Ad Unitatem: Newsletter on Equity and Campus Engagement

February 8, 2021
Ad Unitatem

A Word from Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

Baylor University places a strategic priority on enhancing equity across our campus and throughout our academic and operational divisions. In order to better share achievements and initiatives related to this effort, we have created this newsletter which will be distributed every other month as a source of information for you and the greater Baylor Family.

We believe the diversity of our campus community is mission-centric both to preparing students for worldwide leadership and service and to being salt and light to the world as a Christian research university. I hope you find this newsletter useful as we work together to make Baylor the strongest community possible.

Message from the Special Advisor to the President, Malcolm B. Foley

Conversation, conversation, conversation. While it is the first step to substantive change, it is just that -- a step. The intent behind Ad Unitatem: Baylor's Newsletter on Equity and Campus Engagement is to keep the campus community apprised of the substantive work happening at the institutional level to build a culture of justice and equity at Baylor.

Why Ad Unitatem?

Quite simply, the phrase means "toward unity." We are not where we need to be (and as a Christian institution, that ought not be news for a constantly repenting people), but we are seeking to aim ourselves in the right direction. That direction is toward peacemaking, racial and ethnic conciliation, and the lifting up of the marginalized in general. This is not merely a Black/White issue, as marginalization is a many-headed beast. Baylor's imperatives are clear in its mission: equipping men and women for worldwide leadership and service requires a commitment to those who are vulnerable and those who have been made vulnerable.

Unity, then, is the goal -- a community of accountability in which injustice is lovingly yet firmly rebuked and removed and a community of true peace, which entails the presence of justice: rendering to everyone what is due them consistently and constantly.

That peace is one that will not be without tension, but our commitment is to pursue it: to be clear about where we have been wrong and to actively seek the repair of that wrong.

Why Equity?

You are probably used to the language of diversity, equity and inclusion, but what does that mean for Baylor? Diversity and inclusion are often spoken of in terms of hospitality: "We want to become diverse and we want to include others." That language in itself, however, suggests that "we," often a white majority, are inviting "others" into "our" space, in which the only way for one to truly belong is to assimilate. That must not be our goal.

Instead, each of you has both the privilege and the responsibility to help shape who we are at Baylor. Of course, there are non-negotiables (our Christian identity being the most obvious), but equity is a state of affairs in which every member of the Baylor Family has the resources necessary to do what they came to do well. Whether the issue is race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability or any other category, Baylor is an educational place where you will be both challenged and supported.

Why Campus Engagement?

You may be familiar with the fact that racism and other -isms affect us and are manifested personally, institutionally and systemically. This ought not surprise us, especially those of us who identify as ambassadors of the personal, communal and cosmic Gospel of Jesus Christ. By personal, communal and cosmic, I mean that Christ came to save you, to save a covenantal community and to usher in a new heaven and new earth. Thus, it is not enough for us to just "be nicer" to one another. Because Christ came to redeem a world stained by sin in our relationships, institutions and world, our commitment must be for one another's flourishing and against the diminishment of the lives of our neighbors personally, institutionally and systemically. This newsletter will address some of the personal and institutional moves Baylor is making, but the entire campus has a responsibility to reach into the systemic.

We have only begun this hard journey. All has not been said, nor are the actions that follow complete in addressing the positive culture-building we have yet to do. But true reconciliation can only come following repentance and the healing of wounds inflicted. This is less of a declaration than it is an invitation. Please join us in this work.

Continuous Improvement

Over the past two years, Baylor University has implemented a variety of initiatives designed to create a more equitable and compassionate campus. It's all part of our commitment to advancing the University's mission and to making continuous improvements in all areas of Baylor's operations and institutional programming as we seek to become the preeminent Christian research university.

