The first of several Title IX lawsuits filed against Baylor University was resolved in July. For the past 18 months or so, lawsuits have poured into Texas courts claiming the University has done little to hold sexual assaulters accountable. According to the recently settled suit, the school has cultivated “hunting ground for sexual predators to freely prey upon innocent, unsuspecting female students, with no concern of reprisal or consequences.” Baylor has been knee-deep in controversy, so much so the federal government will conduct its own investigation in addition to state-guided inquiries seeking criminal activity.
Linda Livingstone, the new President of the Baptist University, released a statement to the Waco Tribune, saying “Baylor University is pleased that the parties were able to resolve this dispute in an amicable fashion. We are unable to comment further regarding this particular claim out of respect for the student’s privacy.” The university hired Livingstone after Ken Starr left his post in the wake of several sexual assault allegations.
Baylor also fired Art Briles, former head coach of the football team, following an investigation conducted by the university. Relatedly, other lawsuits have claimed that the football coaches normalized sexual assault and even at times intervened in sexual assault cases by talking to alleged victims. There have also been alleged cases of ritualistic gang rape. Suits have claimed that the university officials have pressured women into silence by holding stringent anti-sex and anti-alcohol bylaws over their heads. Briles has rejected the allegations made against him.
The woman who filed the recently settled lawsuit did not give her name. According to the suit, she was drugged and taken from an off-campus house. The tenement, called the “The Rugby House” was the site of other similar attacks, though the responsible party was not a rugby player at the school.
Following the attack, the woman avoided calling the police because she felt embarrassed. Eventually, her mother contacted the university’s Title IX office. Initially it appeared the University was willing to cooperate, but after about five weeks of speaking with the Title IX officials at Baylor, communications ceased. Thus, it appeared there wasn’t going to be a hearing. When the woman filed suit against the University in 2016, she claimed the school had been dragging its feet on sexual assault cases. This, the claimant contended, led to the creation of a “hunting ground” at Baylor.
Baylor denied responsibility in the matter, saying the claims of rampant assault on campus could not be substantiated. Additionally, the university claimed the events didn’t happen under its watch.
Title IX Lawsuit
Rape, sexual assault or harassment are all grounds for a Title IX lawsuit, especially if the university in question ignores the act or fails to address the problem in a sufficient manner. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator is, as long as he or she is connected to the school in some way (i.e. faculty, student or staff). Successful plaintiffs are entitled to pecuniary damages.
In 2007, a federal appeals court allowed a lawsuit against the University of Colorado Boulder to continue, concluding that a string of rapes occurring during football recruiting season constituted grounds for a Title IX case. The university settled the suit, giving nearly $3 million to the victims.
According to an investigation conducted by a law firm, the situation at Baylor constituted a “fundamental failure” in terms of Title IX requirements.
More to Come
As it stands, five more lawsuits are currently in the works, containing more than a dozen cases of sexual assault. And prior to this most recent suit there were three settlements reached without suits. Looking ahead, the lawsuits and public attention could help bring some accountability to a grievous issue that until now has gone unchecked.