Baylor activist group calls for another investigation into handling of complaints

Members of an activist group at Baylor have called for another investigation into the school's handling of sexual assault complaints that would include an examination of the Board of Regents' initial investigation that led to the removal of the university president, athletic director and head football coach.

Members of Bears for Leadership Reform met Monday morning with three members of the Baylor Board of Regents, and in a press conference following, they announced that they were pressing for a third-party, independent probe with an investigator selected jointly by the activist group and the university.

Attorney John Eddie Williams, one of the group's founders, said he also asked the board how much money the university has spent so far in addressing the sexual assault crisis -- including settlements with victims and the hiring of law firm Pepper Hamilton to conduct its investigation. Williams said they were "stonewalled" by that question.

The meeting, which Baylor officials initiated, was set up so the three regents could get input from members of Bears for Leadership Reform and take the information and requests back to the full board for discussion, a Baylor spokesman said Monday.

In late May, the Baylor Board of Regents -- after hearing the Pepper Hamilton findings on how the university handled sexual assault complaints -- fired head football coach Art Briles, sanctioned athletic director Ian McCaw and removed Ken Starr from his role as president. McCaw and Starr would later leave the university altogether.

Several prominent alumni and donors, including businessman Drayton McLane for whom Baylor's football stadium is named, were upset with the board's actions and have questioned the scope of the Pepper Hamilton report and whether the board made the right personnel decisions. At a meeting last month to launch Bears for Leadership Reform, several supporters said the board itself deserves more of the blame for how the school failed to implement provisions of Title IX, the federal gender-equity law that requires universities to investigate claims of sexual violence and provide support to alleged victims.

The school's former Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford, resigned in October, stating that senior leaders at Baylor were impeding her ability to improve Title IX compliance at the school. She filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, which has launched its own investigation into Baylor.

Williams said he believes a jointly hired independent investigator can do a faster and more comprehensive review than Department of Education officials. He said he and other members of Bears for Leadership Reform would be willing to help pick up the tab, which he estimated to exceed $1 million.

In the meantime, Williams said he's heard of other prominent donors who have plans to withhold their donations until some of the activist group's issues are addressed.

"I'm in a very difficult situation. I've made commitments to Baylor for the field at the football stadium, and it's something I'm wrestling with at the moment," Williams said. "I hope the board will go forward with transparency and we'll put all that behind us."