Graphic by Noah Catchings and Colby Green
Graphic by Noah Catchings and Colby Green

Power and Silence

How one UNA student was wronged by those paid to protect her.

May 30, 2022

The UNA police department was hiring officers at the end of 2019. It wanted to send an applicant to the academy. Madison* applied. She had graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UNA in a related field and grew up in a law enforcement family. 

However, sources inside the police department told Madison that her application, and those of everyone else who applied, were thrown out. 

“Someone came in, and he didn’t apply but was certified,” Madison said. “The story was [Student Affairs] was trying to get his wife to come to UNA.” 

The sought after applicant was Officer Derek Baker, a sergeant from the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, and husband of the then-newly hired Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Administrator, Kayleigh Baker. According to their LinkedIn pages, Kayleigh started at UNA in December 2019 and Officer Baker one month later. 

* * *

Since some of Madison’s friends worked for UNA PD, she visited their office in the basement of Keller Hall frequently. Officer Baker usually ignored her, but she never cared. 

When Madison went through a disastrous breakup in the fall of 2020, Officer Baker’s interest in her grew. That semester, she worked toward completing her Master’s degree and intended to graduate from UNA in December. Sometimes lulls in her on-campus job led her to running errands like checking the mail. 

One November afternoon, UNA PD officers talked around the amphitheater. Madison approached them on her way back from the mailroom. 

“[I was friends with] all of them standing there except for [Officer] Baker,” Madison said. “He’d always been cold towards me.”

This time, Officer Baker asked her about her recent breakup. The wounds from her heartache were fresh, and Madison was surprised he asked. Other officers/friends exited the conversation, jokingly wishing Officer Baker luck because they knew how hurt Madison was following the split. 

Officer Baker changed the subject and asked for Madison’s post-graduation plans. Madison told him she had struggled to find a job in Alabama and thought of moving in with relatives out West for a change of scenery. 

“He got up in arms when I told him I was thinking of [moving across the country],” Madison said. “He was adamant that I should come by the office and say goodbye before I graduate. I remember thinking, ‘That’s weird,’ because he had never been super friendly to me.” 

Officer Derek Baker. Image courtesy of the Muscle Shoals Police Department.

* * *

The next morning, Madison awoke to a Facebook message from Officer Baker. 

“Derek Baker: I was going to apologize again for bringing [your breakup] up yesterday. Maybe you will forgive me. Ha. Make sure you stop by and visit before you leave.” 

This struck Madison as odd since Officer Baker did not apologize the day before. 

“Looking back, I think he used [the ‘apology’] as a ploy to talk to me again,” Madison said.

Not one to make a big deal out of nothing, Madison replied. 

“Madison: Promise it’s totally fine. Not a lot of people knew it happened so I get why you asked. I definitely will. I’m sure I’ll ‘work’ up until graduation so I’ll be around.” 

“Derek Baker: Haha I think I want to trade jobs with you.” 

“Madison: Haha anytime. Gets boring [at work] so that’s how I end up wandering around campus and running errands.” 

“Derek Baker: You can always come hang out with me.” 

“Madison: Haha okay. Might take you up on that offer sometime.”

“Derek Baker: I will hold you to that.” 

Madison thought the interaction was odd, but let it go. 

* * *

In the next few days, Officer Baker did not contact Madison. On Madison’s way to Starbucks, she asked her friend Alex*, who worked at the police station, if she wanted anything. Officer Baker overheard their conversation. 

Madison walked out of the Commons ten minutes later and ran straight into Officer Baker. They walked back to the station, Madison gave Alex her coffee, and Officer Baker sat down to join them. However, he completely ignored Alex. 

“He never addressed any questions to [Alex] until the end,” Madison said. “All of it was shot at me.” 

Largely, the conversation centered around Madison’s professional future. Officer Baker offered to help connect her with jobs in Tuscaloosa. 

“He said, ‘I have all these connections. I could get you hired there,” Madison said. “I didn’t have a job locked down, and we were coming to the end of November. I’m about to graduate with a Masters. I have nothing secured. I have no plan for after college. And he played on that.” 

When this conversation happened, Alex was surprised. She claims Officer Baker largely ignored her during her time with UNA PD and that he didn’t seem chumy with other officers. 

