Baylor defends Garland’s email

Will Barksdale | Multimedia Journalist

By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

In a Wednesday night court filing, Baylor said controversial emails revealed in a Title IX lawsuit were mischaracterized by the plaintiffs, 10 anonymous women. The filing was a response to last week’s discovery of offense emails from former Interim President Dr. David Garland, in which the plaintiffs’ lawyer said he was victim-blaming survivors of sexual assault.

“The most remarkable thing about Plaintiffs’ discussion is the complete disconnect between their argument and the content of Dr. Garland’s actual email,” Baylor said in the filing. “They impose their own interpretation of the Bible and literally put words into Dr. Garland’s mouth that were never uttered.”

The university declined further comment, stating that the filing communicated a strong case related to several key issues.

An email conversation between Garland and Dr. Kevin Jackson, the vice president for student life, was revealed last week. The two briefly communicated about a rally of sexual assault survivors on campus in June 2016. Garland then went on to share about two radio programs he listened to on the way from Big 12 conference meetings.

“I listened to ESPN rake the president [Ken Starr] over the coals — in my view — justifiably, for his blatantly obvious self-serving attempt to protect himself and his reputation,” Garland wrote. “I then listened to Fresh Air on NPR and the interview with the author of the confessional ‘Blackout,’ which added another perspective for me of what is going on in the heads of some women who may seem willingly to make themselves victims.”

One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, said he couldn’t imagine anyone reading Garland’s email and not conclude it was victim-blaming.

In response, Baylor’s filing stated, “Garland’s email did not state that any sexual assault victim was “at fault” or that any such victim was assaulted ‘due to some use of alcohol for purposes of ‘adventure.’ Nor did it mention the ‘wrath’ of God, much less state that sexual assault victims are ‘godless’ or ‘wicked’ or guilty of ‘sinful desires’ or ‘unnatural’ sexual desires.”

Garland’s emails reference verses from the book of Romans, which he was writing a commentary on at the time. Baylor said Garland’s references to Scripture were not in connection with sexual assault but rather focused on the NPR program “Blackout.”

Sarah Hepola authored “Blackout: Remembering Things I Drank to Forget,” a memoir on her journey to overcoming alcoholism. Hepola spoke at Baylor last spring at an event titled “Drinking, Blackouts and Seeking Power Beyond the Bottle.”

“At least half of sexual assaults among college students occur after the perpetrator, the victim or both consume alcohol,” Baylor said, citing Department of Justice research.

The university also referenced The National Institutes of Health which, identifies college drinking as a “significant public health” problem. Baylor said Garland’s statements were made in context of “the impacts of alcohol as they relate to sexual violence” and were “an appropriate consideration and reflect[ing] the complexity of the issues.”

Dunnam said he still believes it was victim-blaming.

“I am very surprised that they would stand behind any statement that called a young woman a willing victim,” Dunnam said.

The filing then goes on to speak extensively regarding the ongoing discovery process.

Last month, Dunnam told the Lariat that the plaintiffs were looking for background information Baylor possesses in electronic form. Both parties have agreed to specific search terms or keywords to facilitate the process. Some keywords include the Plaintiffs’ names, names of the assailants, “consent” and “victim blaming.”

Baylor said in the filing that they are providing information to the plaintiffs on a rolling basis. Baylor has produced 43,800 pages of information to date. In the month of August alone, the process of ESI review and document production cost the university more than $120,000.

In Wednesday’s filing, the university explicitly differentiates between relevant and responsive results from a keyword search.

“Relevance focuses on whether the requested information pertains to a party’s claim or defense,” the filing stated. “Responsiveness, however, asks whether the requesting party actually requested the document.”

While Baylor agreed to the request to use the search term “tart,” they stated in the response that catering menus with “apple tarts” retrieved by the search were nonresponsive.

However, Dunnam said he believes the university wants to determine what they deem to be responsive or relevant.

“We just want all relevant information, and Baylor has shown a practice of withholding relevant information so we think we should get it all and not allow them to screen it improperly,” Dunnam said.

Going forward, Dunnam said they are still hopeful Baylor will provide transparency and provide all the information a jury needs to see.

The trial is set for October 2018.

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