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Editorial: Baylor family suffers from lack of search information

Jan. 22, 2010

Claire Taylor | Lariat Staff

The lines of communication between the Presidential Search Committee and the Baylor community have been characterized during the past year only by vague updates and promises of progress.

After the firing of then-president John Lilley in the summer of 2008, the university began the complex task of finding a new president, pledging all the while to be as inclusive of university constituencies and as transparent about the process as possible. We were asked to have patience in this process -- an understandably lengthy and intricate one. This is a request that the Baylor family could happily comply with, given the unfortunate results of hasty decision-making in the past.

The university created a presidential search page on the Baylor Web site, which features sporadic updates, but since the beginning of this academic year, the only update the Baylor community has been given is that interviews are under way. Administrators told the Lariat then that neither the names nor the number of interviewees would be released.

While we understand the often-sensitive nature of the interviewing process, those with such a vested interest in the university and its mission desire a level of transparency that we have yet to see.

Various constituencies, including the student government, made an admirable effort last year to have an active voice in the search process, specifically with voting privileges. While they regrettably were not afforded these privileges (voting seats on the committee were reserved for 14 regents), the university gave students and faculty a chance to voice their opinions during the student, faculty/staff and alumni listening sessions in April and May of last year -- a rare opportunity.

The ideas and opinions expressed in these sessions do appear to have been considered in the creation of the presidential search prospectus, released by the university in July. This prospectus not only outlined the attributes that our next president should possess, but also gave the Baylor community a solid idea for whom and what the search committee is searching.

While the sessions were a commendable step, dialogue has since become linear, with the university giving only occasional vague updates. While the search committee is not expected to come out with weekly updates, it is reasonable to expect more information than we have been given.

This quest started off strong more than a year and a half ago, and we cannot afford to lose steam now. This is a process that takes the efforts and input of every member of the Baylor family.

The board of regents, Presidential Search Committee and Presidential Advisory Committee are undoubtedly still working hard to find the best fit for Baylor's next president, but this is merely an assumption since the Baylor community has not been kept abreast during the process this academic year as promised.

"We have made it clear from the outset that we want this search to benefit from the collective wisdom of Baylor's many constituencies," Joe Armes, chair of Baylor's Presidential Search Committee, stated in an April 2009 press release. "Before we can make any decisions, we need to hear from faculty, staff and administrators, students, alumni and community leaders who can help define the character and qualities of the person we seek."

These words rang clear at the time, but since then, have felt more like a public relations promise on the part of the university. We implore the regents to take all the time they need to do a thorough job of finding a president who can fit the needs of our university. But we also ask that they honor their word by keeping us involved as they pledged to do.

For the faculty, students and board, the main goal is to unite the Baylor family. The way to accomplish this is to involve the entire Baylor community, as was done at the beginning of this process. We want to welcome our next president with a cohesive front, and that can't happen when the majority of the community is kept out of the loop.