Speculation swirled among UNA PD employees that due to the connection between Officer Baker and his wife Kayleigh, the Title IX Coordinator, he was planted by the Office of Student Affairs to monitor the police department, however The Flor-Ala could not verify this rumor.

Former Title IX Coordinator Kayleigh Baker. Image courtesy of the UNA directory.

“There was some chatter in the office that [Vice President of Student Affairs] Kimberly Greenway was using [Officer Baker] to listen to other officer’s conversations,” Alex said. “I think it’s possible. It wouldn’t surprise me.” 

Alex recalls Officer Baker talked to Madison for an hour that afternoon. He pretended like Alex wasn’t in the room.  

“She seemed uncomfortable the whole time during that conversation,” Alex said. “He did make me uncomfortable, but I couldn’t leave because I was on the clock.” 

Alex also thought Officer Baker had exploited his role as an officer over Madison. 

“He kept talking about how he could get her a job,” Alex said. “Which fed into later text messages and verbal conversations with him saying ‘I can make it so you can’t find a job.’” 

* * *

Eventually their conversation ended. After Madison left, she got another Facebook Message from Officer Baker almost immediately. 

“Derek Baker: So was that my visit because I think you were here to visit [Alex].” 

Madison replied that she hadn’t planned on staying but that she would come by another time. 

“Derek Baker: Good. I will be looking forward to my official visit then.” 

“Madison: I’m not sure why [laughing emoji].”

“Derek Baker: Are you hating on yourself?”

“Madison: Maybe [laughing emoji].”

Madison was confused why Officer Baker kept messaging her. But after their conversations about his job connections, she didn’t want to turn away from any potential job prospects.

“Derek Baker: You shouldn’t do that!!” 

“Madison: I’m just saying that I think I’m boring, so don’t get too excited lol.”

“Derek Baker: Oh I doubt that. I’m sure you’re not always boring. Ha.”  

Madison didn’t respond. 

* * *

After Thanksgiving, Madison bought her cap and gown. She stopped by the police station to try it on for her friends who worked there. When Officer Baker heard Madison and the other officers laughing, he messaged Madison to come back to his office.

She put her cap and gown back in the bag, and walked back to Officer Baker’s office on her way out. He told her to sit down so she grabbed a chair. Strategically, she sat at a desk across the room. 

Officer Baker commented that Madison was “alway showing off her legs” by wearing shorts in the fall, but quickly changed the subject to ask about her Thanksgiving holiday. He continued asking her personal questions: Where does your dad work? Where does your mom work? Do you have any siblings? Where do they live? Where do they go to school? Where did Madison go to high school?

She started to get concerned until he circled back to talk about her job search. Madison had yet to hear back about any interviews. 

Officer Baker promised her again that he could help her. He told her that he ran a life coaching business and could help her build her dream life.

“I felt like Derek was concerned that I might potentially be suicidal since he asked about life goals and such,” Madison said. “That tends to happen when law enforcement believes that someone has suicidal potential.”

After this conversation, Madison relaxed a little. She felt like Officer Baker genuinely wanted to help her and was looking out for her declining mental health. 

Then Officer Baker invited Madison to go to the gym with him. Madison declined. 

* * *

“Derek Baker: Glad you came by! Sorry I made you think too much. Haha. Can’t believe you wouldn’t come to the gym.” 

No matter how hard Madison tried to play off Officer Baker’s messages, pacify his interests or evade him, he continued to message her. He taunted her that she was “too scared” to go to the gym with him. He asked her to stop by when he worked late. 

Following any interaction between the two of them, Officer Baker would send a message. Once after Madison left the station, he derided her about not hugging him goodbye. 

“Derek Baker: ​​You didn’t even give me a hug and it could have been the last time…”

In one message, he told her she had looked great that night, but that her pants had covered her “awesome” tattoos. He told her that he liked them and that they were “pretty sexy.” 

Madison did not respond.

Sometimes she would call Alex in frustration or send her screenshots of the messages. 

“Madison got steadily more and more uncomfortable with him then he started being more direct and following her and making the job comments,” Alex said. “There were several times where she was in the car with me having a full breakdown because she was trying to finish, she wanted to work in [her field], she thought this was going to ruin her and he was being creepy and she just didn’t know what to do.”  

Alex suggested blocking him, but that idea also caused Madison to panic. 

