BU board chairman says Starr is still school's president

Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr. (Baylor University photo)
Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr. (Baylor University photo)(KWTX)
Published: May. 24, 2016 at 12:13 PM CDT
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The chairman of the Baylor University Board of Regents confirmed Tuesday evening that Ken Starr is still the school’s president, after a day of reports that regents had voted to fire the former Whitewater prosecutor.

Board of Regents Chairman Richard Willis confirmed in a text message Tuesday evening that Starr is still the university's president.

Baylor refused to comment earlier Tuesday on reports that the university’s regents, meeting via a conference call, voted to fire Starr in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that has engulfed the school’s football program, but said in a brief statement it expects an announcement by June 3.

“We will not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the University will provide it,” Baylor Assistant Vice President for Media Communications Lori Fogelman said in a statement.

Blogger Chip Brown of Scout’s HornsDigest.com first reported the firing Tuesday morning, citing an unnamed source.

KWTX has not independently confirmed the report, but has confirmed through several sources familiar with the situation that the board has been discussing Starr’s future in recent weeks.

Starr, who was introduced as Baylor’s 14th president in February 2010, has been under fire for the school’s handling of several highly-publicized rape cases and other violent incidents involving current or former Baylor athletes.

Last week ESPN reported that an examination of Waco police records over a five-year period uncovered more allegations of violent incidents involving Baylor football players who were not charged and appeared to face little or no discipline even though coaches and administrators knew about the allegations.

The newly revealed cases included domestic violence allegations, fights and a 4-year-old sexual assault case that hasn't been closed even though no charges were filed.

Pepper Hamilton LLP, the Philadelphia law firm hired by Baylor University in September 2015 to conduct an outside review of the university's response to reports of sexual violence in the wake of the first in a series of scathing ESPN reports, briefed university regents on May 13, but no details were released and the school remains mum on the findings.

The university did not indicate when or whether the law firm's report might be made public, but issued a statement on May 13 in which it said, "Over the coming weeks, the board will carefully consider the information provided in the briefing and determine how to decisively act upon Pepper Hamilton's findings and recommendations. The members of the board will be guided by their faith as they make significant decisions for the welfare of Baylor students, the direction of the institution and the good of Baylor Nation.”

“The Baylor Board of Regents continues its work to review the findings of the Pepper Hamilton investigation and we anticipate further communication will come after the Board completes its deliberations,” Scott said in the statement Tuesday.

The university was already implementing an action plan that regents approved in February intended to prevent sexual violence on campus and to improve treatment and services "for all those impacted by interpersonal violence" to ensure "that the educational, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of victims are given prompt and priority attention."

The university said in March it will spend $5 million to prevent and respond to acts of interpersonal violence.

The plan also calls for taking steps to address the needs of students who prompt Title IX investigations; requiring Title IX training for upperclassmen and graduate students as well as to incoming students, and requiring annual Title IX training for faculty and staff.

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.

The vote on Feb. 12 to approve the plan came after a scathing ESPN report on the school's handling of well publicized campus sexual assault cases involving two former football players.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" initial report focused on five women who claimed Tevin Elliott, who was a Baylor football player at the time, sexually assaulted them in incidents from October 2009 to April 2012.

Elliott's attorney Jason Darling argued that the initial allegations were untrue and that the the sexual encounter was consensual, but in January 2014, Elliot was sentenced to two concurrent 20-years prison terms and a $10,000 fine after he was found guilty earlier in the day of two counts of sexual assault.

Elliott, a former defensive end, was indicted on Aug. 27, 2012 in connection with an incident involving the sexual assault of a woman in the early morning hours of April 15, 2012, during a party at a South Waco apartment complex.

Baylor suspended Elliott April 27, 2012 for unspecified team violations.

On Aug. 20, 2015, ex-Baylor football player Samuel Ukwuachu was found guilty of raping a female Baylor soccer player in October 2013.

