Reform group takes aim at Baylor Board of Regents

(Baylor University photo/file)
(Baylor University photo/file)(KWTX)
Published: Nov. 7, 2016 at 4:11 PM CST
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Bears for Leadership Reform, a group formed amid the controversy over how the school’s board of regents responded to a scathing review of the university’s handling of sexual assault reports will launch an effort Thursday to “restore integrity to the world’s largest Baptist University.”

KWTX first reported on the group on Nov. 3.

The online group had about 3,500 members as of Monday.

On Monday, the group announced that its board of directors includes former Texas Gov. Mark White; Regent Emeritus Gale Galloway; former Regent Emily Tinsley; Houston lawyer John Eddie Williams, a graduate of the Baylor School of Law; Houston lawyer James H. “Rell” Tipton; former Texas state Sen. Don Adams, and Temple businessman and Regent Emeritus Drayton McLane, for whom Baylor’s riverside stadium is named.

A lengthy review by the Pepper Hamilton law firm led to the firing of head football coach Art Briles, reassignment of Chancellor and President Ken Starr and suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw.

But the review was flawed, according to university insiders to whom KWTX talked during a months-long investigation.

Information from sources with direct knowledge of the review, and secret recordings of meetings with athletic staffers obtained by KWTX, suggest that the firm’s investigators came to Waco with an agenda to purge members of the football program and had a racial undertone in their line of questioning.

“Bears for Leadership Reform” is demanding greater transparency, accountability and wholesale reform of the Baylor Board of Regents to restore unity and trust with students, their families, the public and the entire Baylor Family,” the group said in a press release Monday.

The group is seeking “common sense reform of the Board of Regents involving transparency, appointments, conflicts-of-interest, structure, and authority; an open search for a new University president that welcomes input from the Baylor Family and “best-in-class Title IX and sexual assault response programs,” the press release said.

The group plans to unveil a new website and social media platforms to reach out to students, prospective students, alumni, parents, faculty, pastors and congregation members, as well as to others not directly affiliated with Baylor.

Further details will be announced at a news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday in Knox Hall at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, which will be streamed live on the group's Facebook page.

The Baylor Board of Regents has 34 voting members, but two positions are vacant because of the recent resignations of Kathy Wills Wright and Christopher Howard.

Three of the voting members fill alumni-elected positions on the board, which were created as the result of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit that Baylor filed against the Baylor Alumni Association, which is now called the Baylor Line Foundation.

The first three, Dan Chapman, Wayne Fisher and Julie Turner, were appointed jointly by the Baylor Line Foundation and the board of regents.

As their initial terms expire, all alumni will vote to either reelect them or elect a different regent to those seats.

Of the remaining 31, 25 percent are technically appointed by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, but the current board controls that process and can veto any BGCT appointee.

The other 75 percent are appointed by the board itself.

There are also non-voting student, faculty and B Association representatives on the board who serve one-year terms.

The board also approves their appointments.

WACO, Texas (KWTX)--Baylor launched an online Title IX course Monday afternoon for all students in an effort to “foster a safe and healthy campus culture at Baylor University.”

Baylor’s new Title IX Coordinator, Kristan Tucker, announced the news to faculty in an email Monday morning urging them to encourage students to take the course before the end of the semester.

A record of completion will go into a database so the school can track progress in efforts to educate students, the email says, but completion will not be a requirement tied to registration.

Tucker said the training will “educate our students about building healthy relationships, preventing sex-based discrimination and intervening safety should they become bystanders in an unhealthy situation.”

Tucker also announced that a new faculty and staff course about Title IX will be available in the Spring 2017 semester.

Tucker took over as Baylor’s Title IX Coordinator less than 48 hours after Patty Crawford resigned following a daylong mediation of a retaliation complaint she filed with the university’s Human Resources Department. (Julie Hays)