“It got to a point where blocking was not going to do anything,” Alex said. “I was worried he was going to escalate quickly.”  

Both women worried about Officer Baker’s temper. 

“I had seen him snap over what looked like nothing,” Alex said. “He’d get into the yelling, red faced, hitting his fists on the desk situation – and he has a gun. I didn’t want my recommendations for her to block him to result in him flying off the handle. I thought that was a real possibility, and I worked with the man.”

Officer Baker continued to ask about Madison’s tattoos and piercings. Was she letting fear of a hug from him deter her from coming to the station? He made sure to stress that their conversation stayed just between the two of them. As Alex predicted, things did escalate. 

Finally, Officer Baker coerced Madison into admitting she had pierced nipples.

“Derek Baker: “I will need to see them to make sure you really have them…ha.” 

* * *

When Madison saw Officer Baker next, he grabbed her in an embrace. 

“I turned around he snatched me up in a pretty tight hug that felt like it lasted forever,” Madison said. “At this point I was in shock because I genuinely thought it was a weird joke.”

“So that was one promise, what about the other?” Officer Baker asked.

Madison realized he expected to see her piercings. When she declined, he left angrily without saying goodbye. 

“She couldn’t get away from him because she had a job on campus and had to attend classes,” Alex said. “It was concerning.”

When Madison went out to dinner, Derek sent multiple messages asking, “How do I earn the privilege of seeing and touching?… or is that possible? “ Tell me!!! Please.”

She reminded Officer Baker that he was married and that she was graduating in days. What did he want from her? 

“Derek Baker: You’re sexy, and hot. It turns me on. I want to hook up with you and have some fun… I can tell you probably enjoy that kind of stuff. I kind of think you are probably a little bit of a freak in bed…may be wrong. But anyway, I want to hangout and have fun…”

When Madison read this, she vomitted. 

“Derek Baker: In all seriousness, if you’re not comfortable with it, we don’t have to do anything at all, and can just strictly be friends. That’s up to you. I don’t want to seem pushy about it. I hope it doesn’t seem like that.”

Madison struggled with what to do. On one hand, her graduation was right around the corner. On the other, she needed help getting out of this increasingly scary situation. In Officer Baker’s next messages, he attempted to coordinate an affair with her.

“At this point, I knew I needed to report it,” Madison said. “Because I couldn’t handle messy again after just getting out of a relationship with a hard break up.”

* * *

UNA Police Chief Les Jackson. Image courtesy of the UNA Directory.

Madison reported Officer Baker’s sexual harassment to Officer Stracner. Officer Stracener then informed the Interim Chief of Police, Les Jackson. University police officers are mandatory reporters to Title IX, the federally mandated office that guarantees students protection from sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. 

In this case, there was a conflict of interest. Officer Baker’s wife, Kayleigh, served as the Title IX Coordinator. Should Madison have pursued a formal investigation into her claims of sexual harassment, the wife of her harasser would have been legally obligated to oversee and facilitate a fair investigation into her claims.

During Madison’s meeting with Chief Jackson, she could only speak for minutes at a time. She had to take breaks to throw up. 

After she reported him, Officer Baker unfriended Madison on Facebook. In the next week, she avoided the police station but ran straight into Officer Baker after making a mailrun. 

“He just stared me down,” Madison said. “I tried to shake it off and mind my business, but later that day he ran into me again at Starbucks.” 

Madison believed Officer Baker was following her. Scared, she returned to work. Where else was she supposed to go? The two departments deeply entrusted with women’s safety, UNA PD and Title IX, were compromised by her harasser and his wife.  

She tried to hold it together, but when she couldn’t shake the feeling Officer Baker was following her, her blood pressure rose so dramatically her nose bled. 

“I dripped blood all the way down from the steps to the bathroom,” Madison said. “In comes Leah Graham and Suzanna Taylor. They had no idea any of this was going on. They want to know, ‘what’s wrong?’, ‘what’s wrong?,’ ‘what’s wrong?’.” 

Dr. Graham and Dr. Taylor both work as professors in the Department of Politics, Justice, Law, & Philosophy, and Graham serves as Department Chair. She recalls Madison being completely depressed and visibly shaken. 

“When she did finally tell me what was going on, I told her I needed to report it,” Dr. Graham said. “I needed to find out how to do it because obviously the connection to the Title IX office was an issue. Since [Kayleigh Baker] was married to the person who was harassing my student, she wouldn’t have been the first person to go to, regardless.”

