Baylor Students, Faculty and Staff:
As I reflect back over the past several weeks, our campus has struggled with demonstrating Christian hospitality while expressing different viewpoints. We know that once our students graduate, they will need to be equipped to handle difficult conversations or to face issues they may not agree with or that challenge our Christian beliefs.
Baylor has grown to become a diverse educational institution – with students from all 50 states and 90 countries – where students experience people from a wide range of backgrounds and with differing opinions. Our campus should be an environment where we can learn how to respond to each other in a respectful, compassionate manner and to use challenging situations and discussions to share and reflect upon our own personal beliefs and core convictions. While Baylor is a university that supports and encourages free speech, we have an additional – and very important – responsibility as a Christian university, and that is to appreciate differing opinions and backgrounds in a respectful, compassionate manner that extends grace as Christ did.
We may not always agree, but we are still the Baylor Family. And we all need to do better.
Over the past several days, I have been in talks with several faculty members and leaders from across the campus on how we can develop a series of future forums or events where we can learn how to participate in civil dialogue, borrowing from some of the work that is ongoing through our Baylor in Washington program, which is hosting an event next week on rational disagreement and civility.
Here are a few items of note for this week:
- I know many of you are looking forward to Diadeloso – The Day of the Bear – on Tuesday. “Dia” is a cherished Baylor tradition that officially began in 1966 and has roots all the way back to the 1930s. I hope to see you on campus for swimming with otters (yes, otters!), grabbing some free food or hanging out in the Glow Lounge. More than that, Diadeloso provides an opportunity for our students to interact with each other and our faculty and staff in a fun, family type of environment while enjoying the wonderful spring weather. Here is a full schedule of activities, and I heard the nighttime concert will be full of some Stranger Things that will be pretty exciting.
- Since Baylor’s founding in 1845, our students have been transformed by the teaching excellence and mentorship of dedicated, caring faculty members. In 2008, the establishment of the University’s Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) strengthened this historic commitment to teaching – amid a growing emphasis on research – by supporting and inspiring a flourishing community of learning and promoting the “coinherence” of research, teaching and service. Academic units, departments and individual faculty are encouraged to reach out to the ATL about how it supports teaching excellence, including the outstanding Summer Faculty Institute and Seminars for Excellence in Teaching, as well as the Foundations for Teaching Workshop, which provides graduate student instructors with teaching development training.
- For the past eight years, Baylor has been named one of the “Great Colleges to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education. A reason why is our excellent faculty and staff who equip, support and encourage one another and our students every day. During our recent Spring Staff Forum, we honored seven staff members with Outstanding Staff Awards, a BaylorPLUS Salute and inaugural Distinguished Staff Leadership Awards. Congratulations to Sara Baker, Mark Bryant, Caroline Clark, Brianna Hensley, Ida Jamshidi, Leslie Moore and Meaghann Wheelis for going above and beyond expectations in their roles to support the University’s mission by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.
- This week Baylor undergraduate students are showing off the results of their independent research and creative work as part of URSA Scholars Week. After dropping by on Wednesday, I was impressed by the more than 400 students across many academic disciplines who are participating with platform presentations, research posters and exhibition of original artwork. Congratulations to all of the talented students and their committed faculty mentors who are helping to make Scholars Week such a great success and who are spotlighting our work in the area of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement.
- Our Lady Bears certainly made us proud earlier this week as they secured a spot in the Final Four. If you can’t make the trip to Tampa, you can join other members of the Baylor Family outside Baylor Ballpark for a watch party tomorrow, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Pack your favorite tailgate food and enjoy a giant television screen being brought in for the big game. At 6 p.m. you can catch our men’s tennis team – currently ranked No. 7 in the nation, followed by our Big 12-leading baseball team hosting 12th-ranked Texas at 8 p.m. Lots of opportunities to enjoy our special community and root for our Baylor student-athletes.
I appreciate your continued dedication and love for our great University.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.