In 2014, students at my alma mater brought a new organization to campus: It Ends With Us. Around that same time, the university and numerous others pledged themselves to the national It’s On Us campaign that was launched by the Obama Administration in September 2014. Both the student organization and the national campaign share a singular focus: changing the way people view sexual assault.
Over the past two years, prevention of sexual assault has become a popular topic of discussion, particularly within the school system. The Department of Education has provided educators with guidelines on facilitated communication and employee training in the hope that students will feel more comfortable reporting any violence. Additionally, the DoE has supplied schools with proper procedures in compliance with Title IX that should be followed once a report is received. For further discussion of the guidelines and remedial procedures, see our article on Schools’ Obligation to Address Sexual Misconduct Under Title IX.
Despite all of this direction, schools are struggling to handle cases of sexual misconduct, especially where student athletes are concerned. On June 1, Kenneth W. Starr, after being discharged from his presidential position, resigned from his position as chancellor of Baylor University. His resignation followed an investigation of the university, finding that Baylor improperly responded to accusations of sexual assault against its football players.
What Did Baylor Do Wrong?
An independent and external investigation of Baylor University addresses the faults in the school’s response to allegations of sexual violence. Not only did the investigation illuminate Baylor’s failure to properly implement Title IX procedures, it also revealed noncompliance with the Federal Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).
The investigation’s report essentially contains a list of the multiple ways in which the university failed to comply with Title IX and VAWA procedures. This list includes: failure to provide training and education to students, failure to train employees, failure to provide information on how to report assaults, failure to provide information on campus resources for victims, failure to have a centralized process to ensure that the reports reached the Title IX Coordinator, failure to give accusers access to a full range of procedural options, and failure to conduct prompt, equitable, adequate, and reliable investigations, to name a few.
In addition to the school’s sub-par procedures, Baylor’s football program also maintained a separate faulty response system. Coaches and other football staff, who had not been properly trained to deal with assault victims, would conduct their own investigations. The inquiries, which should have received a response from the university, were often never shared outside of athletics, leaving disciplinary action to the discretion of the coaches.
During the school’s internal investigations, many administrators at Baylor seemed to be operating under the notion that sexual violence simply didn’t happen at the school. Obviously, they could not have been more wrong. In the past two years, two of Baylor’s football players were not only charged with sexual assault, but were ultimately convicted, prompting further examination of the school’s Title IX procedures.
We can all learn from Baylor University’s failure to implement appropriate Title IX procedures. Cases like this demonstrate the necessity for educators and administrators to be trained and informed on how to respond to accusations of sexual assault.
This blog post was written by Elizabeth Driscoll, a law clerk at Jules Halpern Associates LLC.