Baylor University Board of Regents Hosts Quarterly Meeting, Discusses Plans for Fall Semester in Midst of COVID-19

(Matthew Minard, Baylor Marketing & Communications)
July 17, 2020

Media Contact: Eric M. Eckert, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-652-0398
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WACO, Texas (July 17, 2020) - The Baylor University Board of Regents gathered virtually Thursday and Friday for its quarterly regular meeting to discuss and receive updates on numerous items, including the University's plans for the fall semester in light of COVID-19 and the launch of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations.

The meeting was held during a busy week as the University continued to enact plans to safely welcome thousands of students, faculty and staff back to campus for the fall semester beginning Aug. 24 and launch new initiatives related to racial healing and justice.

On Monday, during a virtual Town Hall event hosted by the Baylor Black Alumni Alliance and the Baylor Alumni Latino Group, President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., announced the creation of the Trailblazer Scholars Program, a scholarship program designed to recognize the importance of fostering diversity and mutual respect at Baylor. The University committed $5 million to launch the program, with additional fundraising efforts to follow.

On Tuesday, President Livingstone and Kevin Jackson, Ph.D., vice president for Student Life, hosted a Q&A session on Facebook Live to speak with students and families about Baylor’s fall reopening, particularly relating to health and wellness, housing, move-in and student activities.

COVID-19 Updates

The University’s response to and mitigation efforts relating to COVID-19 for the fall semester were the focus of extended Thursday meetings by a combined Academic Affairs/Student Life Committees and the Finance and Facilities Committee. At the May Board meeting, the University outlined five guiding principles for Baylor’s coronavirus planning:

  • Unwavering duty to Christian mission and values;
  • Continued commitment to progress on Illuminate;
  • Safe on-campus educational experience;
  • Flexible instructional delivery based on social distancing guidance/COVID-19 persistence; and
  • Preservation of Baylor traditions through creativity.

Under this guidance, the Regents heard reports on several key areas designed to keep students, faculty and staff healthy and well during the fall semester, including public health educational campaigns; COVID-19 screening, testing and tracing; caring for ill members of the campus community; face coverings, social distancing and self-monitoring; facility use and cleaning; and teaching and learning in multiple forms of course delivery.

Additionally, the Regents received demonstrations of the investments the University is making in classroom technology and faculty professional development in preparation for the fall semester. At this time, 76% of Baylor’s classes will have an in-person instructional component, either through face-to-face or hybrid delivery, while 24% of classes will be delivered online.

The University also is developing a dashboard of key COVID-19 metrics that will guide the Administration’s decision-making process prior to and during the fall semester. These metrics will include total student COVID-19 cases and positivity rates; quarantine and self-isolation rates and availability; faculty illness rates; antigen presence in sewage of residence halls; regional hospital capacities; contact tracing data; and the operational state of local schools and childcare centers.

“This is an unprecedented time for higher education, and the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff must drive our decision-making process,” President Livingstone said. “As we work through multiple potential scenarios for the fall semester, we must remain flexible and focused on delivering a Baylor-quality educational experience. We continue to plan for an on-campus start of the fall semester on Aug. 24 with the appropriate safety and social distancing protocols in place, but we are certainly prepared to shift our focus should COVID-19 conditions worsen.”

Chair’s Report

During his Friday report, Board Chair Mark Rountree, BBA ’86, MTA ’87, welcomed seven new Regents to the Board for their first regular meeting. This year’s Board size stands at 34 Regents, down from 40 a year ago and smaller than many of the University’s private peers. Five of the seven new Regents are female; as is 44% of the entire Board. Six Regents have diverse ethnic backgrounds (18%), up from one just four years ago.

Friday’s gathering also marked the first official regular meeting for the chairs of the Board’s eight standing committees.

Chair Rountree provided an update on the University’s 26-member Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which is charged with developing a set of observations by Dec. 20 for consideration by the Board and Administration about how to best communicate and reflect the complete history of Baylor University for current and future generations.

The Commission was established in response to a June 26 Board resolution acknowledging and recognizing the University’s historic connections to slavery from its chartering on Feb. 1, 1845, and during its first decades of operation as an institution of higher education.

“The charge of the Commission’s work is not to change Baylor’s history or the name of our great University. Let me reiterate that changing Baylor University’s name is not under consideration by the Commission, the Board or the Administration,” Rountree said. “Our focus is to better tell the complete history of Baylor and to continue to elevate what the Baylor name stands for – a place that integrates academic excellence and an unambiguous Christian commitment to expand minds, transform hearts and equip men and women to be difference makers in our ever-changing world. We do this all within a caring, Christ-focused community that fosters belonging and acceptance, mutual respect, civil discourse, compassion, mercy and grace. Through this Commission’s work, we hope to make Baylor a fuller reality for our students, faculty and staff of color, both now and in the future.”

President’s Report

During Friday’s meeting, President Livingstone – in addition to sharing information on plans for the fall semester – shared with the Board updates on the status of Illuminate, the University’s academic strategic plan, and the continued progress of Give Light, the $1.1 billion comprehensive campaign for the future of the University.

Over the past year, the University experienced a 56.3% growth in research awards to $28.3 million, coupled with a 32.5% growth in research expenditures to $16.3 million. Additionally, Baylor’s national grant profile grew significantly in 2019-20 with $221.7 million in sponsored program awards, demonstrating important institutional progress and support of the Illuminate strategic plan.

Baylor has raised $873.5 million toward the $1.1 billion goal of the Give Light philanthropic campaign in support of Illuminate. For the most recent fiscal year ending in May, the University raised $169.4 million – the second-most in Baylor history.

“We truly appreciate the support of the Baylor Family who has stood beside the University during these challenging times,” President Livingstone said. “We continue to have a strong upward trajectory across the entire University as we look toward the fall semester. There is a tremendous amount of excitement among current and incoming students for the reopening of campus. With that said, we must all do our part over the next several weeks by wearing face coverings, social distancing, practicing hand sanitizing and limiting group gatherings to help keep both our campus and the Waco community safe and well.”

Other Board Business

The Board took action to approve two new appointees to the Baylor College of Medicine Board of Trustees. The appointees are:

  • Brooks McGee, BBA Accounting ’79, managing partner at Icon Wealth Partners in Houston; and
  • Gail Stewart, BBA ’80, JD ’83, partner at Baker Botts in Houston.

Additionally, the Board considered and approved modifications to the University’s Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy in response to new Title IX guidelines from the federal government. The new guidelines must be implemented by Aug. 14.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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