Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.
Days after he lost his job as Baylor University president due to a scandal over the school’s handling of allegations of sexual assault, Ken Starr said he has resigned as chancellor of the private Baptist school.
In an interview with ESPN Wednesday, Starr said he will remain as a law professor at the university. The resignation will go into effect immediately, he said.
“We need to put this horrible experience behind us,” Starr said in the interview. “We need to be honest.”
The Baylor Board of Regents confirmed the resignation in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“We thank Judge Starr for his years of service,” the statement said.
Until last week, Starr held the job of president and chancellor. He was removed from his president post by the regents after an investigation commissioned by the school found that Baylor failed to sufficiently investigate allegations of sexual assault against students, and football players in particular. The school also didn’t provide sufficient support to victims who reported those assaults, the report said.
The chancellor role is mostly a figurehead job, board members said last week. It doesn’t have any operating responsibilities, and Starr would mostly focus on fundraising and “religious freedom” issues, they said. But the move still generated criticism from people who felt Starr shouldn’t be allowed to remain in a prominent role.
Starr said repeatedly during the interview that he accepts responsibility for what happened at Baylor, while also insisting that he was “behind the veil of ignorance.” He reiterated his previous statements that he didn’t know about the numerous cases of sexual assault until last fall, when the investigation into their handling was commissioned.
Still, he said, “the captain goes down with the ship.”
But he struck a defiant tone at times, too. When asked whether Baylor had a sexual violence problem, he said “it really hasn’t been [a problem] to my knowledge until August 2015,” when football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of raping another student. That rape happened in 2014. And another football player, Tevin Elliott, had already been sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual assault at the time. Multiple women have reported that Elliott raped or attempted to rape them.
Starr also made sure to note that he wasn’t aware of any “episodes” occurring on campus, where he pointed out that alcohol is banned.
“They are off-campus parties,” he said. “They are off-campus venues where this has happened.”
The federal government doesn’t differentiate between rapes that happen on or off campus. Universities are expected to investigate and consider punitive action whenever a student assaults another student — regardless of where.
The resignation is another shoe to drop in the ongoing house-cleaning among Baylor’s most visible administrators. When the board released a report on its investigation last week, it announced Starr’s demotion, the firing of football coach Art Briles and the suspension of Athletic Director Ian McCaw. Since then, McCaw has also resigned.
Starr defended Briles on Wednesday, saying he “is a person of genuine character” and wasn’t consulted before Briles was fired.
“Coach Briles is a player’s coach, but he was also a very powerful father figure,” he said to ESPN.
The report was highly critical of Baylor, saying some victims of sexual assault were intimidated or retaliated against for reporting the crimes. And in some cases, coaches or staff members of the football team met with victims but didn’t report the allegations to anyone else at the school.
“The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the university,” the report said.
The report didn’t, however, mention the names of any specific coaches, staff members or administrators who committed wrongdoing. That has prompted calls in the media and among victims advocates for greater transparency. Starr agreed, saying Wednesday that more details should be released.
“As each day goes by, that need becomes more and more pressing,” he said.
The report “fully and openly” outlined the problems revealed by the scandal, the Baylor board said in its statement. Baylor will continue to take action that will make the university more accountable and responsible, the regents said.
“The decisions made, and the actions we have taken, will ensure there is no room for deflection of responsibility or diminishing the experiences of the victims,” the statement said. “We will continue to protect any details that may compromise the privacy of these individuals.”
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Top image: Ken Starr during a Texas Tribune symposium on higher education in Waco. Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera.