BU lawsuit filing: Title IX and discrimination were not priorities

By  | 

WACO, Texas (KWTX) A motion filed Tuesday by attorneys representing 10 Jane Doe plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Baylor University over the school’s handling of sexual assaults alleges that “Title IX and discrimination were not priorities while hundreds of Baylor women were being raped.”

(Baylor University photo/file)

The filing was the latest salvo between the two attorneys representing the Jane Doe plaintiffs, Jim Dunnam of Waco and Chad Dunn of Houston, and Baylor, which argues the plaintiffs are seeking testimony and documents that have no bearing on the allegations in the lawsuit.

The motion, which seeks to broaden discovery in the suit, also cited evidence that Richard Willis, who was chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents during the Pepper Hamilton investigation of the school’s handling of sexual assault reports, “holds ‘remarkably outdated,’ ‘archaic,’ and ‘outmoded’ views of gender roles.”

As KWTX first reported Monday, Baylor attorneys are investigating allegations that, while on a business trip to Mexico in 2014, Willis, who served four terms as the board’s chairman, used a racial slur in a reference to black football players and a vulgar term in reference to white female students.

Willis also allegedly made disparaging remarks about then University President Kenneth Starr and his wife.

The allegations are included in sworn affidavits provided by two witnesses to the comments, Waco businessman Greg Klepper and Mexican business consultant Alejandro Urdaneta, both of which are attached to the motion filed Tuesday.

“There are two people who said the alleged comments were made back in 2014, while two other parties to the conversation have denied the alleged comments,” Baylor said in a statement Tuesday.

“This is a classic case of ‘he said vs. he said’ and why Baylor has issued a subpoena for the recording of the alleged conversation as part of the University’s fact-based investigation into the matter.”

Title IX compliance, diversity, weren’t priorities

The motion filed Tuesday also cites a risk management portfolio the university’s board of regents adopted in February 2013 that ranked various risk-related issues in three tiers.

Those listed in the first tier including compliance with NCAA regulations, monitoring the status of the Big 12 Conference and Baylor’s continued membership and safeguarding and improving Baylor’s reputation, were identified as the only issues on which the board, its Executive Council and Audit and Compliance Committee would receive progress reports.

Title IX was at the top of the list of Tier 2 issues.

“Preventing significant lawsuits and claims relating to professional liability, discrimination, or equal opportunity noncompliance” and “Meeting targets in staff and faculty diversity” were on the list of Tier 3 issues.

“The Board of Regents has never had an Executive Council,” the university said in a statement Tuesday.

“The Executive Council was part of the University and reported to President (Ken) Starr,” the university said.

“The fact that Title IX was included as part of Baylor’s Risk Portfolio proves that this issue was being closely monitored by the university’s leadership team. The Feb. 7, 2013, document was a snapshot in time and the University’s risk portfolio was continuously updated and monitored. The document is a monitoring report, not a policy,” the school said.

The motion also quotes testimony from the deposition of Patty Crawford, who came to Baylor in November 2014 as the school’s first Title IX coordinator and left in October 2016 after rejecting a settlement offer during a daylong mediation of a retaliation complaint she filed in which she alleged that then Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Reagan Ramsower took away her authority to handle Title IX complaints.

Title IX, which is part of a more than 40-year-old law aimed at ensuring equal rights for those participating in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance, applies to all facets of a school's environment.

It has been interpreted to mean that sexual harassment of students including sexual violence interferes with the right to receive an education free from discrimination, and requires schools to take immediate action to end harassment and sexual violence.

Crawford said that during her first presentation to regents, one board member questioned whether Baylor needed to comply with Title IX.

“The concern for me in that moment was, ‘well, maybe the full board isn't – like the regents aren't really on board with having this position exist,’” she testified.

A faculty member later warned her that “there were a large group of powerful faculty that felt like the diversity initiatives at the university and that Title IX were not biblical,” she testified.

“And so they were working really hard with influential board members…to sort of stop these initiatives, stop complying with Title IX, saying as a religious freedom issue and as an academic integrity and academic freedom issue that faculty should not have to comply with Title IX or with the diversity initiatives,” she testified.”

“The board was sort of split with a group of powerful people that really felt they shouldn't have to comply with Title IX,” she testified.

She said university officials blocked her plan to conduct a “Title IX Climate Survey.

She said Vice President of Student Affairs Kevin Jackson told her “they were really pushing back at allowing these surveys to be put out to students because they didn't want people expecting publicly to get the outcome of the survey because they were really afraid it would look very badly on the university what students and faculty and staff would say anonymously about the real climate of Title IX-related issues like sexual assault climate and things like that and also the same with the diversity initiative.”

Crawford also testified that obstacles were created to keep her from receiving information from local police and preventing her from providing brochures to be given to victims who reported sexual assaults directly to police.

Baylor, however, said in a statement Tuesday that during Crawford’s tenure as the school’s first Title IX coordinator, the university spent $4.3 million on the Title IX Office “and other service to sexual assault survivors.”

“As a result, Crawford’s staff grew from one to seven fulltime positions, in addition to four consultants and an outside attorney. Her budget increased 250 percent during her time as Title IX coordinator,” the school said.

“Crawford presided over seven of the 10 Plaintiffs’ Title IX cases, yet surprisingly they were not the topic of discussion during Crawford’s 11-hour deposition,” the school said.

“Instead, the plaintiffs’ counsel continued to be more concerned about unrelated facts and conspiracy theories, as well as the cases involving former Baylor football players dismissed for acts of sexual violence, which led to the departure of former athletic director Ian McCaw and former football coach Art Briles.”

Crawford got pushback on changing recruit hostess group

The motion also quotes Crawford’s testimony on the Baylor Bruins, a football recruit hostess group that was disbanded at the end of the 2015 football season and merged with an existing campus welcoming organization.

The 40 women who were members of the group were “sort of like on call for football players to make sure that they had a good time and (so) they know there were going to be beautiful women at Baylor,” Crawford testified.

"There was a lot of push back on…kind of reorganizing and structuring the Bruins in a different way that would get rid of this underlying culture. And so I really had to push to say I understand there's obligations, but let's do it in a more ethical way,” she testified.

A separate Jane Doe lawsuit filed in January 2017 alleged the university's football program was using attractive female students as recruiting bait.

The woman, whom the suit said is a resident of Virginia who graduated from Baylor in December 2014, alleged that Baylor had a policy of "Show 'em a good time in recruiting," and that the school provided little or no discipline for football players, interfered with female students' access to help, failed to report allegations of sexual and dating violence, diverted such cases away from student conduct or criminal processes and accepted players "with histories of violence toward women."

The suit alleged the Baylor football coaching staff allowed players to arrange "for women, alcohol and illegal drugs for parties when recruits were in town," paid for and escorted recruits to bars and strip clubs and paid for off-campus parties, "which repeatedly resulted in the gang rape of women by the athletes."

The suit alleged one Bruin hostess was impregnated by a member of the football team.

Several former members of the Baylor Bruins were quick to refute the allegations, and in a statement Tuesday, the university said the group’s bylaws required members to maintain a “professional relationship” with prospects, discouraged personal relationships between Bruins and current athletes, and barred sexual contact between members and prospects and current athletes.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the Baylor Bruins program used “sexuality and the implied promise of female companionship” to recruit athletes, as alleged in a 2017 lawsuit,” Baylor said Tuesday.