Worker Caught in ‘Vortex’ of Baylor’s Title IX Woes

WACO, Texas (CN) — A financial aid employee claims in court that she was fired for opposing Baylor University’s refusal to reinstate a scholarship for a football player who was cleared of sexual misconduct.

According to a lawsuit she filed in Waco, Texas, federal court on Wednesday, Lyn Wheeler Kinyon was Baylor’s assistant vice president for student financial aid and was hired in December of 2014. She says she is one of only 27 people inducted into the Texas Association of Student Financial Aid Administrator’s hall of fame.

Kinyon claims Baylor’s financial aid office had a clean audit for the 2015-16 academic year under her leadership.

“A clean audit is not something to be looked at lightly and not something accomplished by many financial aid offices,” her complaint against Baylor states.

Despite Kinyon’s success in the financial aid community, she was caught up in Baylor’s Title IX issues. Title IX is part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and prohibits sex discrimination in schools that received federal funding.

“Plaintiff was sucked into the vortex of Baylor’s Title IX controversy when XX, a Baylor football player who had not committed sexual assault, was wrongfully accused of unspecified misconduct, kicked off the football team, denied his scholarship, housing and meal allowance on May 30, 2016. He was instantly rendered homeless, without food or money on the streets of Waco,” the lawsuit states.

The accusations against the player referred to as XX sprang from his consensual sexual relations on April 12, 2016, with a woman referred to as “YY” in the lawsuit. YY made no outcry against XX and later that night had sex with one of XX’s roommates, ZZ, before ending the night with her former boyfriend, WW, according to the complaint.

YY was detained by authorities on May 9 as a result of a mental health warrant, the complaint says. During the detention she mentioned her sexual experiences on the night of April 12. On May 25, Baylor police began an investigation into her sexual activity on April 12.

The day after the investigation was launched, Baylor football coach Art Briles was fired for accusations that he did not properly handle or discipline Baylor football players accused of sexual assaults dating back to 2011. The widely publicized scandal also led to the firing of Ken Starr, Baylor’s former president and chancellor.

When XX returned to the Baylor campus on May 30 to start summer classes, the athletic department allegedly told him he was off the team. He learned the next day of the police investigation into the sexual relationship he had with YY on April 12.

He also received formal notice of a Title IX complaint against him. Reagan Ramsower, Baylor’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, was the “driving force” in the actions taken against XX, the complaint says.

Kinyon became involved when XX appealed the cancellation of his football scholarship. She was chair of a committee convened to hear the appeal on July 1.

At the hearing, however, Baylor’s reason for rescission of XX’s scholarship was now based on the claim that he had lied on his admission application for Baylor, Kinyon says.

“Baylor’s representative dropped the allegation that XX had been involved in sexual activity in violation of Title IX as justification for rescission of the scholarship, although the allegation of sexual misconduct were [sic] the sole motivating factor for Baylor’s termination of the scholarship,” the complaint states.

According to the lawsuit, “Baylor focused on XX’s negative answer to a question, ‘Have you ever had any disciplinary action imposed against you?’ XX had in fact been placed on academic probation at his previous university for his academic performance.”

“Under Baylor’s definition XX’s academic probation at his previous university was not a disciplinary action because he had been placed on probation for substandard academic performance, not for academic or behavioral misconduct,” the complaint states. “By insisting that XX’s scholarship was terminated because of dishonesty in his original application for transfer, Baylor is hoist on its own petard because it had terminated XX’s scholarship, taken away his meal ticket, and denied him housing on May 30, 2016, two days before it obtained his file from the previous university, a file which indicated that he had been placed on academic probation.” (Emphasis in original.)

Kinyon claims that during XX’s financial aid appeal hearing, other committee members were worried of Ramsower’s penchant for retaliation. They allegedly asked Kinyon to get assurance from the university that there would be no retaliation if the committee’s ruling was in favor of XX. Doug Welch, Baylor’s associate general counsel, did give Kinyon such assurance, she says.

On July 6, the appeal committee issued a recommendation that XX’s scholarship be reinstated. Kinyon alleges she was subjected to retaliation following the committee’s decision to reinstate his scholarship.

Jennifer Carron, associate vice president for enrollment management, became Kinyon’s new supervisor in a reorganization of the Student Financial Aid Office. “Carron is believed to be a Reagan Ramsower protectorate and protégé,” the complaint states.

Kinyon says that Carron did not have any experience in financial aid and did not know what Kinyon did on a daily basis. She claims Carron began criticizing her due to a lack of meaningful communication in meetings and a lack of assertiveness. Carron said Kinyon was not meeting her expectations, according to the lawsuit.

Carron allegedly insisted that she be involved in all interviews of candidates for a new operations position in the Student Financial Aid office.

Kinyon says that a Sept. 29 meeting with Carron for training was moved at the last minute to Carron’s office. There, a human resources representative allegedly gave Kinyon a 30-day performance improvement plan.

“She was told to adapt to change, demonstrate leadership in the transformation to Enrollment Management, and reduce student debt. Her one-on-one meetings were found to be lacking in strategizing for cooperative work to lead Financial Aid. She was criticized for lack of meaningful contributions to meetings she had been invited to attend, and for being unprepared for meetings. She was encouraged to reach out for and to identify opportunities for collaboration,” Kinyon’s complaint states.

In early October, Kinyon says she began weekly meetings with Carron regarding her performance plan. “She was specifically criticized for not setting the tone in opening the communications meeting, and for not summarizing the results or action items agreed upon,” the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 13, XX learned the Title IX complaint against him would be suspended, if he agreed to never seek readmission to Baylor and to never re-enter the campus, according to the lawsuit.

“This action effectively prohibited XX from seeking admission to any Division I university, and ended his collegiate football career at the expiration of his junior college eligibility in 2016. It is also circumstantial evidence of Baylor’s institutional pattern and practice of retaliation,” the complaint states.

On Oct. 25, Carron allegedly told Kinyon that the 30-day performance plan was ending and that she was being terminated because her performance could not meet Carron’s expectations.

“In a word, Jennifer Carron was determined to be dissatisfied with Lyn Wheeler Kinyon’s job performance, regardless of her actual improvements and overall history of high performance levels at Baylor. This is a quintessential characteristic of pretext,” the complaint states. “Carron suggested that Kinyon, who is 58 years old, could consider retiring. This is a quintessential characteristic of age discrimination.”

On Nov. 2, an employee of Baylor’s human resources office allegedly warned Kinyon in an exit interview that she should resign and release all claims against the university, or else she would be terminated and would not receive a severance package. The employee also said that Kinyon’s status with HR, if contacted by a prospective employer, would be “not eligible for rehire.”

“In a word, Baylor attempted to intimidate and coerce plaintiff into executing a release for illusory or no consideration,” the lawsuit says.

Carron, Ramsower, and Welch are not named as defendants in Kinyon’s complaint.

A spokesman for Baylor told Courthouse News in an email, “Baylor University contends that this claim is without merit, and we will vigorously contest these inaccurate allegations. We look forward to prevailing in a court of law.”

Kinyon seeks damages for lost wages, pain, anguish, emotional distress and medical costs. She also wants exemplary damages, and is represented by John Judge of Judge, Kostura & Putman in Austin.