The U.S. Department of Education announced it launched an investigation to see if Baylor University violated Title IX, the federal civil rights law, over how they have handled campus sexual assault accusations.
This action follows a complaint filed against Baylor by Patty Crawford, their former coordinator in charge of Title IX compliance. The nation’s largest private Baptist university has been reeling in the fallout of a scandal over its purported mishandling of sexual assault and harassment grievances lodged against its football players.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Dorie Nolt, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a statement about the federal probe. She said:
The Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into issues related to Title IX sexual violence at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. OCR opened the investigation after receiving a complaint from the former Baylor Title IX coordinator. Consistent with federal privacy statutes, OCR typically does not identify the specific parties, including complainants, involved in our civil rights cases. In this instance, the complainant has given permission for OCR to identify her and has spoken publicly about her complaint.
The feds noted the investigation does not mean the OCR has made any determinations, only that they intend to act as a neutral fact-finder.
“Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the merits of the case,” according to the OCR’s statement. “Rather, the office is a neutral fact-finder. It will collect and analyze all relevant evidence to develop its findings. As a policy, the Department will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation. Once the case has been resolved, OCR will notify the institution, the complainant and public, as appropriate.”
KWTX reported Baylor officials were advised of the federal investigation Tuesday evening. In an email to faculty, the university’s Interim President David Garland “immediately assured the OCR the university will cooperate fully with the investigation.”
The OCR added Baylor to its list of higher education institutions under examination nationwide for possible Title IX violations. Universities receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX. Currently, there are 281 OCR investigations at 215 colleges and universities, according to the Waco Tribune.
Crawford was hired as Baylor’s first full-time Title IX coordinator. She resigned from the position on October 3. At the time, she said that the university “set (her) up to fail” when she started her job in November 2014, the Waco Tribune reported.
Previously, Crawford commented she never had the “authority, resources, or independence” to perform her duties. KWTX also reported she said, although Title IX reports increased by 700 percent under her direction, senior leaders instead “were protecting the brand rather than our students.”
Crawford accused the university of “retaliating against her for trying to follow Title IX,” according to her attorney Rogge Dunn, who said Crawford recently met with a federal investigator regarding her complaint. Baylor asserted it had the resources in place to prevent and address sexual violence, according to the Houston Chronicle which noted Baylor accused her of seeking a $1 million buyout and demanding book and film rights.
Since 2014, two Baylor football players were convicted of sexual assault, the Waco Tribune reported. In May, an independent review conducted by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, LLP, found a “fundamental failure” in the college’s Title IX implementation, citing administrators who “directly discouraged some complainants from reporting” sexual assaults, one instance that “constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault” and and a “failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player.”
Following the Pepper Hamilton review, Baylor’s head football coach Art Briles was fired and Ian McCaw resigned as athletic director after being sanctioned. Ken Starr, initially demoted from his role as chancellor to president, was then fired.
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