WACO—In the wake of a sexual violence scandal, a regional accrediting agency has placed Baylor University on a one-year warning for noncompliance regarding student support services, control of intercollegiate athletics and institutional environment.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges had been working with Baylor “to better understand the findings and implications of the Pepper Hamilton review on the status of overall safety and support for students on our campus,” Interim President David Garland wrote in a Dec. 6 letter to faculty and staff, the day after the commission provided Baylor verbal notice of its findings. Baylor remains accredited, he emphasized.
Response to Pepper Hamilton investigation
Baylor’s board of regents hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm last year to investigate the university’s handling of sexual assault reports. After a briefing by Pepper Hamilton, the board announced the investigation revealed a “fundamental failure” by Baylor to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.
The board removed Ken Starr as president, fired Head Football Coach Art Briles and sanctioned Athletic Director Ian McCaw. Starr later stepped down as chancellor and law professor, and McCaw resigned as athletic director.
“I believe this warning sanction was to be expected given the shortcomings identified, the media exposure and the public release of the Pepper Hamilton findings,” Garland wrote.
The university provided the accrediting agency with documentation of procedures, processes and improvements in multiple areas, Garland said.
“We also noted that almost all of the shortcomings identified by Pepper Hamilton occurred around past practices, the vast majority of which had already been addressed or would be addressed imminently through the implementation of the recommendations,” he wrote.
Areas to monitor compliance
The accrediting commission will monitor Baylor’s compliance with three standards:
- “The institution provides student support programs, services and activities consistent with its mission that are intended to promote student learning and enhance the development of its students.”
- “The institution’s chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for, and exercises appropriate administrative and fiscal control over, the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program.”
- “The institution takes reasonable steps to provide a healthy, safe and secure environment for all members of the campus community.”
“We are committed to ongoing support for our Title IX Office, developing more robust education and prevention programs and continuing to strengthen the oversight and integration of athletics within all aspects of the university,” Garland wrote. “We are confident that the full implementation of significant and broad-ranging improvements will adequately address the (accrediting commission’s) concerns.”
For at least one year, Baylor must provide the commission status updates on actions taken to ensure compliance, and a committee will visit the university in fall 2017 to monitor implementation of changes.