Dear Baylor Family,
These past few weeks and months have been trying. The national media spotlight has shone brightly on Baylor University and emotions are running high. At this time, it is important to reflect on the institution we all love – the Baylor that continues to be a vibrant community where students engage spiritually and intellectually and build bonds that last a lifetime.
We must always keep the University mission foremost in our minds. Baylor is a place where our highest priority is “to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.”
Since our announcement in May about Baylor’s systemic failures under Title IX, there have been continual requests from the Baylor Family for more transparency and information. And recently, several national and local media outlets informed us about plans to publish or broadcast major stories about Baylor, our football team and sexual assaults.
Rather than stay silent, the University's senior leadership recognized that the Baylor Family deserved to know more about the magnitude of the problem and about the reasons why we responded so forcefully to the Pepper Hamilton findings. As a result, we decided to be more forthcoming about what we learned while always being mindful of the victims of sexual assault, particularly maintaining their confidentiality. As we anticipated, the information profoundly shocked and saddened the Baylor Family, as it did us when we first heard it.
That’s why the Board of Regents determined we simply could not allow a campus environment to continue where reports of sexual assaults were minimized, rationalized and mishandled within the University. We needed new leadership for our administration, our athletics department and our football team.
Many have second-guessed those decisions. But I need to make clear that, as brilliant and successful as Coach Briles was, he will not be returning to Baylor. This change in leadership was not based on any single incident, but on the weight of the information presented to us and a pattern of poor decisions over a range of disciplinary issues, not just sexual assault. The internal system of discipline operated by the coach was not in line with the University’s mission and obligations.
To Art’s credit, he took responsibility for this in discussions with the Board of Regents and in a national media interview.
More importantly, Baylor has taken sweeping actions to ensure students on our campus will never again have to wonder whether Baylor will stand with them and support them if they are victimized in any way. The University has made dramatic improvements in our response to sexual violence – and those efforts will continue.
We have a robust Title IX office led by an able Coordinator and a staff of eight employees. We have expanded the Baylor Counseling Center by 18 new positions and have focused training on trauma-informed counseling. We have introduced sexual violence awareness and prevention education for all Baylor students, faculty and staff.
In all, 79 students, faculty and staff on 10 task forces campus-wide are continuing the critical and unprecedented work of implementing the 105 Pepper Hamilton recommendations. They are focused on real and lasting change for the wellbeing of our students and the health of our University. In areas of culture and climate, the University assigned a longer-term task force to work on spiritual life and the cultivation of character across the University.
The Regents have made major changes within the Board as well. In July, we created an Executive Committee of the Board to better manage Board communications and ensure Board priorities always align with University operational needs. We are committed to diversifying the Board membership so that our Regents more fully reflect the Baylor family and the campus community. We improved reporting protocols among Board members and the Administration. And we dissolved the Board's Athletics Committee to bring all aspects of the University into full alignment with our overall institutional mission.
This week, we launched a task force to help us identify further improvements to Baylor University governance. You can find the formal announcement of the task force and the names of its members here.
We should all be clear: Sexual assault is not just a football problem. It’s not just a Baylor problem. It’s a societal problem – one that all of Baylor must tackle head on with resolve and dignity.
Amazing things are happening every day at Baylor University. Our remarkable students are building lifelong friendships and finding their vocations. Our exceptional faculty and staff are serving as teachers and mentors and are blazing new trails of research and discovery.
We look to a bright future for Baylor University. We have begun the search for Baylor’s 15th President. Your input and feedback have been tremendously helpful to the search committee. In addition, Mack Rhoades, our new athletics director, will soon begin the search for a new head football coach. We ask for your prayers and support for these important searches and for the people who will be called to leadership within Baylor University.
As we make the changes and reforms necessary at Baylor, we are determined to emerge from this experience stronger as a Christian institution, closer as a Baylor Family and united in our determination to always strive to do what is right.
Chair, Baylor Board of Regents