Former Baylor University President Ken Starr says in a forthcoming book that he was already on the way out when he was fired abruptly in May. He was let go amid a sexual assault scandal that prompted a federal investigation for potential violations of Title IX, a U.S. Department of Education regulation that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funds.
In an excerpt from a forthcoming memoir titled Bear Country published Oct. 30 in the Waco Tribune, the former Whitewater prosecutor said disagreements with the university’s board of regents had been building a full three years before release of the Pepper Hamilton law firm’s investigation of administrative handling of sexual-assault cases.
“For more than three years, the board’s leadership had worked to ease me out of the CEO role and slot me instead into the non-executive position of chancellor, primarily a fundraiser,” Starr said. “For various reasons, I was not satisfying the board’s vision of a CEO. In their view, I was to be, instead, an outside person who built the university through raising money.”
Starr, 70, said three times during his six years of service he considered resigning from the presidency and just teach in the Baylor Law School.
On Friday a ninth and 10th woman were added to a lawsuit filed in June against the university affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the Wall Street Journal reported previously unreleased details about the investigation based on interviews with members of the board of regents.
The Wall Street Journal story recounted “horrifying” reports by 17 women alleging sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 members of Baylor’s football team, including four alleged gang rapes. Regents said the school’s emphasis on football contributed to the poor handling of the sexual assault allegations.
“There was a cultural issue there that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values,” said J. Cary Gray, a Houston attorney who serves on the board of regents. “We did not have a caring community when it came to these women who reported that they were assaulted. And that is not OK.”
One of the two women joining the lawsuit Oct. 28 said when she reported the assault to the Office of Judicial Affairs, officials were more concerned about student use of alcohol than her assault.
“Judicial Affairs was not interested or concerned with the assault but did take interest in the fact that students were drinking at the time and place of the assault,” said a section of the suit reported by the Waco Tribune. “Judicial Affairs failed to refer Jane Doe 9 to the Title IX office, failed to refer her to the counseling center, failed to offer recommendations, failed to take a written report, and to the best of Jane Doe 9’s recollection, failed to even write down her name. Jane Doe 9 left the Judicial Affairs Office with only a lecture on drinking.”
In a September interview with the Texas Tribune, Starr said nearly all of the episodes he dealt with occurred off campus and were not university sponsored.
”Every case I saw involved off-campus, and it also involved the excessive use of alcohol,” Starr said. “When we want to look forward, the reporters would do well to say OK, what can we do about this culture … of binge drinking?”
“It is happily less prevalent at Baylor, but it exists,” Starr told Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the sixth annual Texas Tribune Festival Sept. 23-25. “We have 16,000 students. My encouragement to students is don’t go to these off-campus parties. Just don’t go to them. I wish we could shut them all down — or my successor could just shut them all down.”