Ken Starr will become school's chancellor; football coach Art Briles also out
Report finds "fundamental failures" on school's part into sex assault allegations
Baylor University dumped Ken Starr as its president Thursday after unveiling the results of an independent investigation that showed a “fundamental failure” to respond adequately to student sex assault allegations, including some involving players for the Texas school’s rising football program.
Starr, whose investigation led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s over the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, will become the school’s chancellor, the Board of Regents said in a statement. He will continue to teach at the university’s law school.
CNN contacted Starr for comment, but he has not responded.
The board also suspended football coach Art Briles and said it intends to fire him. Director of Athletics Ian McCaw is expected to oversee changes in the football and other sports programs, but was put on probation.
Other unidentified members of the school administration and the athletic department were dismissed. The board said it would not identify them.
“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. “This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students. The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us.”
David Garland, the former dean of the seminary at Baylor, will be the interim president.
How we got here
Two Baylor football players have been convicted of sexual assault, and victims who spoke to CNN said the school failed to take their allegations seriously.
In one case involving a player, former Baylor student Jasmin Hernandez is suing the school over how it handled her sex assault case. She says it failed to properly investigate her allegation that football player Tevin Elliott raped her in 2012.
Elliott was convicted and is serving a 20-year sentence.
Hernandez said the lack of response from school officials left her felling “just being completed ignored and sort of pushed under the rug.”
Hernandez’s grades suffered, and she eventually lost her scholarship. She told CNN that she received no academic guidance nor any health services.
When she went to make an appointment with a school psychiatrist, Hernandez said, she was told there were no availabilities for the rest of the year.
Her attorney, Irwin Zalkin, said school officials knew what was happening and tried to keep it quiet.
“Absolutely, there was a cover-up,” he said. “The reality is it tends to be all about the money.”
CNN doesn’t normally identify the victims of sexual assault, but Hernandez has publicly disclosed her name.
Another high-profile case involved that of Sam Ukwuachu, a football player who transferred to Baylor from Boise State University after being dismissed for undisclosed reasons that Texas Monthly said involved a “previous incident of violence involving a female student.”
Last year, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a Baylor student.
The report for Baylor, conducted by the Pepper Hamilton law firm, found the school’s “student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response” and “failed to consistently support complainants.”
“Actions by University administrators directly discouraged some complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes and in one instance constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault,” the report found, according to the university’s statement.
The school also found problems inside the athletic department, “including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence.”
“There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct,” the university quoted the findings as saying.
Baylor’s football team is one of the top programs in the nation.
In 2008, Briles had inherited a team coming off its 11th consecutive losing season. Five years later, the Bears were 11-2 and Big 12 conference champions. In 2014 they barely missed making the College Football Playoff.
Last year, the Bears went 10-3 with a bowl win, and the offense was top-ranked in scoring and yards per game.
What happens next?
The school said it will create a high-level task force to implement recommendations contained in the report, including:
– Looking at all cases of “interpersonal violence” over the last three years to “offer remedies, identify any current need for investigation, or isolate any broad pattern or cultural implications.”
– Establishing protocols “to balance individual requests for anonymity with broader campus safety obligations.”
– Making it clear to employees that they could be fired for failing to abide by reporting obligations regarding sexual assault, and will require annual training for all students, faculty, employees and contractors.
– Expanding its counseling offerings to help sex assault victims.
CNN’s Ed Lavandera and Jill Martin contributed to this report.