Baylor launches task forces in response to Pepper Hamilton findings

Posted at 12:10 PM, Jun 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-10 21:27:14-04

Baylor University launched two executive-level task forces to implement recommendations made by Pepper Hamilton, LLP following its investigation into the University’s handling of sexual assault cases.

The university announced the task forces on Friday.

The Sexual Assault Task Force will be led by Dr. Reagan Ramsower, senior vice presidents and chief operating officer.

The task force’s goal is to build on improvements to the university’s response to sexual violence made in recent years. The group will address Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations in regards to Title IX protocols and policies, athletics, engagement and education, centralized reporting and resolution, public safety and counseling and advocacy.

The Spiritual Life and Character Formation Task Force will be led by Dr. L. Gregory Jones, executive vice president and provost.

The task force will focus on the spiritual life and the cultivation of character across the university. It will also provide long-term strategic direction to focus on the mission of the university.

"I hope that students will experience the Baylor that has existed for 171 years and been an outstanding institution. hat they feel safe, they feel welcomed they feel excited because the faculty and staff here and other students really believe in Baylor's mission, its identity and believe that it's brightest days are still ahead of them," Jones said.

Both task forces will be supported by members of Baylor’s faculty, staff, administration and the student body.

"The whole university needs to focus on this. When we think about the kinds of questions that we're wrestling with. It's the kind of thing we need our faculty, regardless of the subject they are teaching, to be thinking about the moral formation that occurs in their classroom. It's about the dorm supervisors, student life staff, athletics coaches, and student leaders," Jones said. "We need everybody to be rowing in the same direction, focused on the constructive vision of what we hope education and formation at Baylor is all about."

“We have adopted Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations as mandates,” Dr. David Garland, interim president of Baylor University, said in a release on Friday. “We are activating immediately to assess and begin implementation of the recommendations to ensure progress toward the safety and well-being of all our students. Student safety demands our commitment and concentration.”

Pepper Hamilton gave Baylor 105 recommendations focused on improving the University’s prevention and response to sexual violence.

"If we're not both correcting the failures that brought us to this point and focusing on the future and nurturing new ways of doing things, then we will fail," Jones said. "We need to be doing both things simultaneously in order to ensure that Baylor serves its students, its faculty, its staff, parents and other constituents as well as possible."

According to the university, during the course of the investigation, Baylor worked to make improvements and made progress in a number of areas, including:

  • Committing infrastructure and resources for effective Title IX implementation, including adding three new staff positions within the Title IX Office and adopting case management systems to facilitate connection of students and support services;
  • Mandating annual Title IX training for faculty, staff, administration, contractors, part-time staff, coaches and students;
  • Allocating increased resources and staff within the Counseling Center and dedicating quality space to expanding the Center;
  • Funding continuing education for all campus professionals on trauma-informed practices;
  • Adding officers to Baylor’s Department of Public Safety and consolidating campus security under the Baylor University Police Department;
  • Sharing the findings of the investigation with authorities, including the NCAA; and
  • Extending and broadening the “It’s On Us” campaign to reach all students, faculty and staff with information about how to report an incident of sexual violence, each person’s responsibility to Title IX and understanding the range of resources and support available when needed.

Additional recommendations given to the university will be part of the Sexual Assault Task Force’s ongoing efforts. The Task Force is reviewing existing policies, identifying additional ways to engage students and creating a consistent, centralized system for preventing and responding to sexual violence.

“We have enlisted the support of individuals with passion and dedication for creating a solid, steadfast foundation for Baylor,” Ramsower said. “The Pepper Hamilton findings and recommendations are being supported with immediate recommendations from survivors on where we can improve our processes.”

There are several implementation groups who will be supporting both task forces.

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