Baylor Board of Regents Accepts Independent Report from Commission on Historic Campus Representations
In resolution, Board charges University Administration to develop a proposed action plan; University plans series of forums ahead of the public report release
WACO, Texas (Feb. 19, 2021) – At its quarterly meeting held virtually, the Baylor University Board of Regents officially accepted the final report of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, passing a resolution that expressed its gratitude to the 26 members of the Commission and sets a path forward for the University Administration to develop an action plan of the Commission's recommendations for Board consideration.
"The Board of Regents expresses its sincerest and abiding gratitude to the members of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations for their extensive labor and prayerful deliberation in the course of successfully fulfilling their charge and providing this service, as volunteers, to the University and the Baylor Family," the Board resolution stated.
The Board resolution also recognized and expressed appreciation of both Regents and the Baylor Administration for the "extraordinary leadership, dedication, and selfless service of the Commission’s three co-chairs marked by humility, discernment, and prayer," Regent Alicia D.H. Monroe, M.D.; Dean of Music Gary Mortenson, D.M.A.; and Associate Athletics Director Walter Abercrombie, and "for their care in fostering an environment in which the voices and thoughts of all 26 members of the Commission were thoughtfully considered and reflected in this gift to Baylor."
The Commission on Historic Campus Representations – comprised of individuals representing Baylor alumni, Regents, faculty, students and staff – was established as part of a unanimously passed resolution by the Board of the Regents on June 25, 2020, that acknowledged the University's historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy.
The Commission's work was guided by four specific charges:
- Review the complete historical record and context of the University and its founders and early leaders, including historical connections to slavery and racial injustice.
- Propose a plan for documenting and communicating the complete history of Baylor and its founders and early leaders, including historical connections to slavery and racial injustice.
- Evaluate all statues, monuments, buildings and other aspects of campus within this complete historical context and in reference to the original intentions behind their physical location, placement and naming and provide observations for consideration.
- Prepare a final report to be provided to the Board of Regents and the President no later than Dec. 20, 2020.
The Commission carried out its intensive work throughout the summer and fall and, on Dec. 20, 2020, presented the Commission’s final report to the Chair of the Board of Regents and University President. In the weeks leading up the Board meeting, Regents met in specially called sessions to be presented the report by Commission co-chairs and other members of the Commission.
On Friday, the Regents had their first, in-depth discussion as a full Board of the Commission's findings and recommendations, which led to the approval of the aforementioned resolution.
The Board and University plan to release the full, independent report of the Commission by the end of March. First, the University will hold three forums as part of the ongoing "Baylor Conversation Series: Perspectives on Our History" on March 2, March 9 and March 16. Hosted by Ronald Angelo Johnson, Ph.D., The Ralph and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair of History at Baylor, each respective forum will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Zoom and include panelists from universities in Texas and other experts to discuss slavery in the United States, slavery in Texas and among Texas Baptists, and the historical findings of the Commission and the framework for the recommendations.
"The Commission has given a great gift to Baylor, one in which racial equality is inextricably linked to our Christian mission and that reflects the voices and perspectives of all 26 diverse members of the Commission in the final report and recommendations," said Board Chair Mark Rountree, B.B.A. '86, M.T.A. '87, of Dallas. "As we take the next steps in this process, the Board is committed to providing a Christ-like compassion and dedication to equality, justice and conciliation at Baylor, throughout our state and nation and among all people."
Upon acceptance of the Commission's report, the Board charged the University Administration to develop a proposed action plan regarding the Commission’s recommendations, as feasible and in accordance with existing Board policies and procedures. The Administration will provide a briefing for Board consideration and action in accordance with existing Board policies and procedures, prior to the implementation of any recommendation.
"The Commission’s report tells more than the story of Baylor’s history. It is a testament to the importance of telling the truth, of asking for forgiveness and of reaching out to others impacted by the institution of slavery in fulfillment of our Christian mission and in keeping with our Christian witness,” President Livingstone said. “We will take great care as we begin looking deeper at the Commission's recommendations to develop a proposed action plan for consideration by the Board in the months ahead."
