A report commissioned by Baylor University and completed 20 months before the university fired its president and football coach outlines broad failures to address sexual assault and links the failures to the school’s Baptist values.
Multiple Baylor employees interviewed for the report expressed that Baylor was “potentially contributing to the problem” by not discussing sexual harassment and sexual violence with students. Title IX, the federal law prohibiting educational discrimination based on sex, was “whispered about, but not addressed directly,” and administrators were frustrated by many Title IX training programs because they viewed them as predicated on the idea that sex outside marriage and alcohol consumption are acceptable.
The 118-page report was compiled by Margolis Healy, a consulting firm that specializes in safety at educational institutions, after a five-day visit to campus in May 2014 and a slew of interviews and document analyses. The report, which is dated for September 2014, was obtained by the Tribune-Herald last week.
The review represents a clear picture of Baylor’s compliance failures, which officials acknowledged publicly in May 2016, when the law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP identified campuswide shortcomings in Title IX infrastructure, policies surrounding sexual violence, communication of resources, board governance and a climate of disciplinary failures that was particularly prominent in the football program. The Baylor Board of Regents fired Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as football coach and outlined reform plans when it announced results of the 2016 Pepper Hamilton investigation.
More broadly, the 2014 report shows a culture unfamiliar with a new era of campus regulation surrounding sexual violence that was ushered in by a slate of U.S. Department of Education guidance documents that started in 2011.
“Interviewees routinely indicated that they struggle to address Title IX issues in a way that honors Baylor’s values, but also provides students and other members of the Baylor community with the information and support they need,” the report states.
This struggle resulted in “limited intermittent programs that target women and focus on risk education, rather than primary prevention efforts focusing on consent, bystander intervention, and highlighting available resources.”
University officials now do not shy away from discussing sexual violence, according to a statement from Baylor last week.
“Baylor has candid and regular training and educational initiatives throughout the academic year regarding sexual and interpersonal violence,” according to the statement. “These efforts are manifested in many ways, such as mandatory annual online training for students, faculty and staff; flyers on every single bathroom stall across campus; and seminars put on by the Title IX Office and student groups, just to name a few. Our mission is to educate students in a caring community — this is something we take very seriously.”
Margolis Healy accompanied its report with more than 100 recommendations for Baylor to implement and said Baylor would achieve compliance with them. Additional guidance from the federal government regarding Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act continued in 2014 as Margolis Healy was investigating.
The firm found that Baylor’s education efforts on the subject of sexual assault were focused on students living in residence halls that house women. This practice reinforced the stereotype that men do not face sexual violence and may have sent a message “that sexual violence is a women’s issue and makes them responsible for the victimization,” the report states.
“We have to stop being stupid,” one interviewee told the consultants.
The firm also found Baylor was falling short on its obligations to disclose crime statistics under the Clery Act. The university did not produce a “single, comprehensive document” for its Annual Fire Safety and Security Report required by the law, and there was not an organized unit managing overall Clery Act compliance, according to the report.
The main responses to the firm’s findings, which were presented to the board at the time, were the hiring of a full-time Title IX coordinator and an overhaul of the Baylor Police Department.
Patty Crawford was brought in as the school’s first full-time Title IX coordinator. Margolis Healy found that Baylor’s previous method of designating an administrator with other duties to also handle Title IX responsibilities was insufficient.
Since Starr’s ouster, he has held up the 2014 Margolis Healy investigation as proof that Baylor took campus safety seriously. In his book, “Bear Country: The Baylor Story,” he wrote that almost 2,000 faculty, staff and student workers were trained in Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act between August and October of 2014.
In recent years, Baylor officials have said they have implemented recommendations from both Margolis Healy and Pepper Hamilton, including making improvements to the Title IX office and the counseling center, and increasing training and overall awareness and prevention efforts. President Linda Livingstone, who started in June 2017, has emphasized policy improvements and education efforts.
Jim Dunnam, a lawyer representing 15 women suing Baylor under Title IX, said the Margolis Healy report is “just more evidence of deliberate indifference,” referring to a legal standard he is attempting through the lawsuits to prove Baylor’s past actions fall under. Dunnam also said many of Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations mirror the recommendations Margolis Healy made.