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Editorial: Baylor 2012 offers chance to transform concerns into change

Nov. 12, 2010

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Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

In a time of rising education costs and intellectual discoveries shaping the future, Baylor needs a plan to deal with what may come next.

By 2012, President Ken Starr says, the university will have one that addresses questions of integrating "academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community," by completing its strategic planning process.

How much of this strategic planning is dictated by faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of Baylor depends on how much, or how little, input Baylor receives from these parties.

It is no secret that Baylor students find plenty of reason to complain about on-campus inconveniences. Students often complain to their buddies and parents about high tuition costs, a lack of parking on campus, a lack of space in the library and the sprinkler systems watering the sidewalks. But now students have an opportunity to voice these opinions not just to their friends, not just on Facebook and not just to family. Students can take their concerns and complaints to the next level -- those at the top of the university chain.

It is the Baylor community's responsibility to take its concerns to the university, and Baylor is providing it with an easy opportunity to do so.

Next month starts the community input phase in which organizations and groups will discuss how Baylor can tackle these issues, as November is designated for community reflection. Between studying and extracurricular commitments, members of the Baylor family should follow Starr's recommendation and reflect on several documents available on the strategic planning website: www.baylor.edu/strategicplan.

One such document, "Envisioning the Future," written by Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, poses several questions regarding the areas of education, Christian commitment and community.

These questions are not of the fill-in-the-blank, pop-quiz variety.

Some examples include:

What types of social, spiritual and physical programs should complement our academic offerings?

How do we extend our influence globally through our undergraduates or through our undergraduate programs?

What does it mean to claim that Baylor is a Christian university in the Baptist tradition?

More broadly, how are faith and learning to be related?

To address the basic logistics of attending college, she asks:

What practices might we change to manage the rising costs of higher education without sacrificing our fundamental core values?

In regard to building community through intramurals, sports, music, etc., she asks:

How should such pursuits be shaped toward this end?

These are just a few questions on which Davis invites Baylor to ponder. To turn Baylor's plan from paper to reality, those able to offer insight must take action and participate when opportunities arise.

Students say their concerns hinder their ability to learn and while some of Davis' questions are more philosophical in nature, much of "Envisioning our Future" deals with areas directly impacting the Baylor family.

Whatever these issues are, Baylor wants to hear them. More importantly, the university wants to know how to fix them, and there is no better solution than input from faculty, staff and students who see the issues firsthand on a daily basis. This month, Baylor wants its family to formulate educated thoughts about the future. From December through April, there will be chances to apply these ideas toward tangible improvement.

Those involved with Baylor should be thankful for this opportunity and think about what affects them the most. With their suggestions, those issues won't trouble those in the future.