Breaking news: failure to protect victims of sexual assault can and should lead to institutional changes.
This should be self-evident. But today it is vividly illustrated by the firing of Art Briles, Head Football Coach of Baylor University, and the demotion of Ken Starr, President of Baylor University.
From Baylor’s press release: “Board of Regents apologizes to Baylor Nation; Dr. David Garland named interim University President; Ken Starr transitions to role of Chancellor and remains professor at Baylor University Law School; Head Football Coach Art Briles suspended with intent to terminate; Athletic Director Ian McCaw sanctioned and placed on probation; University self-reports to NCAA; Task Force responsible for implementing recommendations formed and operative; Findings of Fact and Recommendations made available”.
Following intense public scrutiny to Baylor’s total inaction with reports of football players sexually assaulting their peers, outside counsel was hired to conduct an investigation. Their headlines:
“Key findings of the investigation reflect a fundamental failure by Baylor to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). The findings include:
- The University’s student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX; Baylor failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures; and in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence or address its effects.
- Actions by University administrators directly discouraged some complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes and in one instance constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.
- 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 and to a report of dating violence.
- There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct.
- Over the course of their review, Pepper investigated the University’s response to reports of a sexual assault involving multiple football players. The football program and Athletics department leadership failed to take appropriate action in response to these reports.”
Why is this important? Because some very important people are finally being held accountable for failing to take sexual assault seriously.
Baylor University is a Baptist school located in Waco, Texas. It has risen to relative prominence in the past years thanks to its Football program. In his 8 years at Baylor, Coach Briles took the school from 4-8 (in 2008) to three seasons with at least ten wins (2013, 2014, 2015). Indeed Briles has been so successful that Baylor’s regents built him an incredible $266 million dollar stadium in 2014.
Ken Starr is that Ken Star. Former federal judge. Nemesis of all things Clinton. Special Prosecutor. Paragon of virtue and so forth. Yet somehow the man that was once a federal judge decided to ignore, either deliberately or through willful blindness, a blatant violation of federal law in his own institution. Ken Starr should also be fired, not demoted, for fostering a culture of rape
Ultimately, firing a superstar coach like Art Briles is a big deal. Big Money Football reigns supreme at many large universities in the United States, and this is regarded as especially true in the OK State of Texas. It shows that people are being held accountable, albeit too late.
Leaders of educational institutions throughout the United States should be on notice after today. Their jobs and livelihoods are on the line when they tolerate a culture of rape and violate federal law.