Dougherty refutes implications of resignation press release

Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Brooke Hill | News Editor and Raegan Turner | Staff Writer

Dr. Trent Dougherty, who resigned his position as tenured associate professor of philosophy Friday, says none of the Title IX allegations against him were of sexual assault or sexual activity.

Dougherty resigned after being the subject of several complaints under Baylor’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Interpersonal Violence Policy (Title IX), according to a Friday afternoon news release from the university’s philosophy department.

The release said he was found “responsible” on some allegations involving more than one complainant and “not responsible” on others. The investigation revealed additional concerns under other Baylor policies, but the release did not give more details.

The philosophy department said it expresses its deep appreciation for the courage of the Complainants in coming forward, for their willingness to make their complaints known and for their patient participation in the process.

Dougherty told the Lariat there were four complaints: two were thrown out completely, one was kind of a “tie,” and one found some wrongdoing. He said one of those complaints was regarding (but not by) a person who was his student at the time.

Baylor would not confirm or deny his comments due to privacy laws regarding Title IX investigations.

“I was imprudent and incautious but never laid a finger on a student in a sexual way ever.” Dougherty wrote in an email to The Lariat.

Dougherty said that three out of the four complaints were filed by a third party, meaning that only one complaint was filed regarding an incident where they were the complainant. He specified that that person was not a student. He said that whatever happened is between him, God and the accusers.

“I never said I was pure as the wind-driven snow. I neither affirmed nor denied any wrongdoing,” Dougherty wrote. “I will make no statement at all about that. I don’t believe public trials are at all a reliable path to justice. However, since Baylor made a highly misleading statement, I, perhaps unwisely, responded, and some people couldn’t seem to keep that separate from discussion of guilt or innocence. My allegations were that the process was unfair.”

He said he felt the philosophy department’s news release was intended to harm him.

“If it was going to be easy for them to fire me, then why didn’t they?” he said.

He said his complaints are not regarding whether he’s guilty or innocent, but that he feels he wasn’t given due process.

“The fact is that nobody — student or non-student — ever filed a Title IX claim that I ever had any sexual activity with anyone who was a current student of mine (by any ordinary definition of “sexual,” I suppose almost anything could be sexual to someone),” Dougherty wrote. “What hurt me, and my family, was that most people would normally assume the worst just from the phrase ‘Title IX,’ since most of the stories about Baylor and Title IX are about sexual assault. Baylor’s ability to handle Title IX issues is infamously bad, and this is another example, and nothing I did or didn’t do excuses that.”

Dougherty said the definitions of terms like “stalking” and “violence,” which are handled through the Title IX office, can be broadly interpreted. Baylor’s Title IX website defines stalking as “a course of conduct (i.e., more than one act) directed at a specific person which would cause a reasonable person (under similar circumstances and with similar identities to the complainant) to feel fear, to experience substantial emotional distress, or to fear for their safety or the safety of a third person.”

“When people hear Title IX, they think sexual harassment because that’s its principle governing process,” Dougherty said. “What the release omitted is that there are lots of other things that can technically fall under Title IX — for example, claims by other professors at other institutions under the right circumstances can fall under Title IX. Claims by alumni, by former students, can fall under Title IX … The only reason I say that is because that’s what I think mention of Title IX normally assumes … One thing I learned from this is there’s really a wide variety of things Title IX can cover, and that goes well beyond anything that’s between just a student and a professor.”

The Baylor Title IX office confirmed that both people from other institutions and alumni can file complaints. Under the Responsible Employee clause, university employees are thereby mandatory reporters of potential Title IX violations. Responsible Employees must report immediately any information about suspected prohibited conduct or violations of the Title IX policy.

Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications, chief marketing officer and university spokesperson, said there was no confidentiality clause in the separation agreement and Dougherty and his lawyers have not pursued any legal action following the separation agreement.

Dougherty’s biography page was removed from the Baylor philosophy website by Friday morning.

Dougherty posted the following comments to his Facebook page Friday evening:

“My lawsuit against Baylor was settled very much to my satisfaction this week. Thanks for all the messages of support. It is very nice to be debt free and be able to get the girls new cars and re-open my entrepreneurial interests. I warned Baylor many times that their violations of due process, their breaches of confidentiality, and general heavy-handedness would cost them, and it did. Our lawyers are still locked on what the hush money they paid me covers, but I was sure to retain the right to share six years of text messages, which thank goodness I saved. Given what’s going on with things today, save your calendars and text messages!

I have deep affection for my Baylor family, many faculty, and even a few people in academia. The state of Academia reached a place I no longer wanted to be about two years ago, but I couldn’t pull the plug. At least I can do so now with a very nice nest egg to get me back into the real world of entrepreneurship where people are judged by their merits rather than their politics and sexual harassment allegations are not used as weapons.

Did I make some unwise and imprudent decisions, yes I did. I’ve got a big mouth on me and am very impulsive (on Depakote for that now), but no student ever even *accused* me of something sexual. My complaint here is solely against the Baylor administration and their Title IX office. I’ll own my problems, but I deserved due process. Due process can’t just be chucked out.”

Baylor refuted some of Dougherty’s claims in a statement to the Lariat Friday evening, saying there was no lawsuit between the university and the professor.

An unnamed source with knowledge of the separation agreement said Dougherty is not eligible for rehire at Baylor, and he has relinquished his tenure as part of the agreement. The source also said Dougherty is receiving severance pay through Dec. 31 and the total amount he will get in the agreement is $31,642.84 before taxes and attorney fees. He will personally receive $18,569 after all fees and taxes are taken out.

That source added taking Dougherty through the typical tenure revocation process would have lasted many, many months, and the agreement was the most expedited way to get him off the Baylor campus.

Tom Ward, assistant professor in the philosophy department, posted the following on his Facebook page:

Trent Dougherty must know that the faculty members of the Baylor philosophy department believe and, as of today, have told our graduate students, that Trent resigned from Baylor, that the tenured members of the department were prepared to initiate a dismissal hearing against him in the event he did not resign, and that they believe the Title IX investigations were conducted thoroughly and objectively. I would be interested to know whether Trent thinks the faculty members of the philosophy department are lying, or whether he thinks they are misinformed, or whether he has some other explanation of their words in today’s public statement on the philosophy department’s website and or in today’s meeting with graduate students.”

In June, Dr. Michael Beaty, chair and professor of philosophy at Baylor, announced the formation of a Climate Committee.

“The Department of Philosophy at Baylor University believes that philosophy is for all members of our academic community. Yet my colleagues and I are aware that a variety of social factors often inhibit some from feeling welcome in the discipline. As part of a multi-faceted approach to help ensure that our department is a hospitable place for all to study and teach philosophy, I have appointed a Climate Committee. I have asked Dr. Charity Anderson to chair the Climate Committee and Dr. Todd Buras, Dr. Anne-Marie Schultz, and Dr. Tom Ward to serve with her on it. All have agreed to serve and I am grateful for their willingness to lead us in this important work,” Beaty said in a press release on June 28.

According to the June press release, the tasks of the climate committee included the following: overseeing regular climate surveys; organizing informational sessions to raise awareness within our community about various forms of bias, discrimination, harassment, and other problems affecting marginalized groups; and holding regular meetings with graduate students to receive feedback and foster community. Additionally, the committee was made available to discuss challenges faced by underrepresented groups or anyone experiencing harassment and discrimination and to provide support to those who need it.

Dougherty was known around campus for his class on C.S. Lewis, he is also the Waco Bicycle Club president.