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Baylor Removes Ken Starr As President Over University's Response To Sex Assault Cases

Baylor University President Kenneth Starr runs onto the football field before a 2011 game against Texas Christian University in Waco, Texas. Starr became president of Baylor in 2010.
LM Otero
Baylor University President Kenneth Starr runs onto the football field before a 2011 game against Texas Christian University in Waco, Texas. Starr became president of Baylor in 2010.

Baylor University has removed Ken Starr as president and suspended head football coach Art Briles amid the release of a report critical of how the school has treated allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

Starr will stay on as a professor at Baylor's law school "and has agreed in principle to serve as Chancellor on terms that are still being discussed," according to a press release from the university. Starr, who has been Baylor's president since 2010, is perhaps best-known for leading an investigation of President Bill Clinton that was instrumental in Clinton's impeachment in 1998.

Briles has been suspended "with intent to terminate," according to Baylor's statement.

The private Texas university has been under fire for months over its response to allegations of sexual assault, including several involving members of the football team, as ESPN has reported. Last fall, Baylor hired law firm Pepper Hamilton to conduct an independent review for three academic years beginning in fall 2012.

Pepper Hamilton's review found "a fundamental failure" by the university to enact Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, and to implement the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. A summary of the findings says Baylor "failed to consistently support" students who said they had been sexually assaulted and found that two administrators "directly discouraged" reporting such incidences.

The review summary notes:

"Pepper's findings also reflect significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor's football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct."

The chairman of Baylor's board of regents, Richard Willis, said in the university's statement:

"We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students. The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students."

The university plans to take a number of actions beyond the administrative shakeup, as it outlined in Thursday's statement. Among them, Baylor says it will review "all cases of interpersonal violence over the past three academic years, to offer remedies, identify any current need for investigation, or isolate any broad pattern or cultural implications. Consistent with Title IX, Baylor will contact victims and offer specific remedies to the individuals identified in Pepper's review."

Baylor will also create "victim-advocacy services" for students who have experienced assault.

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Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.