Dr. Graham consulted Dean Sara Lynn Baird and Associate Dean Jeffrey Bibbee of the College of Arts, Sciences & Engineering. When she explained the situation to them, and the conflict of interest between Officer Baker and Kayleigh Baker of Title IX, they advised Graham to turn the situation over to Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Kimberly Greenway. 

The Office of Student Affairs oversees both Title IX and University Police, and Dr. Greenway has worked for UNA Student Affairs since 1993. In summer 2018, she was “coaxed” out of her first retirement to work as Interim Vice President of Student Affairs to replace David Shields. Shields’ resignation was shrouded in secrecy. During his tenure, several professors found in violation of sexual assault, and a student sued the university arguing it did not properly investigate her claim that a professor raped and drugged her on a school trip.

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Kimberly Greenway. Image courtesy of the UNA Directory.

“Madison was very distraught about how far it had gone and felt very uncomfortable leaving the office,” Dr. Graham said. “Which made me very angry on her behalf because that is exactly the opposite of a) what the police force is there for and b) what Title IX is supposed to be doing for our students.” 

While Dr. Graham contacted Dr. Greenway, Madison continued to break down in the basement of Willingham. Chief Jackson arrived to check in on her. Dr. Greenway came next and pulled Madison into Tim Collins’ office. Madison told her the story. 

“[Greenway] records it,” Madison said. “She doesn’t tell me she records it, but I can see she keeps turning her phone.” 

Dr. Greenway pressed Madison about what she wanted to “come of” her report. Madison had just had a panic attack and didn’t know her options. She didn’t know all that she wanted. 

“She’s like, ‘well, we have to go through Title IX policy and see if this is even Title IX appropriate,’” Madison said. “She even said ‘it sounds to me like you never blatantly told him ‘no.’” 

Before becoming Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Greenway worked as the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for several years. 

Sexual harassment is defined by the United States Office of Civil Rights as, “unwelcome sexual comments, advances, and/or name-calling on the basis of sex.” Note that the definition does not require the harassed to verbally say “no” for a complaint to qualify as sexual harassment. 

After talking to Madison, Dr. Greenway claimed she needed to review Title IX policy and Madison’s evidence to see if a report was even appropriate for Title IX. 

* * *

Officer Baker, Kayleigh Baker and Dr. Greenway never responded to multiple inquiries the Flor-Ala initiated requesting interviews and/or comments. 

Chief Jackson, however, did offer a comment. He made the following statement to The Flor-Ala: 

“We are not able to comment publicly on personnel matters. But, if we become aware of an incident in which one of our officers does not act in accordance with department policies, we certainly take appropriate action.

“With regard to your question, allegations from a student rising to the level of sexual harassment would result in a Title IX process. That Title IX process would be in addition to any potential personnel disciplinary processes.”

* * *

Dr. Greenway went to the police station to prohibit Officer Baker from working at Madison’s graduation. 

Alex worked the front desk that evening. When Dr. Greenway walked in, she needed to speak to Chief Jackson and Officer Baker. 

“I said [Chief Jackson] was in a meeting,” Alex said. “[Greenway] said ‘no he’s not. I’m coming in.’” 

Alex sat at her desk and heard the yelling ensue. 

“That door was not soundproof,” Alex said. “I could tell there was arguing going on. I could tell that [Officer Baker]] was trying to defend himself in saying that this whole thing was stupid, Chief Jackson seemed completely done with it and Greenway was concerned about [university] reputation.”

Dr. Greenway told Officer Baker to go home. Officer friends told Madison he was suspended for two weeks, over Christmas, with pay–which University Spending confirms. 

* * *

Dr. Greenway reached out to Madison to meet after her graduation.

“The scheduled meeting would be your opportunity to provide any information you may have with regard to this matter that could assist in making a determination about what next steps may be available to you,” Dr. Greenway wrote. “Including whether or not you may have the option to file a formal Title IX complaint.” 

Dr. Graham accompanied Madison to the meeting.

“[Dr. Greenway] didn’t blow it off,” Dr. Graham said. “But she did make it out to be that this was too high of an uphill battle and likely not worth [Madison’s] time.” 

Dr. Graham offered the bigger picture. 

