The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched a Title IX investigation of Baylor University on Tuesday in response to a complaint former Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford filed with the office.
“OCR opened the investigation after receiving a complaint from the former Baylor Title IX coordinator,” department spokesperson Dorie Nolt said in a statement. “Consistent with federal privacy statutes, OCR typically does not identify the specific parties, including complainants, involved in our civil rights cases. In this instance, the complainant has given permission for OCR to identify her and has spoken publicly about her complaint.”
Baylor’s case is one of 281 Office for Civil Rights investigations active at 215 colleges and universities.
“Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the merits of the case,” according to a statement from OCR. “Rather, the office is a neutral fact-finder. It will collect and analyze all relevant evidence to develop its findings. As a policy, the Department will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation. Once the case has been resolved, OCR will notify the institution, the complainant and public, as appropriate.”
Crawford has said she never had the “authority, resources or independence” to do her job. She resigned Oct. 3, after less than two years as Baylor’s first full-time Title IX coordinator.
“I am pleased that the Department of Education has taken a particular interest in this important matter,” Crawford’s attorney Rogge Dunn said.
Dunn said Crawford recently met with a federal investigator regarding her complaint. He also said she is out of state for job interviews.
Ken Starr was fired as Baylor’s president after regents reported “fundamental failure” in the school’s Title IX implementation efforts after an investigation by Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP. Art Briles was fired as head football coach, and Ian McCaw resigned as athletics director after being sanctioned. Two other athletics staffers were removed.
Baylor, which faces four Title IX lawsuits, has touted progress made on the 105 recommendations given to the school by Pepper Hamilton to improve institutional response to sexual assault.
Baylor interim President David Garland sent a letter to the Office for Civil Rights saying the university will cooperate in the investigation, Garland said in a prepared statement.
“Should the OCR identify additional areas of improvement, we will work on those immediately,” he said in the statement. “We are whole-heartedly committed to cultivating a safe and supportive environment for all members of the Baylor community.”
Baylor Board of Regents Chairman Ron Murff did not return voicemails. A Baylor spokeswoman who sent Garland’s statement said it is not in Murff’s scope to address inquiries about university operational matters.
The Office for Civil Rights enforces Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and is intended to help victims of sexual assault stay in school.
The office investigates higher education institutions receiving federal funding if it receives a relevant complaint. Investigations may include “reviewing documentary evidence submitted by both parties, conducting interviews with the complainant, recipient’s personnel, and other witnesses, and/or site visits,” according to the DOE website.
Like Title IX investigations at the campus level, federal investigators need a “preponderance of evidence” to identify a Title IX violation. Colleges and universities found to be in violation are subject to fines.
In 2011, the DOE released a “Dear Colleague Letter,” a federal guidance document informing colleges and universities of their responsibility to investigate and adjudicate allegations of sexual assault.
The OCR began publicly naming institutions under Title IX investigations in May 2014, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Fifty-five were on the list at the time.
“The issue is, I was trying to continue to create compliance with Title IX and I was trying to be hopeful that the university was going to listen, and the more I asked and the more I tried, the more resistance I received, and I was being retaliated against for fighting discrimination,” Crawford said in an interview on “CBS This Morning” earlier this month.
She said she thinks Baylor still fails victims of sexual assault.
The night before the interview, Baylor spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said Crawford demanded $1 million, plus book and movie rights, from Baylor.
Dunn called the statement a “desperate attempt to smear Patty” and a violation of state law for commenting on a mediation session.
“Believe, me, there’s nothing I would rather tell you than what went on in that mediation, because it’s in favor of Patty,” Dunn said to CBS. “But the law says you can’t do that. We choose to follow the law, unlike Baylor University.”
In response, Lewis said Crawford made her demands before mediation, but Lewis would not clarify when or to whom Crawford made those demands.
Demands made prior to the mediation and later incorporated by way of a demand in mediation are confidential, a Texas mediation law expert said at the time.