Starr told ESPN’s Joe Schad that he was resigning as chancellor effective immediately “as a matter of conscience.” Starr, in an excerpt from an on-camera interview posted on ESPN’s website, called for transparency at Baylor, saying that “as each day goes by that need becomes more and more pressing.”
“We need to put this horrible experience behind us,” ESPN quoted Starr as saying. “We need to be honest.”
Starr and Baylor officials did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. A law professor at Baylor, Starr told ESPN he plans to remain in that position.
Starr had led Baylor as president since 2010 and had held the title of chancellor since 2013. Last week, the university’s Board of Regents fired Baylor’s football coach, Art Briles, and stripped Starr of the title of president in response to a law firm’s investigative report that found the school treated sexual assault accusations against football players with alarming indifference.
Starr, 69, a former federal appellate judge, is best known as the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern. He issued a report on that probe that paved the way for the historic House vote in 1998 to impeach Clinton. The Senate later acquitted Clinton of charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.
In his six-year tenure at Baylor’s helm, Starr oversaw the continuing development of the world’s largest Baptist university as a prominent research institution. Baylor, with about 16,000 students, ranks 72nd on the U.S. News and World Report list of national universities, tied with Rutgers and American University.
But controversy has dogged the university in Waco during the past year following the convictions of two former football players on sexual assault charges. Allegations emerged that Baylor failed to heed or adequately support students who report sexual violence. Federal campus safety data show there were four reports of rape at Baylor in 2014 and one report of fondling without consent. Experts say such crimes are often underrerported. Many campuses across the country had far more rape and sexual assault reports in 2014 than Baylor.
Starr last year recommended to the school’s regents that Baylor hire the law firm Pepper Hamilton to review the university’s record on the issue.
The resulting report, given to the board in May, was damning. It found a “fundamental failure” by the university to implement measures required under federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination and violence against women. University administrators directly discouraged some possible victims from lodging complaints or participating in student disciplinary proceedings, the board said, and in one case their actions amounted to retaliation against a student who reported a sexual assault.
When the board moved to fire Briles on May 26, it also forced Starr to relinquish the presidency. But the board said at the time there was an agreement in principle that Starr could stay on as chancellor. That is a more ceremonial position, focusing on fund-raising and external relations.
The agreement proved short-lived. On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Starr said he “willingly accepted responsibility” for Baylor’s missteps on sexual assault even though he did not know about them as they were occurring.
“The captain goes down with the ship,” Starr told ESPN.