Baylor Students, Faculty and Staff:
It’s hard to believe that 18 years have passed since the harrowing events of 9/11. As I shared in Chapel with our freshmen yesterday, several years ago while at Pepperdine University, I had the opportunity to introduce Deena Burnett, the widow of Tom Burnett, who is credited for helping take down United Flight 93 and ultimately saving hundreds, maybe even thousands of lives on the ground in Washington, D.C.
What Ms. Burnett shared that day has left an indelible impression on me. She described her belief that the heroes of 9/11 were not created by their acts that day, but instead by the decisions they made each and every day. Qualities such as integrity, courage and acts of citizenship are choices people make. It was those character choices that led Tom and others to confront the four hijackers. It was those extraordinary decisions made by ordinary people that prevented our nation’s darkest days from being even more tragic.
Here are several items of note for this week:
- One of the many outcomes post-9/11 was that Americans took account of the many freedoms we enjoy in the United States. Today our country continues to embrace freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. But this freedom comes with great responsibility, which is why we are hosting the Baylor Conversation Series on civil discourse throughout the fall semester. This is an important topic not only for our University as a Christian institution, but for higher education and our society overall. There is a full schedule of four Presidential Events and nearly 20 other academic-hosted events on civil discourse through mid-November, and I encourage you to attend as many as possible.
- As we strive to create a respectful and welcoming environment at Baylor for all members of our campus community, it’s vital that we provide robust and more specific training around diversity, equity and inclusion for students, faculty and staff. Please watch your email for more information to be delivered about this important required training for students this fall, to be followed for faculty and staff in the spring.
- Earlier this week U.S.News & World Report released its latest rankings for 2020. For the eighth straight year, Baylor was the second highest-ranked university in the Big 12 Conference at No. 79 and among the top five overall in the state of Texas. I wanted to congratulate you on a few other Baylor rankings of note:
- No. 8 Best Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs.
- No. 8 First-Year Experiences.
- No. 20 Best Undergraduate Teaching.
- No. 22 Writing in the Disciplines.
- No. 27 Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects.
- No. 42 Most Innovative Schools.
- No. 48 Best Colleges for Veterans.
Baylor also ranked No. 4 nationally among universities that create a high level of student engagement in the recent Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ratings, which measure student success and learning.
- As a follow-up to the active attack video we shared with you last week, our Department of Public Safety has scheduled a series of in-person trainings for students, faculty and staff this fall. Please ensure that you have watched this important training video, and remember to “Avoid. Deny. Defend.”
- A reminder that our Oct. 31 football game vs. West Virginia will be on a Thursday at 7 p.m. Due to the many traffic, parking and security protocols, the University’s normal operating schedule will be altered, with all Waco-based classes beginning at 12:30 p.m. or later being canceled. We will email more specific information to you in the near future, so please plan ahead.
- Speaking of sports, our volleyball team is currently ranked No. 5 in the country – Baylor’s highest ranking ever in the sport. I hope you will join me tonight at the Ferrell Center as our Bears face Houston at 7 and then on Saturday at 1 p.m. for “Pack the House” and $1 tickets against Tennessee. Soccer also is in home action tonight at 7 as our Bears face former Southwest Conference foe Arkansas. Baylor has the nation’s longest home winning streak at 15-straight matches at Betty Lou Mays Field.
We’ve had a great start to the fall semester, and thank you for being part of the Baylor Family!
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.