Baylor Receives Praise for Implementing 105 Title IX Improvements
A new report from Title IX experts who investigated Baylor for violations says the school has successfully implemented all of its recommendations.
Baylor University is being praised for the improvements it has implemented following the release of a 2016 report, which found school officials failed to cultivate a safe campus environment and the football program acted as if it were “above the rules”.
Baylor has been at the forefront of severely mishandled and misreported sexual assault allegations for the last six years now with student lawsuits claiming 31 athletes committed 52 rapes between 2011 and 2014. Several settlements have been reached with victims and some perpetrators are behind bars.
Now, the Title IX experts who investigated Baylor’s shortcomings in the 2016 report, say the school has complied with its 105 recommendations for improved campus safety and reporting of sexual assaults.
Attorneys Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez, who worked for Pepper Hamilton LLP at the time the 2016 report was released, issued another report verifying the changes made by the school.
The two attorneys, who now work for the law firm Cozen O’Connor, will keep assisting Baylor in advisory roles, according to the Waco Trib.
The attorneys observed “a firm and unwavering commitment” by the university that created “a viable and sustainable model for Title IX and Clery implementation,” according to the 755-page report.
Accreditation Agency Gives Praise for Changes
After meeting with Baylor employees and students and assessing the attorneys’ report, the agency which accredits Baylor has also praised the school for its changes.
The school had previously been placed on “warning status” with the agency for one year following the release of Pepper Hamilton’s report. The agency looked into three main issues: whether the school was operating with integrity, whether it provided proper student support programs and promoted a safe learning environment for students, and whether the school’s chief executive had full control over the school’s athletics program.
On October 13, the agency’s committee recommended no punishment, although the recommendation is not final. The full committee that handles accreditation still has to vote in December, according to the Texas Tribune.
“We are certainly pleased with the findings of this special committee, as they confirm the significant actions Baylor has taken in response to the issue of sexual violence and the transformation that has occurred on our campus in a short time,” says President Linda Livingstone, who took over as president after the warning was issued. “We view this audit as a very significant step in our process of implementing the 105 recommendations and ensuring we’re doing the right things for our students. I think the important thing is it’s an external verification from two of the leading experts in the field of sexual assault and sexual violence on college campuses.”
Following the release of the 2016 report, the school removed Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as head football coach. Athletic director Ian McCaw resigned four days later. New hires were reviewed and approved by the attorneys.
In addition to replacement hires, the school made new hires, including in the Title IX office, counseling center and police department.
The report says although the 105 recommendations have been implemented, it does not negate prior findings or better past wrongs.
“Our hope is that moving forward, Baylor’s efforts can continue to proactively, continuously and effectively prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based harassment and violence in a manner consistent with Baylor’s institutional values, mission and commitment to maintaining a campus free from discrimination and harassment, ” concludes the report.
The school is still being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Education Department’s Clery Compliance Division, the Texas Rangers, the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference.
Baylor Releases Student Climate Survey
On the same day the 755-page report was released, Baylor released the results of its own first-ever student survey regarding the Title IX climate on campus.
The survey was administered between January 31 and March 13 to over 15,754 Baylor undergraduate and graduate students. Approximately 4,500 – or 28.7 percent – responded, according to the Waco Trib.
In regards to overall safety, 76 percent say they strongly agree or agree they feel safe from sexual harassment on campus.
The survey also found that 62.5 percent believe the school would very likely or likely take a report of sexual misconduct seriously. Approximately 53.3 percent say the school would very likely or likely support the person making a report of sexual misconduct and 53 percent say it would very likely or likely be handled fairly.
The biggest areas for improvement reflected in the survey, says spokesman Jason Cook, involves faculty and staff. Sixteen percent of respondents say a faculty member, instructor or staff member has made offensive sexist remarks once or twice and 31 percent say they have experienced sexist gender harassment by a staff member.
Livingstone says many of the responses “demonstrate significant progress and provide hope for our campus community,” but “others have shown that more assistance, training and resources are needed as part of our ongoing commitment to continuous improvement.”