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Founders Mall and Pat Neff Hall on the campus of Baylor University in Waco.EXPAND
Founders Mall and Pat Neff Hall on the campus of Baylor University in Waco.
Photo by Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0

Former Baylor Professor Sues University, Claims Anti-Male Bias

A former Baylor University economics professor is suing the university, accusing officials there of mishandling sexual misconduct claims against him.

The professor, who is identified in court documents as John Doe, resigned from the university last year amid an investigation into the professor's relationship with a student. In the lawsuit, the professor acknowledges he had a sexual relationship with an undergraduate, but says officials were overly zealous in their handling of his case, driven by the recent sexual assault scandal at the Baptist university.

"As part of its quest for redemption, Baylor enacted a university-wide culture of anti-male bias and intimidation inconsistent with its stated Christian principles that ensnared Plaintiff, besmirched his character, and destroyed his career," the lawsuit states.

In an emailed statement, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said the university "will vigorously defend the inaccurate claims made by the Plaintiff in this lawsuit." Fogleman said Doe violated the university's policies prohibiting non-consensual sexual contact with a student and romantic or sexual relationships between faculty members and undergraduate students. The professor resigned before the conclusion of the university's investigation, which found that the professor had violated policy, she said.

“Baylor is not aware of any evidence to substantiate the claims being made regarding anti-male bias at the University," Fogleman said. "Baylor strives to provide an impartial and fair process to all participants regardless of their sex.”

Lawyers for the professor filed the lawsuit last month in federal court in Waco. In court documents, the professor acknowledges he had a sexual relationship with the student, who is not named in court documents, but claims the relationship was consensual. Court documents don't state whether the student was enrolled in any class the professor taught or was under his supervision.

According to court documents, the professor and the student went on three dates and "engaged in one consensual sexual interaction" between November 2017 and January 2018. The relationship ended when the professor told the student he was looking for a long-term partner for marriage.

The two resumed their relationship in April, and took a vacation to Utah together in May. During that vacation, the professor ended the relationship after he caught the student lying to him, court documents state. The student had recently been evicted from her previous home, so the professor let her stay with him for a few days until her new lease began. In early June, the professor told the student again that he wanted to end their relationship.

After their relationship ended, the student contacted Baylor's Title IX office, which handles sexual assault complaints. The professor claims the student made false allegations about their relationship, and the university's Title IX coordinator encouraged her to file an official complaint.

The investigation came during fallout from accusations that Baylor officials mishandled a series of rape accusations against Baylor athletes. That scandal began in 2012, when a student accused Baylor Bears linebacker Tevin Elliott of rape. In 2015, the university commissioned an investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, which resulted in the firing of football coach Art Briles and resignations of athletic director Ian McCaw and university President Ken Starr.

The professor contends that university officials showed anti-male bias before and during the investigation. The lawsuit states that the professor's supervisor once advised him to take down a Baylor flag that was covering the glass window on his office door, saying the flag was dangerous because a female student could falsely accuse him of misconduct. Supervisors also advised him not to meet with female students behind closed doors or allow a female student into his office after 5 p.m., when the economics department closed for the day and the professor's office hours ended. Female faculty members weren't given similar warnings, according to the complaint.

As further evidence of anti-male bias, the lawsuit mentions "It's On Us," a campaign launched in 2014 by the White House Office on Women and Girls. The campaign seeks to reduce sexual assault on college campuses by enlisting the help of young men to change campus culture. Among other things, the lawsuit takes issue with a tweet posted on the Baylor chapter's website that states "Rape is caused by misogyny, not by women's clothing."

On July 2, 2018, the university notified the professor that he was under investigation. In the lawsuit, the professor alleges that investigators ignored inconsistencies in the student's story and other evidence that he says disproves her version of the story.

In one case, the student told investigators she bought Plan B on May 7, after an unprotected and non-consensual sexual encounter with the professor. Bank transaction records showed the student actually bought the pill a week earlier. When confronted about the inconsistency, the student changed her story, saying she'd considered buying another pill on May 8, but decided not to, because either she thought the earlier pill would still be effective or she'd started her period.

The professor also complains in the lawsuit that he was placed at a disadvantage in the investigation because English isn't his first language. During the investigation, the professor asked to be allowed to answer questions in writing, but that request was denied.

The professor has been unable to find work as a college or university faculty member since leaving Baylor, according to the lawsuit. He is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

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