A New Season in the Life of Baylor University
Dear Baylor Nation,
We have entered a new season in the life of Baylor University. It is a season that calls for clarity, compassion and collective action as a Christian academic community and as a body of Baylor alumni that spans multiple generations, often within individual families. It is a season that calls for Baylor to stand together and speak as one voice, resolute in our shared commitment to student welfare and safety and to our institutional values.
I am honored and humbled that the Regents have asked me again to serve as Baylor’s interim president. I also want to recognize that the work lying ahead must be undertaken by the hearts and hands of the many thousands of Baylor students, faculty and staff, alumni and friends for whom Baylor is a treasured institution. We are called to come together in prayerful reflection and honest action.
I echo the sentiments of our Board Chair Ron Murff, “We, as the governing Board of this University, offer our apologies to the many who sought help from the University. We are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors have endured.”
Baylor’s priority is to make our campus, and beyond, safe for our more than 16,000 students. We acknowledge our failures in the past and take responsibility for them, and we have already taken steps to ensure that we are in compliance with Title IX, the Jeanne Clery Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 and other state and federal obligations. Our aim is to set the highest standards in this area.
This commitment has animated the entire course of action pursued by the Board of Regents during the past year, beginning with the decision last fall to retain the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to conduct an external and comprehensive review of the University’s response to reports of sexual and gender-based violence under Title IX. Pepper Hamilton delivered to both the full Board of Regents and then-president Ken Starr a briefing in February and again in May. Ken Starr was present for both briefings, which included presentation of the Findings of Fact, as released publicly, and discussion of the specific facts that supported the identified incidences of failure over the years studied. Neither Ken Starr nor Pepper Hamilton was a part of the Board’s deliberations.
In recent days, various voices have called for the release of the “full report.” Pepper Hamilton’s report was delivered in the form of an oral presentation that fully and comprehensively presented the individual and aggregated findings and the evidence supporting the findings. The Findings of Fact and Recommendations, which were released publicly in a format that protected the privacy of individuals, fully reflect the facts and core failings identified in the investigation. The findings revealed clear opportunities for Baylor to improve. We encourage everyone to read the documents that are available at www.baylor.edu/rtsv.
Pepper Hamilton, our external investigators, had the freedom to follow the facts where they led and to determine those facts without any interference by University administration or the Board. Pepper Hamilton’s report was impartial and objective, and they did not hold back in their assessment. This firm was selected by our Board of Regents for its credibility and expertise in investigations of sexual violence. We fully trust the validity of its investigation. They had access to all requested documents and any Baylor employee they requested to interview. They independently reached out to and heard from brave survivors who assisted the investigation by sharing their experiences. We respect survivors’ freedom to choose whether, when and how to share their experiences and will support survivors who choose to share their experiences publicly. The details of these individuals’ experiences will not be discussed publicly by the University. We hurt for these students and deeply appreciate their willingness to speak with Pepper Hamilton as part of this review. Their insights and participation will help us better address these issues in the future.
The Board and the administration, in short, have been as forthright as is possible and are fully committed to presenting the truth of these findings to Baylor Nation and the world. We are also committed to reconciliation with those who have been harmed.
An Enhanced Title IX Office
Baylor has long been known as a place where students are loved and cared for, and that commitment remains true even as we face the realities of these findings of the Pepper Hamilton investigation. I am grateful to the Regents for openly addressing the findings. It demonstrates their unwavering dedication to do what is right for our students, both today and in the future. I am equally thankful to the Regents for investing in a Title IX office that is capable, compassionate, professional and working hard to care for the needs of students.
Baylor’s Title IX Office professionals have worked to assist many students in times of need, walking alongside them through a complex and trying process. I am extremely grateful to Patty Crawford and her recently expanded team who are doing so much in this vital area of University operations. During my tenure as interim provost, I oversaw the hiring of Patty, and I know her to be a professional with the highest standards, deepest compassion for students and utmost dedication to student welfare.
Improvements Being Pursued
All possible resources are being deployed to foster a culture on campus that is characterized by dignity, integrity and respect for others, including the awareness and prevention of sexual assault. We have already begun to implement the recommendations made by Pepper, and they have provided us with an excellent roadmap for the work ahead of us. In addition, a recommitment to our foundational faith will guide us as we strive to be true to the Lord we serve.
Baylor’s leadership is committed to doing all we can to implement change that leads to improved processes, communication, training, prevention, and response. An Executive-Level Task Force, led by Dr. Reagan Ramsower, senior vice president and chief operating officer, and implementation groups composed of members of Baylor’s faculty, staff and administration will build on significant improvements made in recent years by acting promptly to address Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations. A second Executive-Level Task Force, led by Dr. Greg Jones, executive vice president and provost, will focus on spiritual life and the cultivation of character across the university.
The Path Forward
When I first served as interim president of Baylor, from 2008 to 2010, one goal served as my guidepost for each day’s decisions — to strengthen Baylor’s mission of educating men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community. This remains my goal.
We ask God for strength and guidance as we make our way forward. Thank you for your abiding love for Baylor University.