Dear Baylor: Your Title IX response lacks reach, humility, engagement

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

On March 12, The Editorial Board called for Title IX student training to be more than just a required video — and on March 14, Baylor University proved it missed the point.

In a Lariat Letter responding to our editorial, Dr. Laura Johnson, the Title IX coordinator, said we “failed to fully research the subject and understand the full gamut of training” provided by the staff of the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office.

She went on to say that, beyond the required video, the office provides prevention and education programming throughout the year in the form of tabling events and specialized training to groups and organizations. She cited that more than 1,400 people engaged in programming hosted by the office in the 2022-2023 academic year, and she noted that the office has exceeded that number by nearly 30% so far this year.

While we would love to consider ourselves glass-half-full people, reaching 1,820 students on a campus of 20,824 is simply not cutting it. That translates to less than 9% of the student population.

Johnson also mentioned the office makes additional efforts in Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April).

While we admire such efforts and are in full agreement that these months deserve extra attention, it is important to note that they take place after what is considered “the red zone” for campus sexual assault. Because of the frequency of social gatherings and the presence of new students, the very beginning of the school year (August – November) is when 50% of campus sexual assaults occur. This means that, regardless of the quality of the office’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness Month efforts, they are inevitably too little, too late for many victims.

And although the office claims to host events around campus year-round, nobody would know from the website, considering the calendar has not been updated with a single event since April 2023.

Curiously, though, this is exactly what The Editorial Board declared originally: The problem isn’t resources. The problem is awareness and utilization of those resources. It is impossible to ignore the fact that, beyond the required video, the university is reaching an unacceptably small portion of the student population.

In fact, the required video (which, furthermore, is dull and easy to skip) is the only form of student training enumerated on the website. At the very bottom of the page, there is a section for additional training, but it includes only one sentence: “If you would like to inquire about in-person training, please email us at” This gets absolutely no information across. Is the additional training for individuals or clubs? What is involved? What is covered? Ambiguity does not bring engagement.

Ultimately, when it comes to Title IX education, we cannot rely on the good will of people to take the initiative to reach out for further training — especially when it is not even clear what that training is. This is the epitome of passivity.

Baylor had 22 reported cases of rape in 2022 — an increase from 2021 (20) and 2020 (13). Comparatively, TCU had 12 reported cases of rape (on a campus of 12,785 students), and UT had 23 reported cases of rape (on a campus of 51,913 students). Each one of these reported cases represents a devastating and life-altering event, and we should be taking every step possible to prevent such an event from ever touching our campus again.

We cannot help but wonder why our encouragement of more required student training was met with defensiveness. Not once in our editorial did we say Baylor was failing. In fact, we noted that campus sexual assault is a cultural problem, not a Baylor problem. Let us be proactive, and let us admit that right now, there is room for improvement.

And of course, there is room for improvement. After all, Baylor only established a separate Title IX office and coordinator in 2014, at the outset of its sexual assault scandal. Meanwhile, any and all schools receiving federal funds have been required to have an official Title IX coordinator since 1975. Baylor was 39 years late to the party.

Even then, the university’s first full-time Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford, resigned after only two years on the job because she said Baylor was “more concerned about its image of a wholesome Baptist environment” than it was about its students, according to an article by ESPN.

Unfortunately, this is a trend in faith-based higher education. In a chapter of “Christ-Enlivened Student Affairs” (2020), Dr. Britney Graber explored how Christianity can and should play a central role in Title IX practices. Graber, a Baylor graduate who now serves as the associate director of institutional effectiveness, noted that despite the “implicit compatibility between Title IX and Christian faith,” Christians have been “reluctant to enter the Title IX conversation because they perceive consent as a very low boundary marker for ethical sex.”

In response to the resignation of Crawford, then-interim President David Garland released a statement to students, faculty and staff, saying that “despite this recent personnel change, the office continues to have a capable, professional team to do its work” and that “our commitment remains resolute as we strive to cultivate a Christian community of care and respect for others.”

This sounds lovely, but these are just words, just like the Lariat Letter is just words. We can talk day in and day out about our so-called “caring Christian community” and about the improvements we have made with Title IX thus far, but unless we translate those conversations into more action and better results, they mean absolutely nothing.

Given its (very recent) history, Baylor should not be so quick to sweep a call for more required student training under the rug.

Our work here is not done.