Ken Starr Demoted as President of Baylor for 'Fundamental Failure' to Appropriately Investigate Sexual Assaults
Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who led the investigation into President Bill Clinton’s sexual trysts in 1998, is officially out as president of Baylor University after an exhaustive investigation revealed his administration's “fundamental failure” to appropriately handle sexual assault accusations.
The announcement comes after the Baylor Board of Regents insisted Tuesday, amid speculation, that Starr had not been ousted, but noted the board was continuing to review an investigation into the school’s handling of sexual assault victims. That report, compiled by Pepper Hamilton law firm at the board’s request, found the school “accommodated or created a hostile environment, rather than taking action to eliminate a hostile environment.”
The report noted the school had failed “to identify and train responsible employees under Title IX,” the federal law that requires prompt and appropriate investigations into allegations of sexual assault on campus. The law firm found the “overwhelming majority of cases did not move forward to an adjudicative hearing, with only an extremely limited number of cases resulting in a finding of responsibility or significant sanction.
“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,” the report said, adding that football staff conducted inquiries outside of policy “which improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation.”
Baylor initiated the investigation after a series of high-profile sexual assault cases drew national attention over the span of several years. In one of those instances, the victim filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school, alleging school officials told the victim’s mother they were “too busy” to investigate her claims.
The report released by Pepper Hamilton revealed systemic negligence by school administrators. In a statement, Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, said the board is “horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus.”
“This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” Willis said. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”
Despite being stripped of his position as president, Kenneth Starr will transition to the role of chancellor and remain a professor at the university’s law school. Baylor’s head couch, Art Biles, “has been suspended indefinitely with intent to terminate according to contractual procedures,” according to the university. Baylor’s athletic director, Ian McCaw, was placed on probation.
In February, Starr released a letter to the Baylor community affirming his commitment to sexual assault victims. “Our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence,” Starr wrote. “No one should have to endure the trauma of these terrible acts of wrongdoing. We must never lose sight of the long-term, deeply personal effects such contemptible conduct has on the lives of survivors.”
“Let me be clear: Sexual violence emphatically has no place whatsoever at Baylor University,” Starr added.