“We have students going [to UNA PD],” Dr. Graham said. “I know now that apparently it’s okay for staff to treat our students as a meat market.” 

Despite pages of messages and corroboration from friends and faculty, Dr. Greenway insisted the harassment in Madison’s situation wasn’t clear. 

“That was the illusion,” Dr. Graham said. “[Greenway] never used the wrong words.” 

After Dr. Graham brought up the complaint as a violation of employee policy, Dr. Greenway offered they could treat the incident as a personnel matter. In March of 2021, Officer Baker left UNA PD to join the Muscle Shoals Police Department. Before leaving, he bragged to the other officers that he faced no consequences or disciplinary action from UNA.  

Madison found a job in Colbert County–without Officer Baker’s aid. 

“When I got called out to Muscle Shoals PD, I had to deal with him,” Madison said. “I would work, then go out into the parking lot and throw up. Go back in, do what I needed to do, go back out to the parking lot and throw up.” 

A month after, Madison said she was diagnosed with PTSD and an adjustment disorder from the distress Officer Baker caused her. He remained on campus for three months after the incident.

* * *

His wife and Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Administrator, Kayleigh Baker left UNA under unclear circumstances on April 29. Dr. Greenway will retire from a thirty year career at UNA on May 31. 

“Everyone involved in this case is gone, but the policy is still a problem,” Dr. Graham said. “I brought it up to the Dean’s Office [recently] as a concern that [the Tile IX Office] wasn’t as proactive as it could be–understanding that the regulations right now aren’t beneficial to being proactive nonetheless.” 

Yet, after a series of sexual assault stories published by The Flor-Ala, UNA PD closed two dozen cases of rape, sexual misconduct and dating violence–overnight. UNA hired a new Interim Title IX Coordinator, Samantha Smith, to replace the previous interim coordinator and Dean of Students Minnette Ellis. 

Publicly, the university has yet to issue any proactive statement, guidance or responses in support of victims of sexual misconduct or denouncing those who commit it. According to RAINN, one in four undergraduate women will experience rape or sexual assault through force, violence or incapacitation. 

At the time of publication, UNA has yet to publicly address the growing number of accusations of sexual misconduct and, specifically, any plans to alter ineffective processes currently in place to ensure the safety of female students on campus. 

In a statement emailed to all students enrolled on May 1, Dr. Greenway claimed “If a UNA community member is unhappy with the progress of a Title IX report, investigation or adjudication process, that person has multiple resources they can engage – including the Dean of Students, and me as Vice President for Student Affairs. The University wants community members to report immediately when they are dissatisfied so the University can not only address the issue, but provide the additional support the student deserves.” 

In Madison’s case, those avenues of support failed. 

The 2021-2022 school year had been rebranded, “The Year of the UNA Woman,” to celebrate “150 Years of Progress” since UNA opened its doors to women in 1872. Una replaced Leo in the university logo. Alumni awards went only to women. Banners of UNA women literally covered Bibb Graves, erasing one shameful history in exchange for another.

*Denotes names have been changed.

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  • S

    Samantha DavisJun 1, 2022 at 9:41 am

    So glad this young lady stood up for herself maybe this generation will get us where women need to be.

    34 years ago while in college two Flo PD officers harassed every pretty chick at NW while taking classes for their career.

    One officer harassed my best friend after her dad died everything we did didn’t get this guy to stop until I went to my daddy …this fear is real of abusers wearing a badge.

    My own story of being scared of the law caused tremendous PTSD.

    Young ladies UNITE the world needs you.

    Not all scars are visible

    Reply
  • J

    Jane DoeMay 30, 2022 at 12:39 pm

    UNA police are dreadful. One time when I was at my university job, a man came in. He followed me from my 2nd job to campus, and had a guy filming me outside the door. When I called campus police afterwards, they basically said “yeah that sounds like stalking.” I asked if they could get the guy trespassed and if he could check the security cameras to get a facial shot. He said yes, but it wouldn’t be until morning. My boss the next day called me and wanted to talk about it. I told him it was all good because they told me they’d check the camera’s and get it taken care of. My boss then told me that the building I work in does not have security cameras anywhere on the premises. The officer lied and gave the illusion of protection without doing any actual work. Luckily my boss got on their case and they actually had to trespass my stalker.

    Reply