Amid reports that Kenneth Starr, Baylor University's high-profile president, was fired this morning over a scandal related to the university's response to sexual assault allegations against football players, university officials said they expect to announce the results of an internal inquiry by June 3. They declined to directly address Starr's future.
At least two outlets, a Texas Longhorn fansite and a local television station, are already reporting that Starr has been fired. Sources connected to the university have been unable to confirm or deny those reports. Baylor, meanwhile, said it will "not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources."
If Starr is removed, it will represent a stunning turn of events for a president who — until very recently — was beloved on campus and credited for raising Baylor's academic rankings and national prominence.
The scandal that has engulfed his tenure erupted around the start of the last football season, when defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of raping a fellow student. Testimony during the trial indicated that the university investigated the case but failed to take action against Ukwuachu. The victim, meanwhile, eventually transferred from the university.
Criticism of the university's handling of other cases soon followed, including that of former linebacker Tevin Elliot, who was convicted of sexual assault in 2012.
Starr, a lawyer and judge in his previous career who became famous for his aggressive investigation into alleged sexual transgressions by President Bill Clinton, has been president of Baylor since 2010. Since then, the university has improved in the classroom, in U.S. News and World Report rankings, and in its fundraising. The football team has also enjoyed unprecedented success; Baylor opened a new stadium in 2014, to the tune of $266 million.
The case has raised questions about the job status of Starr and other prominent university leaders, including football coach Art Briles, who has drawn fire for allowing athletes to play or practice for the team while under investigation for sexual assault.
It's unclear what role Starr or Briles played in the investigations; the university hasn't released the results of a report it commissioned into the matter. But federal law requires universities to conduct their own investigations into alleged sexual assaults by students and take punitive action if necessary. The burden of proof for such action is lower than in criminal court.
Baylor has largely avoided commenting on any of the cases, citing student privacy laws. But in February, just hours before the Super Bowl, it announced an action plan to address sexual violence on campus, which included more prevention training for students and more counseling resources.
“We know we can and must do a better job to confront interpersonal violence in our campus community,” Starr said at the time.