Baylor Line Foundation urges release of investigative report

Baylor University students, faculty and staff gathered in February outside the home of then-President Ken Starr for a candlelight vigil supporting survivors of sexual violence. Now the Baylor Line Foundation’s executive committee is calling on the university board of regents to shine the light of full disclosure by publishing the Pepper Hamilton investigative report into Baylor’s handling of reports of sexual assault. (Photo / Robert Rogers/Baylor Marketing & Communications)

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WACO—The executive committee of The Baylor Line Foundation—formerly the Baylor Alumni Association—urged Baylor University’s board of regents to release the full report by the law firm that investigated the university’s response to reports of sexual violence.

Regents hired Pepper Hamilton, a Philadelphia firm, to conduct an internal investigation into how Baylor handled reports of sexual assault, including multiple incidents involving Baylor athletes.

‘An unvarnished, complete accounting of the facts’

“The Baylor Family deserves an unvarnished, complete accounting of the facts about how these events were handled,” the committee said in a public statement posted online. 

Two weeks after regents received a “comprehensive briefing” from Pepper Hamilton, the board on May 26 announced plans to demote President Ken Starr, fire Head Football Coach Art Briles and sanction Athletic Director Ian McCaw, who resigned a few days later. 

‘Findings of Fact’ falls short

They also issued a 13-page document, “Findings of Fact.” But the Baylor Line Foundation’s executive committee noted the document “is not a summary of specific facts. It is a list of conclusions reached by the board of regents.”

“The board of regents is to be commended for acknowledging that the institution bears responsibility for a gut-wrenching series of failings,” the foundation’s committee stated. “But without a detailed explanation of the facts, the board’s release falls far short of the level of transparency that the Baylor Family—and the people directly affected—deserve.”

Legal issues acknowledged

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The executive committee acknowledged the legal issues involved in publishing the report.

“Privacy laws and promises of anonymity made to victim witnesses must be honored. But Baylor has hired sophisticated and experienced lawyers,” the group said. “They are capable of issuing a report that conceals certain students’ and victims’ identities consistent with the law, while laying bare the detailed factual findings and the bases of Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations. The Baylor board of regents should immediately release whatever information can legally be shared.”

While several high-profile Baylor employees either were fired or resigned under pressure—and the university stated others have been dismissed, but the university will not reveal their identities—no regent has resigned or been removed “that we know of,” the foundation’s executive committee stated.

“Releasing a detailed factual report is important to assure the Baylor Family that the right people have been held accountable and that those in power are not using misguided notions of confidentiality to shield their own actions,” the committee said. “Full disclosure is also essential to protect the reputations of those blameless Baylor employees who may wish to depart for other opportunities without a cloud of suspicion over their heads.”

What does the report say about the regents?

The foundation’s executive committee noted Pepper Hamilton made several recommendations regarding the board of regents’ structure and behavior, but nothing in the 13-page document deals with those issues.

They include recommendations to resolve governance issues at executive council and board levels; evaluate and make recommendations regarding board size and composition; review considerations and standards for new board membership, including actual or perceived conflicts of interest, and implement due diligence standards in the selection of board members; and train and educate coaches about the need to remain within appropriate reporting protocols and lines of communication when addressing members of the board of regents.

“The board of regents should release the detailed evidence that caused Pepper Hamilton to recommend these changes at the top level of governance at Baylor,” the executive committee said.

“Baylor alumni deserve what Baylor promised when Pepper Hamilton was hired—an independent, frank and candid investigative report that addresses both past practices and forward-looking recommendations. Baylor must ensure everyone understands the totality of what occurred and the steps taken to make sure it never happens again.”

Pepper Hamilton attorney responds for university

When asked to respond to the request for release of the full investigative report report, Baylor University’s communications office released a statement from Gina Maisto Smith, a partner in the Pepper Hamilton firm.

“The experiences of students impacted by this played a significant role in this investigation and to the university’s response. While those experiences of the students informed the findings, the details of individual cases are not going to be shared and will not be referenced in any document,” Smith said.

“But the overview of the findings that have been released by the board gives the gravamen and the salient findings that we presented in the thorough, comprehensive briefing that the board received over the month of May.”

Baylor Line Foundation formed when lawsuit settled

The Baylor Line Foundation was formed as part of a legal settlement between the Baylor Alumni Association and the university. 

Under terms of the settlement, the alumni association agreed to remain an independent nonprofit entity and change its name. The renamed entity was granted authority to continue to publish the Baylor Line with editorial and operational independence.

Also as part of the settlement, the regents agreed to add three alumni-selected representatives to the university’s governing board. The first three are Don Chapman of Dallas, Wayne Fisher of Houston and Julie Hermansen Turner of Dallas.

Editor’s Note: The Baptist Standard contacted Baylor University to request comment. The university’s communications office responded several hours after the article originally was posted, and that response is included in the 4th, 5th and 6th paragraphs from the end of the article.

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