Baylor University’s strict codes of conduct likely had a chilling effect when it came to students’ willingness to report sexual assaults, a report has found.
Baylor, a Baptist college, is still reeling from news that university administration grossly mishandled a number of sexual assault cases over the last several years, prompting the removal of both its president and head football coach.
Now, investigators with the law firm Pepper Hamilton found that the school’s zero tolerance approach to drugs, alcohol and sex may have “created barriers” for students considering reporting rape or other violent incidents, particularly since in some cases, victims face the possibility that their families will notified. According to the AP:
“A number of victims were told that if they made a report of rape, their parents would be informed of the details of where they were and what they were doing,” said Chad Dunn, a Houston attorney who represents six women who have sued Baylor under the anonymous identification of Jane Doe.
How strict is Baylor? Dancing on campus was banned until 1996. “Fornication, adultery and homosexual acts” were included on a list of misconduct until May 2015,” and even now, sex may only occur “in the context of marital fidelity.” Drug or alcohol use can lead to expulsion.
Officials say that the recommendations articulated by the law firm in a May report have since been taken as mandate. Said Interim President David Garland:
“Expectations for our students are outlined in university conduct policies and are a reflection of our faith-based mission,” school spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said, noting that the amnesty provisions for drug and alcohol use should assure sexual assault victims that Baylor will focus on their allegations. Baylor has repeatedly declined to comment specific cases.
“Student safety and support for survivors of all types of interpersonal violence are paramount to the mission of Baylor University,” Lewis said.
A total of eight former Baylor students have filed lawsuits against the school, charging that university officials either ignored their reports of rape, or discouraged them from submitting them in the first place.