With a new semester underway and a year of promise and opportunity before us as a caring and dynamic Baylor community, I write to provide you with an update about Title IX, Baylor’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence and the ongoing external review we commissioned in the fall. Many of you have participated in our Title IX training activities and “It’s on Us” awareness campaign, and I am deeply grateful for your willingness to help ensure that Baylor is a safe campus, free from harassment, discrimination and interpersonal violence. Together we are developing a campus culture that is educated about interpersonal violence and responsive to those who have experienced sexual violence.
Last fall, Baylor University’s Board of Regents initiated a comprehensive external and completely independent review of the university’s response to previous reports of sexual violence. Pepper Hamilton, a nationally recognized law firm with expertise in the institutional response to all aspects of sexual misconduct, has been on campus throughout the fall semester, meeting with administrators and former students and conducting an extensive review of university documents. Baylor has freely provided Pepper Hamilton experts with access to any information they have requested and will continue to cooperate fully with their review, which we understand will continue this semester. Pepper’s review provides a unique opportunity for Baylor to be self-aware, and their guidance will help pinpoint where our processes for responding to acts of interpersonal violence are strong and, most importantly, where we may need to improve. We have asked for, and we expect, a frank and candid assessment that addresses past practices and offers forward-looking recommendations.
In addition to the media coverage about this review, you may have seen or heard recent news reports that focused on Baylor’s response to incidents of sexual assault on our campus involving two former student-athletes, both of whom were subsequently convicted and incarcerated for their crimes. I want to take this opportunity to say a few things about the media coverage of these matters. First, our hearts go out to the survivors of these crimes. Sexual violence has no place at Baylor. Such acts are not consistent with Baylor’s Christian values, and no one should have to endure the trauma and impacts described by these young women. We acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous courage these women demonstrated by coming forward to share their experiences and to continue to raise consciousness and awareness about these critical issues. Their voices are important, and their perspectives help to inform positive steps to enhance campus responses.
Second, while Baylor’s Title IX coordinator spoke at length to ESPN about Baylor’s ongoing efforts to improve our Title IX work, Baylor could not provide commentary on the university’s handling of response to specific reports of sexual assault. This information is protected by federal student-privacy laws which prevent universities, including Baylor, from speaking publicly about particular incidents. In addition, out of deference to the integrity of the ongoing review by Pepper, any observations about policies and practices would be premature.
In recent years, Baylor has made broad and significant improvements in our Title IX responses. In November 2014, these improvements grew stronger when we hired a full-time, dedicated Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford. Patty’s mission is to make certain every person who comes to the Title IX Office is treated with dignity and respect. Patty also ensures that students have access to support and resources, including academic accommodations, access to counseling, residence modifications, no contact orders and other interim remedial and protective measures. Patty is supported by a full-time Title IX case manager and two trained Title IX investigators. The university’s Title IX Policy, which was adopted in August 2015, governs the University’s response to reports of sexual harassment, sexual violence and interpersonal violence. Under the policy, a trained and experienced external professional reviews the investigative report, meets with the parties and witnesses and renders an objective and impartial determination as to responsibility. When a student is found to have committed an act of sexual violence, strong disciplinary consequences ensue according to the university’s Title IX policy.
We have been equally engaged in prevention and education efforts. Nearly every member of Baylor’s campus has been provided the opportunity to attend Title IX training. For some community members, those trainings have been mandatory. During the fall semester, we provided extensive training for student leaders, incoming freshmen and transfers, all varsity athletics teams, student organizations and a number of upper-division student groups. Faculty and staff also received important Title IX training about how to identify and report misconduct and how to connect students with important resources. We are currently conducting additional training and awareness activities all across campus as well as continuing to work with our student advisory group.
Above all, we are most concerned about the safety of our students and are doing all we can to ensure we respond effectively and with great compassion to those impacted by interpersonal violence. Our Title IX Office is committed to responding quickly, compassionately and appropriately to reports of interpersonal violence by students or third-party reporters. In addition, there are campus resources available to all students to seek help and access confidential medical or counseling assistance. We actively encourage students to use all available resources and to contact the Title IX Office so they can provide information about support and resources, options under university policy and options to report to law enforcement. A student who reports sexual violence but does not wish to pursue disciplinary action can still receive help and information to inform decision-making. The Title IX Office is committed to balancing a student’s request to remain anonymous with the university’s commitment to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment to other members of its campus community.
We encourage any member of the Baylor community with concerns related to interpersonal violence to step forward and share his or her experiences with our Title IX Office. You may contact the Title IX Office by phone at 254-710-8454, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in person at their office in Clifton Robinson Tower, Suite 285. We also invite students who would like to get involved in the “It’s on Us BU” awareness campaign to contact the Title IX Office for further information.
The topic of interpersonal violence on college campuses is of great concern to me and to all of us who serve on Baylor’s faculty and staff. The well-being and success of our students are the university’s first priority, and on that foundation are built all of the academic and student life services on our campus. Acts of sexual violence contradict every value Baylor University upholds as a caring Christian community. I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure a safe and supportive campus for all students.
It’s on Us BU,
President and Chancellor