September 3, 2015 / 8:55 PM / 4 years ago

Outside lawyers to probe Baylor University's handling of sex abuse

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Baylor University President Ken Starr, who gained prominence for his investigation of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s sex life, will have an independent investigation looking at how his school responds to sexual misconduct.

Baylor, the world’s largest Baptist university, has faced criticism for not doing enough to investigate and discipline a member of its football team who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman who played on the school’s women’s soccer team. The player, Sam Ukwuachu, was convicted in August of sexual assault and given six months in jail.

A Baylor official told a court in the central Texas city of Waco that the university looked into the woman’s complaint but did not find enough evidence to hold a disciplinary hearing. A judge deemed Baylor’s investigation so deficient that defense lawyers were barred from citing it during Ukwuachu’s trial.

The Baylor Board of Regents this week said it hired Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton “to conduct a thorough and independent external investigation into the university’s handling of cases of alleged sexual violence.”

Starr, university president for five years, said on Wednesday he believes the investigators will help pinpoint Baylor’s strengths and weaknesses in order to protect the safety and welfare of students.

Ukwuachu, 22, was convicted on charges that he sexually assaulted the woman at his Waco apartment in 2013.

Critics have accused the university of losing its moral compass in its successful effort in recent years to transform its perennial push-over football team into a national power that hosts opponents in a $266 million stadium that opened last year.

“(The) stunning rape story raises troubling questions about whether the desire to deliver success on the football field annihilated desire for compassion toward a victim of rape,” the Dallas Morning News said in an editorial last month.

The victim of the sexual assault, identified only as “Jane Doe,” for future dealings with Baylor has hired a law firm that has represented others who have accused athletes of rape.

Starr served as an independent counsel during the Clinton presidency and produced the so-called Starr Report that focused on the president’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, who had been a White House intern.

Starr recommended the appointment of outside counsel to look into his university’s response to sexual misconduct.

“We must guarantee there is no room at Baylor University for those who would perpetrate sexual violence on our campus,” Starr said last month.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Will Dunham

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