  • In the fall semester, all students, faculty and staff were required to view the Loving Our Neighbors video. This was a first step in a more intentional effort to equip our students, faculty and staff with the perspectives and skills necessary for ensuring an equitable, fair and respectful educational environment for all. Work is underway for next year's required training to build upon this ongoing effort. If you have not yet completed the video, please watch your email for instructions on how to do so.
  • The Trailblazer Scholars Program was created in July 2020 to recognize the importance of fostering diversity and mutual respect at Baylor. This program was launched with $5 million in University scholarship support. The Baylor Family has contributed more than $2 million in additional support to the fund, and the University is actively engaging alumni and donors to support growth toward providing 80 or more students scholarships. Applications are currently open to incoming and current students through February 15. The first cohort of Trailblazer Scholarships will be awarded in the Fall 2021 semester.
  • Also in 2020, Malcolm Foley, a doctoral candidate in religion, joined President Livingstone's office as special advisor to the president for equity and campus engagement. In this role, he facilitates engagement and interaction with and among the many diverse members of our community and works collaboratively to develop initiatives designed to foster a welcoming and equitable campus.
  • The Baylor Conversation Series has been focused on how people with significant disagreements can have meaningful discussions. Baylor welcomed Drs. Robert P. George (Princeton) and Cornel West (Harvard) to demonstrate how individuals from opposite ends of the political spectrum can be friends. The Series continued through 2020 with online events featuring faculty panelists.
  • Continuous training and development that advances a caring community has been a priority of leaders in the Student Life Division as they help students navigate residence hall life, engage in organizations and activities, develop leadership skills and grow spiritually. Student organization and residential community leaders also participated in multiple training events to help them grow in their abilities to engage with students of all backgrounds and to lead their organizations and spheres of influence in celebrating and embracing individual differences.
  • In fall 2020, Baylor's student activities team implemented unique experiences to engage students and advance cultural understanding. Each week, food trucks that provided food diversity and culturally specific foods were invited to campus, and vouchers for free or discounted food were used to encourage COVID-19 surveillance testing. Both initiatives facilitated cross-cultural awareness and supported local minority-owned businesses during the economic challenges of the pandemic. In November, Baylor and the Justice Film Festival partnered to share insights about race, culture and social justice through a three-day, 40-film event that included "Behind the Lens" talkback sessions with filmmakers.
  • In the summer of 2020, Baylor's Board of Regents created the Commission on Historic Campus Representations as part of a resolution that acknowledged the University's historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy. The Commission was charged with developing a set of observations for consideration by the Board and Administration about how best to communicate and reflect Baylor's complete history for current and future generations. The Commission delivered its report to the Board and Administration, who will review and take action in the months ahead. The Commission Report will be shared with the Baylor Family later this spring.
  • Baylor Provost Nancy Brickhouse formed a task force in the fall of 2019 to assess faculty satisfaction and identify strategies to enhance the faculty experience at Baylor, and in Spring 2020 the COACHE survey was fielded among faculty. Baylor has received the survey results, which will be used by academic leadership and four Faculty Satisfaction Working Groups throughout the spring to develop actionable steps for improvement. One of the four groups will focus on Experiences of Underrepresented Minority (URM) Faculty.
  • Baylor University's Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office has been fully staffed and established as the on-campus source for matters concerning equal opportunity, affirmative action, civil rights and related training in these areas. The Equity Office functions as the first stop for individuals connected to Baylor to report possible violations of University policy regarding issues of harassment and discrimination. Additionally, in-person and virtual training by Equity Office training specialists is available for departments and units. The Equity Office's staff can be reached at (254) 710-7100.

On the Horizon

  • The results and initial findings of the University's Campus Climate Survey administered in Spring 2020 will be released by next month.
  • The President's Diversity Council will develop additional events, action steps and opportunities to engage in conversations that advance equity on campus.
  • The Provost's Office will continue to cultivate college- and department-level working teams to advance the diversity of our academic community. These groups currently exist across most schools/colleges and many departments, and their further development will build a network of individuals who will learn from one another as they seek to support progress toward the University's diversity, equity and inclusion priorities.
  • The Provost's Office, HR and the Equity Office are working together to develop training for search committees across the University that will equip members to conduct inclusive searches, be aware of unconscious bias that might impact searches and illustrate a welcoming, equitable environment when candidates visit campus. This training is expected to roll out later this spring.
  • Additional reading groups facilitated by the Equity Office, the Graduate Student Association, and individual academic departments will be formed.
  • Set The Standard education/training for all freshmen and transfer students will continue to be required each August.

Mark Your Calendar!

An exciting opportunity for cultural humility training for faculty, staff and students is being offered in the weeks ahead. The online Leave Your Mark program is available from 8:00-9:30 p.m. on February 16; 4:00-5:30 p.m. on March 5; and 5:00-6:30 p.m. on April 14. This training promotes cultural humility on campus by introducing concepts of personal identity, appreciation of differences and understanding of microaggressions. For more information, email leave_your_mark@baylor.edu. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP online.

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Diversity & Inclusion

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