BU reform group calls on regents to resign

(Baylor University photo/file)
(Baylor University photo/file)(KWTX)
Published: Aug. 2, 2018 at 12:07 PM CDT
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Bears for Leadership Reform broke its yearlong silence Thursday and called for the resignations of all of the regents involved in Baylor’s handling of the sexual assault scandal that engulfed the school’s football program as well as for release of the complete Pepper Hamilton report and a third party review of the investigation and its aftermath.

“The group also requests a full accounting of money spent on the investigation, including PR firms and attorneys, and payouts to former athletic department and university officials,” BLR said in a press release Thursday.

“Baylor officials have repeatedly rebuffed the requests, saying it is time for the university to move forward,” the group said.

Baylor, however, said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the school's openness was unprecedented.

“With Baylor’s release of the Findings of Fact on May 26, 2016, no other university has admitted and outlined its institutional failures in such an open manner, nor shared its plans for remediation through such expansive initiatives that have been implemented throughout the university," the school said.

"Every student, faculty and staff member has benefited from training and awareness campaigns, and significant investments have been made across the campus to support the needs of those impacted by sexual violence."

BLR, whose thousands of members include prominent university alumni and donors, stepped back from the controversy in August 2017 to give the school’s new president, Dr. Linda Livingstone and new Board of Regents leaders “an opportunity to be more transparent and accountable to the Baylor Family concerning the sexual assault scandal and the Pepper Hamilton investigation,” BLR said in the press release Thursday.

But a year later, “Our BLR leadership is deeply disturbed that the Baylor Family has a lot of questions. None of them have been answered,” Bears for Leadership Reform President John Eddie Williams said Thursday.

Regents, the group said, must “come clean” about everything that happened during and after the Pepper Hamilton investigation.

“Other universities have been able to move forward by telling the whole truth and then taking steps to make sure something like this could never happen again,” Williams, a Houston attorney, said.

“All the facts will be revealed in the litigation,” he said.

Baylor, however, says regents reviewed the Pepper Hamilton investigation, concluded it was it "was comprehensive, unbiased and professional," and voted in December 2016 to reaffirm their confidence in it.

“Baylor is in a phase of restoration and resolution, as evidenced by the various lawsuits and investigations of incidents in years past," the school said.

"Baylor of today is not the same institution of two, three and certainly five years ago. The university understands that restoring the trust of various constituents is an ongoing process, and Baylor has made a commitment to do everything the institution can to provide a safe and healthy environment for all students.”

The reform group’s renewed call for transparency comes after the release of the full transcript of the deposition of former Athletic Director Ian McCaw in a Jane Doe Sexual assault suit against the school and an extensive interview that former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett gave to Fort Worth Star Telegram writer Mac Engle.

McCaw told attorneys during the deposition, a full transcript of which was attached to a lawsuit filing on July 20, that he left the university because he “was disgusted…with the regents, the racism, (and) the phony finding of fact,” and “did not want to be part of some Enron cover -up scheme.”

He said the athletic department generally, and black football players and former head football coach Art Briles in particular, were made scapegoats in an effort to cover-up a much larger problem.

Bennett, meanwhile, told Engle, “When I had the interview with Pepper Hamilton. I knew it was a fraud.”

“Never at any point did I think this program was out of control, from Ian on down,” Bennett said in the interview.

“I just felt the system was a failure to help anybody, us or the victims.”

“Based on the Ian McCaw deposition and the recent Phil Bennett article, the Pepper Hamilton investigation is further evidence of a cover up,” BLR board member Gale Galloway, a former Board of Regents chairman, said Thursday.

“I think the only way out is for the university and the regents to fully disclose the scope and all of the facts surrounding the Pepper Hamilton investigation,” he said.

The Baylor Line Foundation, the university’s principal alumni group, issued a similar call for transparency on July 24 after details of McCaw’s June 19 deposition surfaced.

“As alumni, we have a right to know the truth, and should demand nothing less,” an email from the Baylor Line Foundation to alumni read.

On May 26, 2016, following a nine-month investigation by the Philadelphia based Pepper Hamilton law firm, Baylor regents released a 13-page findings of fact statement and a list of 105 recommendations from the law firm, and announced the firing of Briles, the reassignment of Chancellor and President Ken Starr, and the suspension of McCaw.

Four days later, on May 30, 2016, McCaw resigned saying he needed to step down in order to help the university heal and move forward.

He now the athletic director at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Va.

Starr resigned from his position as chancellor on June 1, and severed all ties with the university in August 2016.

The university has rejected McCaw’s assertions during the deposition that the athletic department generally, and black football players and Briles in particular, were made scapegoats.

“As specifically described in our prior legal responses, Mr. McCaw’s unsubstantiated claims of a conspiracy by regents, racism and scapegoating at Baylor are bizarre, blatantly false and nothing more than speculation and gossip of which he has no firsthand knowledge,” the university said in a statement in late June.

Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone and Board of Regents Chairman Joel Allison addressed the issue during a news conference on July 20 after regents wrapped up meetings in Waco.

“We’re very confident the facts in those situations have not changed and that the decisions that the board made at the time those facts were released were the right decisions,” Livingstone was quoted as saying by the foundation’s alumni publication The Baylor Line.

“We stand by those decisions as an institution and we also feel very good about the ongoing work that the university has done to implement the recommendations that came out of the work of Pepper Hamilton.”