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The private institution, a bulwark of Christian ideals and philosophies, inspired the kind of fierce devotion often enjoyed by small colleges and universities, but few people outside of those who spent their formative years at the university, paid attention to the school.
And Baylor captured the nation’s interest (though it did famously generate headlines when it finally lifted its ban on dancing, in 1996).
Through it all, Baylor’s response was institutional silence.
Starr spoke only through press releases issued at curious times—just before kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday, in the midst of Baylor’s annual “Late Night” festivities—and Briles and athletics director Ian Mc Caw addressed only friendly media, responding to questions about the sexual assault problem at Baylor with context-free claims like “we constantly address [sexual violence]” and “we have a zero-tolerance policy [for the issue].” At the moment, Mc Caw still has a job.
The failure to identify and respond to patterns in the football program has long been troubling—it’s at the heart of a lawsuit against the university by one of the victims of Tevin Elliott—and Pepper Hamilton’s report is consistent with what multiple sources told in the winter of 2015 and spring of 2016 about Baylor, Briles, and the football program.
More broadly, the report noted that there are “significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct” and that Briles’s leadership “created a cultural perception that football was above the rules,” because “in certain instances, including reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, athletics and football personnel affirmatively chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence to an appropriate administrator outside of athletics.
Pepper Hamilton also notes that the Baylor University Police Department “contributed to, and in some instances, accommodated or created a hostile environment,” but the measures taken to put an end to that are currently a mystery.
When Baylor’s board of regents held a conference call for media, officials refused to answer our specific questions about changes at the Baylor Police Department, instead hewing to their established talking points.
According to the findings of fact: In addition to broader University failings, Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and Athletics Department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player, to take action in response to reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, and to take action in response to a report of dating violence.In short, Baylor has grown at an unprecedented rate.With that explosive growth has come some great pains. For months, Baylor has been under increased scrutiny as questions have swirled about what school administrators knew about sexual assault allegations involving its students.According to Pepper Hamilton, “administrators engaged in conduct that could be perceived as victim-blaming” and “perceived judgmental responses by administrators based on a complainant’s alcohol or other drug use or prior consensual sexual activity also discouraged reporting or continued participation in the process” were among the failures.But if someone is being held accountable for the behavior being outlined here, we don’t know who it is.