clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Baylor's coaches met with sexual assault victims, then failed to report allegations

New, comments

The school's official report on its scandal includes descriptions of everything from flawed processes to astounding breaches of protocol.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Thursday, Baylor University released the scathing findings of fact from the school-commissioned investigation by law firm Pepper Hamilton into a sexual violence scandal on its campus.

The scandal had included months of media reporting on alleged acts of violence against women by roughly a dozen football players, with accusations that the school and athletic department had responded ineffectively.

That came alongside the school's announcement that head coach Art Briles is being fired, with school president Ken Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw among the others facing punishment. The university also self-reported these violations to the NCAA, and has announced it would cooperate with college athletics' operating body.

The 3,500-word document can be read here. Below, the primary takeaways.

According to the report, Baylor football staff, including unnamed coaches, prevented meaningful investigation of multiple accusations of sexual assault and dating violence by failing to report them outside of the athletic department.

Football staffers also did things that "gave the illusion of responsiveness to complainants but failed to provide a meaningful institutional response under Title IX." Those included:

  • Meeting personally with victims or their parents and subsequently failing to report the misconduct.
  • Conducting internal investigations without training or authority, "which improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation."
  • Actively diverting cases from criminal investigation or Baylor's student conduct review.

These issues were not unknown to the university's administrators. Other departments "repeatedly raised concerns that the Athletics Department’s response to student or employee misconduct was inadequate."

The effect of the football staff's inappropriate actions, and the administration's failure to change them, was an overall belief that Baylor football operated under its own set of rules.

Failure to use consistent player transfer protocols

Baylor has been criticized for its acceptance of transfer Sam Ukwuachu, from Boise State, who was later convicted of raping a fellow Baylor athlete and Shawn Oakman, from Penn State, who would be reportedly investigated during his playing career at Baylor and arrested afterward for a separate incident, both for alleged crimes against women.

Questions about what Baylor knew about Ukwuachu's dismissal from Boise State remain, and the report's abstract does not name Briles or any coaches individually. But it is highly critical of Baylor's efforts in screening transfers.

The report says Baylor did not consistently conduct due diligence via "background checks, requesting records of prior college disciplinary actions and character reference screening forms." Importantly, it says Baylor did not consistently follow its own "previously implemented processes."

But this went beyond football.

Pepper found that Baylor’s efforts to implement Title IX were slow, ad hoc, and hindered by a lack of institutional support and engagement by senior leadership. Based on a high-level audit of all reports of sexual harassment or violence for three academic years from 2012-2013 through 2014-2015, Pepper found that the University’s student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX, that Baylor failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures, and that in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, or address its effects for individual complainants or the broader campus community.

Pepper also found examples of actions by University administrators that directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment. In one instance, those actions constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.

The report finds Baylor's implementation of Title IX guidelines was "slow, ad hoc, diffuse, and uncoordinated."

The report identifies procedural failures in Baylor's implementation of almost every facet of Title IX's requirements on handling sexual assault. That includes training, education, organization, communication, investigation, interim measures and identifying potential hostile environments.

Many factors impeded effective implementation of Title IX, including a lack of leadership.

Baylor leaders did not act in a proactive manner to determine "the adequacy of existing controls to ensure an informed and effective institutional response."

The report says Baylor administrators took on Title IX roles in addition to other duties, suggesting they were unlikely to be able to devote the time necessary to Title IX.

Leadership also did not have a coordinated system to share information, as required by compliance mandates. Just because one person knew about something, that information was not necessarily accessible to others who may have needed to know.

The report also says Baylor failed to screen Title IX implementers for potential conflicts of interest.

"The University did not provide sufficient institutional support for Title IX functions."

Prior to November 2014, Baylor did not have a dedicated Title IX coordinator. The role was handled jointly by senior administrators who on the whole were untrained and inexperienced. They lacked the time, resources and infrastructure to perform the role.

Once Baylor did hire a full-time Title IX coordinator, it still failed to provide those things.

"Because of the overwhelming need for education and training, the Title IX Coordinator and staff did not have sufficient time or resources to focus on building the infrastructure of the office, drafting internal operating procedures and template communications, or managing the influx of new reports.

"In addition, as of the spring of 2015, there were no clear protocols for documentation or consistency in practice across implementers. "

Inadequate institutional response to sexual violence under Title IX/the Violence Against Women Act.

An overwhelming percentage of cases did not move forward to adjudicative hearings, and Baylor failed to investigate why. If it had, it would have found that some of this was related to "barriers created by conversations with University personnel that discouraged, rather than encouraged, participation in the University’s Title IX processes."

Many of the cases failed to move forward because Baylor had erroneously determined it lacked jurisdiction, if an incident occurred off campus, or because it determined through an incomplete or inaccurate investigation that there was not a preponderance of evidence.

The report found that Baylor, a Baptist university, operated "in the context of a broader culture and belief by many administrators that sexual violence 'doesn’t happen here.'"

Baylor engaged in victim-blaming instead of fully investigating allegations, per the report. This resulted in a failure to identify readily apparent witnesses and other relevant witnesses.

Lack of training causes more problems.

The report found that though Baylor's investigations were "by the book," they were often too rigid because the education provided to employees was inadequate in the areas of sexual assault, gender-based harassment, etc.

Baylor's staff was critically undertrained, according to the report, which caused inconsistencies in applications of the Title IX process. Its students were often unaware of conduct prohibited by Title IX or the options available to report a Title IX violation. The firm believes this may have caused significant under reporting.

Baylor's alcohol and drug policy hindered reporting.

Prior to August 2015, Baylor didn't have a policy that would allow those who are reporting Title IX complaints to avoid punishment for admitting to using drugs or alcohol.

Baylor administrators also issued responses that were perceived as judgmental with respect to prior consensual sexual activity.

The report is scathing as to Baylor's failure to take interim measures to support victims and prevent possible hostile environments.

In some instances, administrators directly created or contributed to a hostile environment.

According to the report, Baylor failed to recognize potential patterns of sexual violence, and once it did , failed to protect its campus, in some cases causing significant harm to complainants.

Again, Baylor's lack of organization created situations where responses were poorly implemented, if implemented at all. And it continued to hamper investigations.