Baylor University is in the midst of a scandal over sexual assaults that has cost the school its president and its football coach, Art Briles, who lifted the program to national prominence. While an outside investigation concluded that Baylor’s athletic department acted with indifference, if not outright hostility, toward female students who attempted to report rapes, another aspect of the school’s culture may have been preventing other women from telling their stories: its strict code of conduct.
Baylor’s rules for its students stem from its conservative Christian roots; it banned dancing on campus until 1996. To this day, school policy disallows “anyone to possess, use, or be under the influence of an alcoholic beverage on the campus or at a University-related activity off campus,” and it frowns on pre-marital sex.
“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,” Chad Dunn, a Houston attorney who represents six women who have sued Baylor, told the Associated Press. Two other former students are also bringing lawsuits, alleging that their rape allegations were either ignored or suppressed.
Dunn relayed questions from the AP to his clients, who are remaining anonymous. Two said that they were made to accept alcohol code violations after they told the school of their assaults, and that they were concerned about being given sexual code violations. From the AP’s report:
“One woman said her case began when she called police to report a physical assault on another woman at an off-campus party. Police demanded to know if she was underage and had been drinking, then arrested and reported her to the school office that investigates conduct code violations, she said. She told Baylor officials her drinking was a result of being raped a month earlier and detailed what happened in person and in a letter.”
The law firm Pepper Hamilton, which conducted the investigation, said in its report that it found “examples of actions by University administrators that directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment. In one instance, those actions constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.”
Baylor does grant amnesty in some cases of alcohol- and drug-related code violations. Pepper Hamilton urged the school to do the same in cases of students alleging sexual assault, and the school said it is making changes to its policies. “Student safety and support for survivors of all types of interpersonal violence are paramount to the mission of Baylor University,” a Baylor spokesperson told the AP.