Baylor president resigns post after critical Title IX review

Board plans several changes to improve campus climate

Baylor University's Board of Regents announced leadership changes Thursday afternoon after an external review uncovered a "fundamental failure" in how the university "implement[s] Title IX."

As part of the changes, Kenneth Starr will step down as president but remain chancellor, a role focused on external relations. The board also fired Head Football Coach Art Briles. The interim president will be David Garland, a former dean and professor.

External review produces scathing report

The changes were part of the board's response to an external review by law firm Pepper Hamilton into Baylor's compliance with Title IX. The board heard Pepper Hamilton's conclusions earlier in May and released them Thursday.

Pepper Hamilton concluded that Baylor's processes for responding to sexual violence reports were "wholly inadequate." According to the report, Baylor officials did not adequately support students who filed complaints of sexual violence. The investigation also discovered that administrators "directly discouraged" some complainants and retaliated against one student.

"We were horrified," said board chair Richard Willis. "The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us."

News of a shake-up leaked earlier this week

Starr's future at the university has been uncertain since Tuesday, when a local blog reported that Starr would be forced to step down as president. The news quickly spread to other media outlets, but neither the university nor Starr confirmed the report. 

Baylor's football program was a focal point for criticism of the university's response to Title IX complaints. Since 2013, several students have said that they reported rapes on campus and received little support from Baylor administrators. In at least two of these cases, the accused students were football players who were later found guilty of rape in a criminal court.

Board chair: "Our students … deserve more"

Baylor's board already plans to improve several processes, and it created a task force to implement the changes and look for more. "Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future student," Willis said.

Colleges nationwide are facing criticism for their policies for responding to sexual assault reports. The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights opened 176 sexual violence investigations in 2014 and 2015, according to a recent report by The Chronicle of Higher Education (Baylor University release, 5/26; New, Inside Higher Ed, 5/26; Anderson, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 5/26).

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