One can debate till sunup how Baylor University lost control of its campaign to decisively implement campus reforms to prevent and address sexual assaults. After the university’s much-touted Title IX coordinator quit under pressure this month, filed a damning complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and blasted Baylor on national TV, a federal investigation just naturally figured in the cards.
Now that investigation has begun — and if examples at other universities and colleges are any indication, it could last for years.
Talk about blunders. Only a few months ago, Baylor leaders voiced confidence that they would avoid an OCR investigation because of the scope of the 105 reforms they were busily implementing; the severity of actions regents took in late May such as firing their popular university president and successful head football coach over vaguely explained lapses in leadership (oh, the ironies!); and the fact regents had under contract a high-profile law firm to guide and advise them — ironically, a firm hired at the ill-fated university president’s suggestion.
But campus matters didn’t go as swimmingly as the Baylor Nation was led to believe, given that Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford jumped ship after what she described as resistance by “senior leadership” to her efforts to execute Title IX protections regarding gender violence. As she noted in a Facebook post: “I was being directly manipulated and harassed by a select group of powerful leaders and I knew the only way I could keep doing my job for the worthy Baylor community was to file official complaints to both the Office for Civil Rights and Baylor’s Human Resource department.”
Whether Crawford overstepped her bounds by adhering too closely to ever-shifting Title IX “guidance” or Baylor leadership failed to listen to legitimate concerns from her and others, the die is cast. Now Baylor must undergo yet another investigation, surely angering Baylor alumni and faculty who have already endured the nine-month Pepper Hamilton law firm investigation of systemic failures and administrative indifference regarding allegations of sexual assault. Those charges thrust the campus into the national spotlight.
And tight-lipped Baylor leadership? It seems more intent on dodging accountability, including — remarkably — fleeing the press after a regents meeting last week when items discussed behind closed doors included, of all things, improving transparency. And when the Trib sought to contact the regent chairman about all this, a Baylor spokeswoman noted that it was not in the chairman’s scope to address inquiries about operational matters. Well.
We can only think of what one reader asked after matters got so bad that Patty Crawford quit: “Is anyone in charge?” Maybe a federal investigation can finally tell us.