David Garland said he is confident in Baylor University’s plans to make major changes across multiple departments to correct the school’s insufficient response to sexual assault allegations as he begins his second stint as interim president.
He said the university is fully focused on implementing the 105 recommendations presented by Pepper Hamilton LLP, the law firm that found a “fundamental failure” in the way Baylor handled sexual assault allegations.
“They call them recommendations,” Garland said, “but I consider them to be mandates that we are going to fix this so this will not happen again. Baylor should be a place that is safe for all students.”
He said a series of groups across campus, along with an executive-level task force, is working to implement the changes.
On May 26, the board removed Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as head football coach, while putting Athletic Director Ian McCaw on probation. McCaw later resigned. The moves were made on the heels of hours of briefings by Pepper Hamilton lawyers to the board at its May meetings.
The board released Pepper’s “Findings of Fact” and “Recommendations,” but has not released the evidence found in the investigation that supports them.
“Without a detailed explanation of the facts, the board’s release falls far short of the level of transparency that the Baylor Family — and the people directly affected — deserve,” said Baylor Line Foundation president Tom Nesbitt in a statement last week.
Garland said the “Findings of Fact” and “Recommendations” are the only materials that will and can be released. He said the board and Starr heard briefings from Pepper in the form of survivor stories.
“These are not part of a report that ‘here are just facts,’ ” Garland said. “The stories have power in themselves. But we have to protect the students who were victims, who are now survivors, from ever being harmed in any further way and protect their privacy because they came and reported courageously on the condition that this would be anonymous.”
Garland also said he heard secondhand that survivors have said they read their stories in the “Findings of Fact” and thanked Baylor for protecting their identities.
“People are probably interested in sordid, salacious details,” Garland said. “We’re interested in protecting these victims who are now survivors. And even if they did come out publicly and give their accounts, it does not mean that we are able to do so.
“I’m incredibly proud of our regents for being so transparent in the sense that this is the report,” Garland said. “There is no secret report out there. This is the report, and making it public was incredibly courageous on their part. We knew we were going to take hits. As a Christian university, one of things Christians believe in is sin and confession of sin, and we confessed we failed in these areas.”
He said that even if victims’ names and identifying information are redacted, people could still recognize victims because Baylor is a small community.
“Frankly, that Pepper Hamilton report, you know, if you took all the case notes and redacted out names, you basically have what we have in the Pepper Hamilton report,” he said.
Bette McCall Miller, a 1967 Baylor graduate and Baylor Line Foundation member, released a statement Sunday in response to an email Garland sent to the Baylor community Friday. She disagrees with the board and Garland that the information can’t be fully released without compromising the identities of victims. Miller pointed to the lack of trust some Baylor alumni have for the board of regents.
Miller said Baylor Line Foundation members lost confidence in regents and administrators based on years of tension between the groups, which included lawsuits and the destruction of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center.
“We can only consider standing together with you ‘as one voice’ if the regents will release the full Pepper-Hamilton report (with names of victims of course redacted), not just the ‘Findings of Fact’ and ‘Recommendations,’ ” Miller said in her statement. “We would like the opportunity to judge for ourselves whether those documents ‘fully reflect the facts and core failings identified in the investigation.’ ”
This isn’t the first time Garland stepped into the role of interim president during a time of crisis. In 2008, Baylor fired president John Lilley amid what became known as the “faculty massacre,” when 12 of 30 candidates were denied tenure in the spring.
Garland was then credited with bringing about mutual respect between faculty and Baylor’s administration, with his supporters praising his calmness and humility. As he steps into another crisis, Garland said he loves what Baylor stands for as a group of people, and he would like to replace the “Baylor Nation” moniker with “Baylor Family.”
“I think what is needed from this office is that we are going to address all of the issues raised by Pepper Hamilton,” Garland said. “That Baylor is an outstanding educational institution, and one of the things we need to convey is that we’re all in this as an education experience to try to inculcate character in our students.”
Garland named three reasons he accepted the interim president role, two of which related to his late wife, Diana, who died in September. She was the first dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work, and the board has named the school after her.
“I felt an extreme debt to the regents, in particular the chairman of the regents, for the way they honored my wife by naming the school after her while she was still alive,” Garland said. “The second reason I think was because I wanted to honor the regents also because of the way they were so courageous in being transparent, from my point of view.”
Lastly, he said, Diana Garland researched sexual abuse in the clergy and became a national expert on the issue. By implementing Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations through task forces, Garland said it would honor her work by helping to prevent sexual abuse at Baylor.
Garland attended Big 12 meetings last week with Deputy Athletics Director Todd Patulski. He said consultants he spoke with at the meetings were happily surprised that Baylor released what it did.
“Dr. David Garland, who has served as interim president of Baylor in previous years, is well known to the board of directors,” said David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma, in an email Monday. “He is highly regarded from his previous service on the board.”
Boren added it “would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time” about Baylor’s current situation.
Garland gave high praise to Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford, saying she has gone above and beyond her requirements to help survivors.
“She stepped into a beehive,” Garland said. “One of the things people talk about handling beehives is smoke. We are not using smoke, we are clearing the air. We’re going to get stung, and we’ve been stung.”
Under Crawford’s leadership, along with task force administrators in various departments, Garland remains confident.
“We (didn’t recognize) the problem as quickly as we should have,” he said. “We have, with alacrity, are working now to fix that.
“Whatever it takes.”