He could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison for the rape of the 18-year-old student, but jurors decided on probation, instead.

State District Judge Matt Johnson also sentenced Ukwuachu to 180 days in county jail and ordered him to perform 400 hours of community service.

In October 2015, Ukwuachu was released from jail after posting a $100,000 appeal bond.

In another incident unrelated to the athletic program, on March 4 Phi Delta Theta suspended its Baylor chapter and ejected the chapter's president, who was charged with sexual assault in an alleged rape in which the victim was left lying outside unconscious.

Jacob Walter Anderson, 20, was released after posting a $50,000 bond.

The charge against Anderson stems from an incident that occurred early in the morning on Feb. 21 during a party at a house at 2629 South 3rd St.

The victim told investigators she was sipping a drink at a Phi Delta Theta fraternity party when "she became disoriented and very confused," a heavily redacted arrest warrant affidavit says.

The affidavit says Anderson led her outside to a secluded party of the property behind a tent in order to get some air, and then forced her to the ground.

Details of the sexual assault were redacted from the affidavit, which says the victim told investigators that at some point she was unable to breathe and lost consciousness.

She woke up outside, alone and lying face down in her own vomit, the affidavit said.

She was "able to stand up and walk out from that area and find help," the affidavit said.

The victim returned to the house and found a friend who took her to Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.

Anderson's attorney, Clyde Chandler of Cameron, would not comment on the specific accusations, but said, "There's only one presumption in the law and that is all people are presumed innocent and he is presumed innocent unless he is proved guilty beyond all reasonable doubt."

Then on April 13, former football player Shawn Oakman was arrested on a sexual assault charge, 10 days after authorities executed a search warrant at his campus area apartment and six days after his 24th birthday.

Officers responded early in the morning on April 3 to the emergency room of Providence Health Center in response to a report of a sexual assault, the affidavit says.

The victim told police she met with the suspect, identified as Oakman, at Scruffy Murphy's, a campus-area club, and then walked with him to the nearby duplex, a search warrant affidavit said.

Once inside, the woman said that her clothing was forcibly removed and that she was forced onto the bed and sexually assaulted, the affidavit said.

Officers "briefly spoke with Oakman," the affidavit said, "and he admitted to only having consensual sex with the victim."

Oakman was released from jail after posting a $25,000 bond.

WACO, Texas (KWTX)--Before he was named as Baylor’s 14th president, in February 2010, Starr was the Duane and Kelly Roberts dean and professor of law at Pepperdine University, a position he had held since 2004.

He was also of counsel to the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, at which he was a partner from 1993 to 2004.

He served as Solicitor General of the United States from 1989 to 1993 and took over the Whitewater probe in August 1994, which eventually led to the impeachment of then President Bill Clinton.

Starr holds degrees from George Washington University and Brown University and earned a law degree from Duke University in 1973.

He did not attend Baylor.

He’s a fifth-generation Texan who was born in Vernon and grew up in San Antonio, the son of a Church of Christ minister.

The university had been searching for a president since the Board of Regents forced former President John Lilley out in mid-2008 after naming him to succeed former President Dr. Robert Sloan on Nov. 4, 2005.

Lilley was inaugurated as the university’s 13th president in April 2006, almost exactly 45 years after he earned the first of his three degrees from the university.

He came to Waco from the University of Nevada Reno where, he had had served as president since July 2001.

The hope then was that his arrival at Baylor would signal the start of a calmer period after a decade of increasing turmoil on and off campus during Sloan’s tenure.

Saying he had become a lightning rod for controversy, Sloan and university regents agreed in January 2005 that Sloan would step down to become chancellor.

The announcement was the last chapter in a festering controversy that pitted faculty against faculty and graduate against graduate in a debate over everything from hiring practices to indebtedness and tuition rates.

Sloan was the founding dean of Truett Theological Seminary from 1993 to 1995.

Regents named him the school's 12th president in February 1995.