Student officers, Starr talk concerns

Feb. 18, 2010

By Caty Hirst

Staff writer

The announcement of Judge Ken Starr as Baylor's new president has initiated a multitude of reactions from the student body, ranging from confidence in Starr's abilities to concerns about how the new president will handle issues that face students.

Jordan Hannah, student body president, and other student leaders met with Starr Tuesday to discuss some of the issues students are most concerned about at Baylor.

"Student government is really excited about working with [Starr] to address student concerns, and we are really looking forward to working with him under his leadership and working with the rest of the Baylor family," Hannah said.

Hannah said he thought Starr was very responsive to the concerns presented and that Starr was more than willing to work together on those issues.

They first discussed Baylor's increasing tuition.

Hannah said, according to the Issue of the Week statistics taken by student government, students are increasingly concerned about the affordability of a Baylor education.

"That is a major concern, as students' financial aid package does not increase as they further their education. Tuition increases are not taken into account," Hannah said.

Even though tuition continues to rise, the merit-based scholarships for current students remain the same, which has increased students' concern about paying for college.

The second issue student government broached with Starr was the involvement of students in major decisions and high-level strategic planning of the university.

Hannah said master's candidate Chelsea Saylor's involvement in the advisory committee was an good step in allowing more students to participate in decision-making at Baylor.

"We commend the board for allowing Chelsea to be a part of the advisory committee and having a student voice in the presidential search process," Hannah said. "That was a great avenue and a great way to showcase to the board and to the administration that students are capable of providing great input."

Kate Williams, communications director for student government, said she believed the meeting was successful in establishing a relationship with Starr.

"The meeting between the Student Body Officers and Judge Starr furthered the mission of student government: to build the relationship between students and the administration. As a whole Student Government has spent this year building upon the relationships that we have formed in the past," Williams said.

In addition to how Starr will handle specific issues that affect them, students are also interested in Starr's background and how he will lead Baylor.

"I think his background and experience has provided him with the proper tools to handle situations and to manage something such as a university," Cody Orr, chairman of the Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas, said. "From what I have seen, he has the right principles to make sure Baylor stays on track with being one of the leading Baptist campuses in the nation. I feel that he has his priorities straight, and that his goal is make Baylor much better, just like he did with Pepperdine."

In contrast, Baylor Democrats released a press release in opposition to Ken Starr's background.

"While well qualified for the position, we feel that Judge Starr's strong political stances will eventually be detrimental and not beneficial to Baylor University," the press release stated. "Baylor's history of striving for unity and an inclusive 'Baylor family' faces a big blow from this choice. We are disappointed in Baylor's choice of a president who has already had such a divisive affect on the campus and alumni before even taking office."

Orr believes that Starr's previous polices are a nonissue.

"I feel that his personal positions should not play a role in deciding if he is qualified or not to be the president of Baylor," Orr said. "Every person has their own personal opinion on these controversial issues and I don't think it is fair to use that as a criteria for or against him."

However, some students are in disagreement with Starr's defense of Proposition 8.

"Personally, I don't agree with proposition 8's attempt to limit the rights of a certain groups of citizens," Oscar Boleman, president of the Baylor Democrats, said. "I really just hope that he maintains a tolerant and respectful view and treatment of all the students that he is essentially working for."

Corsicana junior Nate Ford said that although he does not support proposition 8, he does not think Starr's involvement with it will affect Baylor.

"[Starr] has to maintain, like the university, being respectable, open minded and tolerant," Ford said. "I think we are still moving in that direction. I don't think the specific positions he took on previous policies have to do with how he is going to exactly run our university."

Boleman is also concerned by Starr's lack of previous affiliation with Baylor.

"[Starr] holds no degree from Baylor." Boleman said. "I think that Baylor is a very unique university and it would be better if he had more experience and time actually in the school, seeing how it operates under students and faculty."

Many students are confident that Starr's religious background indicates he will be committed to the Christian standards at Baylor.

Allison Winney, president of the Baylor University College Republicans, said she believes Starr will follow through with Baylor's Christian mission.

"I am really looking forward to seeing Judge Starr as our president," Winney said. "I think he will help to create and administer new ideas while maintaining the model Christian university that Baylor has held."

Winney also said the fact that Starr is so well known will bring Baylor more national recognition and help Baylor compete with top tier universities such as Harvard and Yale.