baylor police officer blamed her for her reported assault, saying she would not have been raped if she hadn’t been drinking.
Earlier this month, the 20-year-old president of the Baylor chapter of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity was arrested on a sexual charge after allegedly forcing himself on a woman outside of a party. Jacob Anderson was removed from the fraternity the next day, and the national organization suspended the local chapter’s activities.