Baylor announces Title IX expansion

Judge Ken Starr is named the 14th President of Baylor University after a nationwide search lasting almost two years, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010 in the Alexander Conference Suite. Judge Starr comes to Baylor as the previous dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law and will begin his role as president on June 1. Jed Dean | Photo Editor

President and Chancellor Ken Starr announced the university’s most recent plans to address sexual assault on campus via an email sent to the Baylor community Tuesday.

The $5 million plan includes expansions to the Baylor Title IX Office, Counseling Center, Department of Public Safety and the establishment of an executive level task force to act on the impending results of an independent Pepper Hamilton investigation.

“The topic of interpersonal violence on college campuses is of great concern nationally and to us at Baylor,” said Tonya Lewis, assistant director of Baylor Media Communications. “We are proud of the continuing focus and improvements we’re making to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students.”

The Title IX Office will receive immediate funding for more full-time staff and enhanced case management systems, which help students get connected to resources and shares information among the Title IX team.

Improvements will be made to the Counseling Center as well. Out of the $5 million, approximately $900,000 will be allocated to the Counseling Center to fund changes, including adding licensed staff, offering weekly sexual assault support programs and expanding training for the current staff.

The Baylor Police Department will supervise security officers on campus “to both strengthen coordination and broaden security coverage,” according to the statement. Baylor police will also increase patrols in neighborhoods around campus Thursday through Saturday to increase student safety during these times.

Finally, the new plan will create an executive-level task force to oversee the implementation of recommendations made at the end of Pepper Hamilton’s independent review. The law firm was contacted by the Board of Regents last fall to analyze the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations in recent years.

Last month, the Baylor Board of Regents approved the $5 million plan to “prevent acts of sexual violence on campus and to improve treatment and services for all those impacted by interpersonal violence,” according to a statement released by the board on Feb. 12.

“The improvements are part of an on-going effort and are an extension of the Feb. 12 board announcement,” Lewis said. “These improvements involve concrete, near-term opportunities we’ve identified where we can enact immediate change. On-going assessments of our offerings and resources, along with the Pepper Hamilton report, will identify areas for longer-term improvements.”

The statement included plans of mandating Title IX training for all upperclassmen and graduate students, as well as expanding the training currently given to incoming students.

“We know we can and must do a better job to confront interpersonal violence in our campus community,” President Starr said in the Feb. 12 statement.

Today’s statement was released following mandatory Title IX training for all Greek life members at Baylor that took place Sunday for fraternities and Monday for sororities. The Lariat attempted to speak with Baylor’s Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford, but she was unavailable.

Last fall Baylor’s Board of Regents initiated an external review of Baylor’s previous responses to handling sexual violence allegations.

“As we await the results of the Pepper Hamilton review, we will continue to address areas where improvements will lead to a safer campus culture,” President Starr said in a statement released Tuesday. “Our mission calls upon us to prepare leaders and servants for the entire world within a caring Christian community. We will continue diligently to pursue a supportive environment where care for one another is paramount in the pursuit of that mission.”

Starr and Richard Willis, the chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, will create a task force with disciplinary power to act on the recommendations of Pepper Hamilton once their investigation is complete.

“We feel a deeply personal responsibility to our students to evaluate and improve continuously our educational efforts, processes and support resources around the response to interpersonal violence,” Starr said in his statement. “I have called upon and worked closely with University leadership and the Baylor Board of Regents to identify and operationalize improvements focused on our commitment to care for the needs of students and ensure their safety.”