Group of Baylor donors, alumni ask Board of Regents for independent investigation

Posted at 10:45 AM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:34-04

On Monday, Bears for Leadership Reform asked three regents from Baylor University to consider an independent investigation into the institution's response to the sexual assault scandal and the Board of Regents actions. 

During a press conference in Dallas, former Texas Gov. Mark White, Houston Attorney John Eddie Williams and former Baylor University Regent Randy Ferguson, who are part of the Bears for Leadership Board of Directors, spoke publicly about their discussion with regents James Gray, Joel Allison and Jerry K. Clements. The meeting initiated by the regents lasted two hours and 20 minutes.

"We left on good spirits on both sides. There was no acrimony in the sense of bitterness and meanness. I think everybody was there with a view of resolving the issues,” said Former Texas Governor and Board of Directors Member Mark White.

The group, which described the meeting as spirited, expects the BOR to give them a response on whether they would support an independent investigation.

“I think it's positive, they did hear our questions. They will take those back to the board and they agreed to get back to us, hopefully, fairly quickly,” said former BU regent and board of directors member Randy Ferguson. “At least having a communication channel open is positive. We will look at that as a positive thing and hope to get positive results.”

Attorney John Eddie Williams said the investigation would look at why the full implementation of Title IX was delayed. In addition, the group would like to learn the facts the BOR received that led to actions, such as the dismissal of head football coach Art Briles.

Some members of the group would be willing to contribute to the costs of the investigation, which Williams estimated to be at least $1 million.

“If they have nothing to hide, then they should embrace an investigation, which will then document they have done the right thing,” Williams said.

According to Baylor Regent Jerry K. Clements, the proposal suggested at the meeting will be presented to the board for consideration.

"I think we need to think about that really carefully. I want to do what's in the best interest of Baylor and if we look at this and consider their suggestion and hear from others about their suggestions then we're going to do what's in the best interest for Baylor going forward,” Clements said.

Williams said the group recommended the independent investigation as a way for the BOR to regain the trust of the Baylor family.

“I hope they understand the problems here at Baylor with the alumni, students and faculty having distrust. Only full transparency will heal that,” Williams said.

A new governance review task force is looking into ways Baylor can improve its board, according to Clements.

"I know transparency has been a big concern,” Clements said. “We have already undertaken a number of steps to address the concerns that people have about transparency.”

Williams said a week would be sufficient time for the BOR to decide whether it can support an investigation. If the BOR supports it, the group would like to help choose the investigating firm and the parameters of the probe.

During Monday's meeting, Williams said the BLR board of directors asked about the costs involved with Pepper Hamilton report and settlement costs but he said that information was not released to them.

Williams also said that during their meeting, the BLR board of directors confirmed the Pepper Hamilton law office did not speak with any athletes. In addition, he said Pepper Hamilton gave a PowerPoint presentation about the findings but there was not a complete written report. 

Regent Jerry Clements said Pepper Hamilton gave an oral presentation of the findings to the BOR. However, she didn’t confirm or deny whether the law firm spoke with athletes.

The group asked the Board of Regents to release it's non-disclose agreement, and the board agreed to provide them with a copy.

BLR has expressed concerns about the university's response to the sexual assault scandal. In addition, it is demanding greater transparency and accountability from the Board of Regents.

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