Baylor hires first female president
University works to recover from long sexual assault scandal
By SARAH MERVOSH
Baylor University has hired its first woman president in its 172-year history, the university announced Tuesday, as the school works to recover from its long-running sexual assault scandal.
Linda Livingstone, the dean of George Washington University’s business school and a former faculty member at Baylor, was the unanimous choice of the university’s regents, the school said.
She will begin June 1.
Livingstone steps in to steer the university after a sexual assault crisis led to the ousting of her predecessor last May. Baylor parted ways with university president Ken Starr, as well as the football coach and the athletic director, in a sweeping reaction to the school’s botched handling of rapes and other attacks, including those by football players.
At least 19 football players have been accused of sexual or
physical assault, including four alleged gang rapes, since 2011, the school has said. One lawsuit estimates that number is far higher, with as many as 31 players committing at least 52 “acts of rape.” An internal investigation found that, as a whole, Baylor had a victim-blaming culture that did not properly support women who reported assaults.
Livingstone, who has been an advocate for women in the business world, will be charged with guiding Baylor into a new era. The conservative Baptist school in Waco did not allow men and women to dance together until 1996. But after the growing scandal had prominent alumni and donors demanding answers, the university is trying to make profound changes to its policies and culture.
“Dr. Livingstone’s experience uniquely fit the profile of the dynamic faith and transformational leader which Baylor needs at this point in time in our history,” Bob Brewton, a 1974 Baylor graduate who led the search for a new president, said in a news release announcing her hiring.
A native of Perkins, Okla., Livingstone graduated from Oklahoma State University, where she earned her undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in business and management. She also played on the women’s basketball team there from 1978 to 1982.
She spent more than a decade on Baylor’s campus, from 1991 to 2002, when she worked as a management professor and served as associate dean of graduate programs in the business school. During her first stint at Baylor, Livingstone witnessed the school’s “unique culture of care and compassion,” which she said continues to shape her approach to management.
After that, Livingstone worked at Pepperdine University in California for 12 years as dean of its business school. She has led George Washington University’s business school since 2014.
Livingstone is a longtime Baptist, a key criterion for the leader of a university that prides itself on its Christian identity.
“We began with Baylor’s mission in mind and based our search on the Christian values that Baylor stands for. That set the criteria for the type of individual we were looking for,” Drayton McLane Jr., a prominent donor who was on the search committee, said in the school’s announcement statement.
McLane, whose name is on Baylor’s football stadium, has also been part of Bears for Leadership Reform, an outspoken group of alumni and donors who called for more openness about the university’s handling of sex assault allegations.
James Nortey, a lawyer and 2008 graduate who is also part of the group, said the hiring of a new president is a necessary step in the university’s healing process. He hopes that Livingstone will listen to the community’s concerns about a cover-up, he added, and dedicate herself to honesty and transparency.
“I’m hoping specifically having a woman as the head of our university will help signal the much-needed culture shift” so the university treats victims with respect, he said.
Before settling on Livingstone, the university reviewed more than 400 candidates’ backgrounds, contacted 150 for preliminary conversations and had first-round interviews with
61. The pool included candidates from academia as well as government, military and business, said Brewton, chairman of the search committee.
Livingstone’s husband, Brad, works at a Christian K-12 school in Fairfax, Va. Their daughter, Shelby, is a student at Rice University.
Baylor interim president David Garland will lead the school until Livingstone takes office.