David Garland1

Garland

High-ranking Baylor University officials updated the school’s board of regents on Baylor’s ongoing efforts to bolster its response to sexual violence after a law firm found “fundamental failure” in Baylor’s implementation of Title IX in recent years.

Reagan Ramsower, Baylor’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, and L. Gregory Jones, executive vice president and provost, late last week presented the progress of groups formed to implement the 105 recommendations by Pepper Hamilton LLP, the Philadelphia-based law firm that investigated the school for nine months.

Ramsower and Jones head the Sexual Assault Task Force and Spiritual Life and Character Formation Task Force, respectively. Ten implementation teams operate under the task forces. Interim President David Garland also participated and has said he meets with the groups weekly.

“The task forces have been steadily making progress on the recommendations we have adopted as mandates,” Garland said in a statement. “Their work is moving forward on all fronts.”

A national search for the new position of chief compliance officer will soon begin. Responsibilities for the job include “identifying risk, the likelihood of occurrence, the effectiveness of existing controls, the action needed to address the gaps in compliance and the consequences of failure to comply,” according to a progress report Garland gave the Tribune-Herald.

The officer will also monitor and ensure compliance of relevant federal and state laws and report to Ramsower, Garland and the board. The chief compliance officer also will supervise a director of training who will oversee educational programming with Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford.

Baylor has continued to retain Pepper Hamilton to help review sexual assault cases between 2011 and last year and determine how to provide support, the report revealed.

“The law firm is working alongside staff in the Title IX Office and Student Conduct Administration to examine their records and to make outreach to affected students,” the report said.

Adjustments to the Title IX policy and student-athlete drug testing policy have been made, and projects focused on Clery Act compliance and a culture and climate survey are underway.

Baylor purchased Symplicity, a cloud-based, case management software, to centralize complaints and grievance reports. The athletics department will use Symplicity to report student-athlete misconduct to Crawford and the Student Conduct Administration Office, the report said.

Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations included board-level training by the Association of Governing Boards. Regents heard a presentation by Cathy Trower, president and principal of a consulting firm.

“Our retreat focused solely on board governance and how a board can best and most effectively manage its oversight of a university,” board Chairman Ron Murff said in a statement. “The student panelists inspired us and Dr. Trower challenged us and helped our board refine what we already have in place and identify improvements that will help position the university to achieve its mission well into the future.”

Also at Pepper Hamilton’s request, the board created an executive committee to “ensure clear lines of communication, effective oversight of university priorities and closer alignment of board priorities to the operational needs of the university,” according to a university statement.

“As we continue to operationalize the recommendations adopted following the Pepper Hamilton review, it is evident that an executive committee could be helpful to improving the board’s role in oversight and enforcement of governance and fiduciary responsibilities to the universities,” Murff said in his statement. “We are excited about the opportunities this new structure provides the Board in improving its ability to work effectively and efficiently to support the work of the University.”

In a Thursday interview, Murff said regents have questioned administrators in recent years regarding Title IX.

“Again, we volunteer, we’re not here all the time, we have to properly collaborate with administration,” he said in the interview. “The administration is the one that has the capability, the resources, to make sure they have the right people doing the right thing and have the offices staffed properly.”

Regents also were updated on the school’s initiative to increase diversity. The board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee heard from Vice President for Student Life Kevin Jackson, Associate Professor of Anthropology Lori Baker and Special Assistant to the President on Diversity Elizabeth Palacios.

Palacios, also Baylor’s dean for student development, has said the university will make multiple hires to coordinate diversity efforts.

“Baylor offers countless opportunities to honor each individual’s experiences, their perspectives and their rich diversity as a part of a transformational educational experience,” Garland said. “As one Baylor family, we must work together to practice inclusion, to live graciously with each other, to listen to each other with empathy and humility and to challenge each other with integrity both academically and spiritually in order to promote the institutional excellence and Christian identity that we all cherish.”

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Other action

Regents set the 2017-18 tuition at $39,610, or $19,805 per fall and spring semesters. That is a 4.25 percent increase, the lowest percentage increase in more than 20 years. The general student fee will be $4,180, or $2,090 per fall and spring semesters.

Also, $15.2 million was allocated for merit- and need-based scholarships for this school year, and the Guaranteed Tuition Option was set at $41,060. That rate will not change during a student’s four-year enrollment period.

The board approved the master of divinity and master of science in education/master of arts joint degree program. It is the fifth joint degree at Baylor.

The board approved $2 million to improve electrical utility and technology infrastructure along South Seventh Street on campus. The work will be complete in spring.

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