Did Baylor University sweep sexual assault claims under the rug?

She was hired to ensure the school met federal standards to prevent gender discrimination, but the former Title IX coordinator says the school prevented her from investigating reports of sexual assault.

Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune-Herald/AP
Patty Crawford, Baylor University’s first full-time Title IX coordinator, talks in her office in Waco, Texas, Aug. 3.

Baylor University is under federal investigation after its former coordinator responsible for preventing gender discrimination filed a complaint over sexual violence on the university's Waco campus, a federal agency spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The investigation by the Office for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education began after the agency received a complaint from Patty Crawford, Baylor's former Title IX coordinator, said agency spokeswoman Dorie Nolt. The office "will collect and analyze all relevant evidence to develop its findings," she said in a statement Wednesday.

As Title IX coordinator, Crawford was entrusted with enforcing federal standards meant to prevent discrimination based on gender at Baylor. She resigned as Title IX coordinator early this month and said publicly that top campus leaders undermined her efforts to investigate sexual assault claims and were more concerned with protecting the Baylor "brand" than the students.

"I never had the authority, the resources or the independence to do the job appropriately," she said during an appearance on "CBS This Morning" the day after her resignation.

A Baylor spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the federal investigation but said in a statement in response to Crawford's resignation that Crawford went public with her grievances only after the school rejected a demand for $1 million and retention of book and film rights.

"Baylor University was surprised by the action taken by Patty Crawford given her public comments in August about the strong support she felt from across the University," the statement said.

Baylor has faced a storm of criticism over claims it mishandled sexual assault cases for several years. An outside review determined school administrators contributed to a "hostile" environment against assault victims. The scandal drew broad attention in large part because former football players were convicted of sexually assaulting women, and an independent review by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton determined the football program operated as it if were above the rules. Coach Art Briles was fired earlier this year, as was the athletic director. President Ken Starr was removed from his post by regents and he later resigned as chancellor.

The Baylor scandal, in part, prompted the Southeastern Conference to expand its rules to prohibit transfer of players with a history of sexual assault, stalking, or other interpersonal violence to any of its 14 member universities. The Big 12 conference, which includes Baylor, adopted a similar rule shortly after.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported in June:

Colleges around the country have overhauled their policies on sexual assault in response to national campaigns launched by survivors of sexual assault and increased scrutiny by the federal Department of Education. But the scandal at Baylor illustrates what some say is still troubling about the power and influence of sports on campus, while others say some universities' responses go too far in denying students due process rights.

"Universities need to give everyone a fair process and they need to treat everyone the same way and athletes should receive no special benefit in a misconduct proceeding … but all students need to be treated fairly," says Samantha Harris, director of policy research at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in Philadelphia.

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