News Guide: Review finds Baylor disregarded sexual assault

AP News
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Posted: May 26, 2016 4:36 PM
News Guide: Review finds Baylor disregarded sexual assault

DALLAS (AP) — After months of silence, Baylor University on Thursday responded to mounting criticism of its handling of accusations of sexual assaults and other attacks by football players by demoting its president, Ken Starr, and firing its football coach, Art Briles.

Baylor also released the main findings of a withering report by a law firm that reviewed the school's handling of such cases and found, among other things, that administrators denied that the university had a sexual violence problem and failed on several levels to investigate claims. In one case, they retaliated against someone for reporting a sexual assault, it found.

Here are some of the key points from those findings :

RETALIATION AND 'VICTIM-BLAMING'

The review by Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton found systemic failures that extended well beyond the football program, though it was the cases involving players that brought the issue front and center.

Not all victims received hearings for their cases, sometimes because the university claimed it had no control over anything occurring off campus. The review found the "overwhelming majority of cases" of sexual assault or harassment did not get a hearing, and an "extremely limited number of cases" ended in a finding against the accused or a significant punishment.

Investigations of sexual assault were often "inadequate or uninformed," the firm said. Administrators were not given enough training on how to evaluate domestic violence, stalking or the role of alcohol in a sexual assault case.

"In addition, the investigations were conducted in the context of a broader culture and belief by many administrators that sexual violence 'doesn't happen here,'" the review found. "Administrators engaged in conduct that could be perceived as victim-blaming, focusing on the complainant's choices and actions."

A FOOTBALL PROGRAM RUN AMOK

Over eight seasons, Art Briles turned a laughingstock program into one of the top teams in college football. But the review found that on his watch, football staff dismissed victims' complaints, conducted sham investigations and allowed the creation of a "cultural perception that football was above the rules."

The report does not name Briles. But it says football coaches sometimes met directly with someone reporting a sexual assault or a parent, and did not report misconduct. In some cases, football staff looked into complaints on their own instead of referring them to an administrator outside of the athletics department for a thorough investigation.

"The university missed critical opportunities to impose appropriate disciplinary action that would have removed offenders from campus and possibly precluded future acts of sexual violence against Baylor students," the report said.

Two former Baylor players, Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu, have been convicted of raping students.

A NECESSARY OVERHAUL

The firm made more than 100 recommendations for actions that could be taken at all levels of Baylor's administration.

It called on the athletics department to "create and maintain culture of high moral standards, enforcement, and discipline." The athletic department should re-train its staff, and identify and discipline those who failed to act on sexual assault complaints, the firm said.

The university should identify any victims of sexual assault either still enrolled or no longer enrolled, and find out what needs to be done to help them. It should make complying with federal law "an institutional priority," with structures in place to ensure allegations are better investigated.

Board chair Richard Willis said in a statement that he was "horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus" and pledged action.

"Our students and their families deserve more," Willis said.

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