Baylor University Removes President Amid Student Rape Trials
The board of regents says Kenneth Starr failed to review the handling of rape allegations by students against former football players.
Baylor University’s board of regents announced the removal of President Kenneth Starr from his position May 26.
The board says Starr failed to review the actions of employees who handled rape allegations against former BU football players.
The board’s decision comes amid ongoing sexual assault trials involving five former football players, two of whom have already been convicted of rape or assault.
Former BU defensive end Tevin Elliot was accused by five women of four rapes and an assault and is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2014. Former player Sam Ukwuachu was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female student in 2013 and was sentenced to six years in prison and 10 years of probation. Ukwuachu’s victim settled a Title IX complaint against BU in January.
The trials have sparked a controversy over the university’s handling of the allegations, reports scout.com. BU Associate Dean of Student Conduct Bethany McCraw handled at least some of the cases that began after six female students reported they were raped or assaulted by former players between 2009 and 2016.
Allegations of university inaction following the assault reports prompted an independent review commissioned by the school. That review, conducted by Pepper Hamilton Law Firm, found several inadequacies and university failures in student conduct policies and procedures.
Baylor Football Head Coach Art Briles will also be removed. Briles accepted Ukwuachu’s transfer from Boise State University despite former Boise Coach Chris Petersen’s assertion that he informed Briles of Ukwuachu’s past transgressions, which included findings that Ukwuachu was violent toward his girlfriend. Briles has denied that claim.
Starr, whose involvement in the school’s response to the rape allegations is unclear, will transition to a chancellor and professorial role in the university’s law school. BU Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief Financial Officer Reagan Ramsower will serve as the interim president. Ramsower is a leading candidate to replace Starr.
The independent review also listed several recommendations, which are listed verbatim from a university statement below.
- Remedial and Restorative Remedies: Baylor will review all cases of interpersonal violence over the past three academic years, to offer remedies, identify any current need for investigation, or isolate any broad pattern or cultural implications. Consistent with Title IX, Baylor will contact victims and offer specific remedies to the individuals identified in Pepper’s review.
- Title IX: The work of the Title IX office, established in November 2014, provides prevention training, engages student advocates and supports those who experience interpersonal violence. Improvements call for clarifying roles and responsibilities within the office, better utilizing case management tools to coordinate care and support, and providing leadership to coordinate information across University functions. In addition, standardized protocols will be established to balance individual requests for anonymity with broader campus safety obligations. Other recommendations include committing sufficient infrastructure and resources to the Title IX office and support from senior leadership to ensure appropriate and informed administrative oversight.
- Athletics: A wide range of changes will be implemented in Baylor’s Athletics policies and procedures. The overall operations of the Athletics department will be integrated into the mainstream operations of the University. Significant attention will be given to ensuring policies are consistent across all students and student-athletes alike with consistent protocols that eliminate any appearance of preferential treatment. The University will create and maintain a culture of high moral standards among student-athletes and leadership to ensure Baylor Athletics places paramount importance on student welfare and abides by Title IX reporting obligations. The University will review policies and protocols regarding transfers and recruits as well as opportunities for Athletics personnel to integrate across non-athletics programs within the University.
- Engagement & Education: The role of training, education and engagement of the entire Baylor community is vital to the successful transformation of our campus culture. A renewed emphasis on our faith commitment will permeate the work we do in this area over the coming months and years. Annual training will be required for all students, faculty, employees and contractors, with additional trauma-informed training for implementers, investigators and adjudicators. Additional focus will be given to establishing expectations for student organizations and interest groups as well as greater community engagement within campus residence halls. Additionally, the University will evaluate the climate on campus and undertake a more concerted effort to openly discuss prevention of and response to interpersonal violence.
- Centralized Reporting and Resolution: A centralized hub of student conduct information will provide a level of “early warning” for those students who are at risk or who may place others at risk. The University will ensure the accountability of employees by making clear the violation of reporting obligations could be cause for discharge. Additionally, processes will be put in place to ensure all instances of interpersonal violence, regardless of where they originate, will be evaluated under the Title IX office.
- Public Safety: Baylor has placed a priority on improving its professional public safety office with the hiring of new leadership and additional experienced officers. Continued training, the establishment of community partnerships and stronger collaboration among area law enforcement will be a focus of improvement. Improvements will also focus on establishing clear protocols for supporting the needs of individuals who have experienced interpersonal violence and establishing partnerships with advocacy organizations. The University will also revisit its protocol for sharing information between Waco Police Department and Baylor University Police Department.
- Counseling and Advocacy: With more than $5 million allocated to improvements and staffing in the Baylor Counseling Center in the coming year, efforts are already underway to improve services, support, and access to this vital resource. Additional work will be done to enhance after-hours access and emergency crisis availability and coordination with Title IX staff. The University will establish dedicated victim-advocacy services for students who need help navigating recovery and continued pursuit of their education after an incident of assault.
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