Town hall meeting addresses Baylor sexual assault scandal

The Baylor Line Foundation held a town hall event Wednesday calling for more transparency at the University.

WACO - The Baylor Line Foundation hosted a town hall meeting on Wednesday night to address concerns over decision-making by the Board of Regents in the midst of the University's ongoing sexual assault scandal.

The event, which was held at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco, drew nearly 150 people -- many of whom asked questions of the three panelists from the Bears for Leadership Reform organization. The panelists were alumna Liza Firmin, high-profile donor John Eddie Williams and former regent Randy Ferguson. 

The event comes less than a month after the Board of Regents' Governance Review Task Force released a 30-page report citing areas for leadership improvement, including making the board more diverse and changing the steps for removing regents who aren't meeting expectations. But, the recommendations also included proposals that opponents believe will make the board even more secretive, including a suggestion that board members cannot talk to the media about what happens behind closed doors.

"I believe that the regents ought to be able to speak for themselves, and they've really been muzzled," Ferguson said during Wednesday's town hall.

In a Feb. 6 letter, current Board of Regents Chair Ron Murff said the regents would be unable to participate in the town hall discussion, instead offering to arrange a phone call to hear feedback. But, despite Murff's letter about not attending, five regents showed up to the town hall anyway. In addition to the three alumni-elected regents who were expected to come, regents Mark Rountree and Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod both attended and took notes.

"I was here to listen," Judge Elrod said after the meeting.

Another person who came to listen was Former Baylor Head Baseball Coach Dutch Schroeder, who was publicly recognized during the town hall.

"People needed to know how Baylor alumni feel, and it gave us an opportunity to come together and say we're real unhappy with what has happened to our university," Schroeder said.

Bears for Leadership reform is demanding more accountability and transparency, urging the regents to release details from the Pepper Hamilton investigation, which examined Baylor's handing of sexual assault but was ultimately delivered orally and not presented in writing.

Williams said, as a lawyer, the only way that would have happened is if Baylor asked for there to be no written trace of the investigation. He said while he intends to keep his financial commitments to the University, he knew of one donor who wrote Baylor out of a will to the tune of $25 million.

Members of the Board of Regents will be in Waco Friday for the board's regular meeting. According to the public agenda, there will be an update on the search for the University's next president.

In a media statement issued by Baylor at 8:46 p.m., Chair Ron Murff said: "We understand the need for continuous improvement. That's why on Friday, the Board will consider the adoption of a slate of previously publicized recommendations that address how the Board does its business and what it shares with the public."

© 2017 KCEN-TV


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