Email of ex-Baylor president David Garland raises red flag, lawyers say

WACO, Texas -- A former Baylor interim president wrote in an email last year that he gained another perspective "of what is going on in the heads of some women who may seem willingly to make themselves victims" after hearing a radio interview with an author who chronicled her alcoholism at college.

The remark came in an email exchange last year between David Garland and a Baylor administrator amid lingering allegations that the nation's largest Baptist school repeatedly mishandled or stifled allegations of sexual and physical abuse.

The email was obtained by lawyers for 10 women who are suing Baylor, contending that the school ignored their allegations. The email was revealed in a court filing this week. The Waco Tribune-Herald first reported on the release of the emails.

Garland also cited verses in the New Testament referring to God's wrath on those who commit sexual sin.

The plaintiffs in Wednesday's federal court filing argue that it's central to their case that Garland "would conclude that these young women made themselves willing victims of sexual assault" and "would then immediately find relevance in 'God's wrath' upon them."

Garland did not return a request for comment from the newspaper.

Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said Garland's viewpoint is shared by other Baylor leaders.

"Unfortunately, it reflects an attitude at the top of the university, which, frankly, anyone who loves Baylor should be disgusted by," he told the newspaper.

In a statement released Thursday, the university said, "As stated previously, we will maintain our efforts to keep discovery focused on this specific case while protecting the privacy of our students and their records. This filing is one step in a long process, and out of respect for the legal proceedings in this case, the university will decline to comment further."

The university earlier this month settled a federal lawsuit filed by a former student who said she was gang-raped by two football players and alleged the school's football program fostered a "culture of violence."

The settlement was one of several in recent weeks as Baylor moves to close out lawsuits filed after an investigation into how the school handled reports of sexual and physical assaults for years. The inquiry led to the firing of football coach Art Briles and the departure of former school president Ken Starr.

Garland is on sabbatical and is scheduled to return to Baylor in August to teach. Linda Livingstone has been named the new Baylor president.

In an interview with ESPN in July 2016, Garland was asked about Baylor's student code of conduct -- including its punishment for drinking -- which was identified as a barrier to women reporting sexual assaults, as mentioned in the findings from the school's investigation by law firm Pepper Hamilton into how Baylor handled allegations of sexual violence.

"We understand not to blame the victim, also to understand the trauma and be sensitive to that and not to be judgmental," Garland said. "And the purpose is to turn a victim into a survivor and to thrive. ... I want to stop them from ever being victimized."

In the July 2016 interview, he said that he was "fairly naive" because he teaches at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, which is part of Baylor University. But one of his faculty members said that since he taught New Testament, he should "understand about the fallenness of humankind, and I should be more realistic about what actually happens," and he said he understood the concerns about the school's enforcement of the student code of conduct regarding alcohol and sexual assault.

He went on to mention a segment he heard on NPR about a book called "Blackout" -- the same book that was referenced in the emails released as part of the court case this week. "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget" was a 2015 book by Sarah Hepola chronicling the author's personal experience with episodes of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol to the point that she blacked out.

"Here's somebody who would drink and black out," Garland said. "But what was interesting is she seemed to have the effect of being perfectly conscious. It was absolutely eye-opening to me because she would have absolutely no memory whatsoever of what happened. So the question is, 'How do you get consent in that kind of [situation]?' The whole issue is extremely complex."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's Paula Lavigne was used in this report.