President Livingstone also gave her regular report to the Board that included student retention in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, upcoming fall enrollment and the $1.1 billion Give Light campaign that undergirds the University's Illuminate strategic plan. The president also updated the Board on COVID-19 mitigation efforts on campus, including regular weekly testing implemented this spring, and led a discussion of strategic themes for future consideration by the Board that arose from its November retreat.
Despite the many challenges for higher education enrollment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President Livingstone reported that the University continues to demonstrate its strength and resilience. Retention of students from fall 2020 to spring 2021 was 96%, a decline of less than 1% from fall to spring. Looking ahead to fall, the president reported that applications, acceptances and deposits are tracking in line with the previous two years in spite of the virtual recruiting environment.
President Livingstone updated the Board on the Give Light Campaign, which has raised $940 million to date toward the $1.1 billion goal. Importantly, the University has secured 12 of 17 Baylor Academic Challenge Chairs at the $3 million level and is actively supporting faculty recruitment for five new endowed chairs.
On the University's ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and continue to offer a safe, healthy and on-campus experience, President Livingstone informed the Board of the pause in regular weekly testing due to the extreme winter weather. So far this semester, the University reached a high of 356 cases on Jan. 22, compared to a high of 475 cases in the fall semester on Sept. 3, 2020. She stressed the University has appropriate capacity for isolation, quarantine and contact tracing to manage the current COVID-19 case load.
The President also shared more about the partnership with My Labs Direct for an on-site COVID-19 testing lab and research facility in the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative that became operational in early January. The lab can process about 3,800 campus tests per day, reaching its goal of providing a 24-hour turnaround of results. In addition to providing extensive COVID-19 testing, the lab’s molecular PCR platform augments Baylor’s long-term vision to become a Research 1/Tier 1 university, providing vital infrastructure and developing opportunities in molecular science for faculty research and internships, practicums and business training programs for our undergraduate and graduate students.
On Illuminate, President Livingstone updated the Board on progress on the strategic plan, including enhancing the commitment to the University's Christian mission and remaining undeterred on aspirations to become an R1 institution. She reported that research expenditures and awards bested established goals for this year, and the University continues to fill key endowed chairs through the Baylor Academic Challenge.
"Although we had a challenging week with the weather, we had great discussions with the Board in a virtual setting. Baylor remains strong and resilient, despite many challenges from COVID-19 to this week's record-breaking cold temperatures," President Livingstone said. "We continue to move forward aggressively with Illuminate as we pursue our aspirations as the preeminent Christian research university."
Resolution of Appreciation for Dining and Facilities Teams
As the University and state of Texas continues to feel the impact of this week's historic winter storm, the Board also unanimously passed a resolution to extend appreciation on behalf of Regents, President Livingstone and the entire Baylor Family to the staff members of the Baylor Dining and Facilities teams in "recognition of their significant contributions and selfless dedication to the welfare of Baylor students and the success of the University."
"The staff members of the Baylor Dining and Facilities teams have gone above and beyond their normal duties during the disruptive and deadly winter storm that has affected life in Texas and at Baylor this past week, finding the means however possible to travel to our campus and, in some cases, walking or driving in treacherous conditions and staying in temporary quarantine housing to ensure our students were fed and damage across campus was repaired," the Board resolution stated.
"This once-in-a-generation winter storm has certainly had a major impact throughout our state, city and campus. We have had water damage in several buildings, but it is not catastrophic due to the pre-planning of our facilities and dining teams," President Livingstone said. "However, a significant impact of the storm is on our academic calendar, which had already been compressed due to COVID-19."
Alumni-elected Regents Timeline
The Board announced the timeline for the upcoming election of Alumni-elected Regents, which again will be conducted by an independent third party but this year through online voting only.
More information about the candidates will be shared via email and University social media channels on April 1 and in the spring issue of Baylor Magazine. Credentials for voting will be provided to all degree-holding alumni of the University by email at the start of the voting period. The election will be conducted from April 26 through May 6, with results certified on May 7 and announced publicly on May 14. The candidate receiving the most votes will serve a three-year term on the Baylor Board of Regents.
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 19,000 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.