As Baylor continues to insist that everything is just fine after admitting to making life miserable for women who reported they were raped, while simultaneously claiming it does “not have a legal duty to protect their students from harm caused by other students,” Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would require Baylor, a private school, to comply with state open records laws. As part of that process, interim Baylor president David Garland testified before state senators Wednesday and offered pitiful excuses for why even he doesn’t know what exactly the lawyers who investigated the university-wide failure found.
Baylor has, from the beginning, never been forthright about how and why it downplayed or even ignored reports of rape, especially from women who said they were assaulted by football players. First, they produced a vague, almost meaningless report filled with broad language that never named who in the administration was at fault. Baylor leaders intentionally didn’t create a detailed written report, which could become public, by having the lawyers at Pepper Hamilton deliver their findings orally. Then Baylor admitted that Pepper Hamilton had just done a “stress test” based on a “subset of specific cases” and never even reviewed all reports of sexual assault.
And now today. The proposal would subject any college or university getting $5 million or more in financial aid grants to follow the same open records laws as public colleges and universities. Just Baylor and one other private university in Texas, the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, would fall in this category, according to the Texas Tribune. During the testimony, the senators repeatedly expressed their frustration with Baylor’s lack of transparency and explained why they felt the bill is necessary. Right after Garland praised Baylor for taking “the action that we did in firing basically a very successful football coach,” claimed other universities were “quite shocked” with Baylor’s transparency, and said “we were not trying to cover up what happened at Baylor,” Republican Sen. Kel Seliger dispensed with a veneer of polite credulity.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that for a minute. I don’t buy that for a minute. Maybe you aren’t [covering up today] today, but I think that is exactly what was going on and that’s exactly why this bill has been filed,” he said.
Later in the testimony it became clear that Garland wasn’t even fully aware the full details of the Pepper Hamilton report, as he wasn’t in attendance when the findings were presented to the the board. Garland explained, “I was not in the city, I was on sabbatical leave.”
After Republican Sen. Larry Taylor, who said he was a proud Baylor alumni, asked about part of the report that referenced the Board of Regents and holding it accountable, Garland said, “Again, I’m not the expert of the Pepper Hamilton.”
Democrat Sen. Royce West asked about the unnamed personnel referenced in the summary of the Pepper Hamilton findings, who discouraged victims form reporting sexual assaults: “You don’t know who those unnamed personnel were who discouraged that?”
“Um, I think that was in the coaching staff,” Garland answered, explaining that the football team wanted to avoid the university’s judicial affairs department. When West followed up, Garland said, “I was not there. I wasn’t there to witness what they told the board, but I believe that is what they were told.”
When asked about why university employees weren’t named in the investigation’s summary of facts, Garland said, “I can’t answer that, my guess, my inference would be that they were trying to keep this confidential for the persons involved.”
To reiterate: The school’s own president doesn’t even know the details of the investigation into widespread practice of making life miserable for women who reported that they had been raped.
Taylor summed up Garland’s testimony, telling the president: “It’s unfortunate that you’re here today because you weren’t here during a lot of this. It’d be nice if Baylor sent someone who was actually here at the time and had a part in all this.”