Our calling to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly
Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Alumni:
The events of the past few weeks have filled me with great sorrow over the senseless and inexcusable killing of George Floyd and in remembrance of the terrible deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many other black men, women and children. We have once again seen our country’s deep divide over race, justice and inequality come to light.
Many beloved members of our Baylor Family – our underrepresented students, faculty, staff and alumni of color – are hurting deeply, along with those who stand alongside them. Since my initial statement on Friday, I have heard their anguish and anger and cries in fear for their children and themselves. Many have also reached out to me and participated in peaceful protests here in Waco to share their pain and frustration, their endless experiences with systemic racism and the indignities of indifference – or worse, our silence – that have allowed these grave injustices to happen over and over again. It’s time to both step back in humility to listen and learn, but also speak up about how we treat people of color in our community and our country.
Since my inauguration, I have said, “The World Needs a Baylor.” As members of the Baylor Family – a Christian university with a community called to offer the grace and peace of Christ to all of God’s people – we should lean in to these current events, build upon our actions to date and elevate the difficult, uncomfortable but important conversations – with actionable steps – regarding race, privilege, violence and conciliation in America. Not only will we broaden the conversations at Baylor, but we will look to the wisdom of our racialized minority brothers and sisters who have more experience than us.
I understand that actions speak louder than words, so today I am announcing these immediate actions to augment the many trainings, dialogues, guest speakers and activities already taking place across our campus:
- Require diversity training for all current students, faculty and staff, which we plan to roll out this fall. The University already requires diversity training for incoming students as well as for new faculty and staff – in addition to faculty search committees and student leadership – but this training now will occur on an annual basis for all current students, faculty and staff. Why is this the right thing to do? Our Christian values call us to love and respect one another, even in our differences, as we are all a part of God’s beautiful mosaic. Racial justice is not ancillary to the University’s mission; rather, it is – or at least should be – part of the mission. Equipping students for worldwide leadership and service requires that we – and they – recognize the depth of our own innate biases and prejudices, that we more readily name them and more ably and wisely resist them. To make this online training effective, we will leverage the continual training offered by our Equity Office and other groups that occurs throughout the academic year.
Numerous members of our campus leadership team have had the opportunity to participate alongside other Waco leaders in sessions provided by the Racial Equity Institute, which helps organizations and communities grow their understanding and analysis of structural racism and its cultural and historic roots. Additionally, plans are in progress to host several REI Groundwater sessions this fall for campus leaders throughout the University.
Students are learning more about diversity in campus-wide events, courses and organizations. Baylor faculty are encouraged to choose texts, lecture materials and projects to help students understand the intersections of race, gender, religion, class and culture. We must prepare our students to work alongside members of diverse populations and to embrace differences.
- Host a virtual Presidential Baylor Conversation Series this month and through July, during which a panel of Baylor faculty members and I will discuss the role of the church and our responsibility as Christians on race, peacemaking and conciliation fueled by repentance. This initiative will build on previous guest speakers such as Jemar Tisby and extends our civil discourse discussions from last fall as we strive to be a marketplace of ideas and continue to demonstrate mutual respect, objectivity without hostility and an appreciation of the experiences of others, all while extending the love of Christ.
- Continue to strengthen the diversity of our faculty and staff as we attract a diverse pool of candidates committed to our mission. Once hired, we will provide vital support to retain these faculty scholars and help them reach their aspirations as members of our outstanding faculty. Since 2002, the overall racial and ethnic diversity of our faculty has grown from 6.4% to 16.5%, and retention of minority faculty through tenure is very nearly the same as for non-minority faculty. We believe representation matters, and we understand we have much more progress to make. The bottom line is we are committed to building a faculty that also reflects our diverse student body.
- Treat all students, faculty and staff with respect and dignity, promote equal opportunities and prohibit discriminatory practices, including unlawful discrimination, all outlined as part of Baylor’s firm commitment to maintaining an environment where all can thrive. I ask you to review our Civil Rights policies, which are online at www.baylor.edu/diversity/index.php?id=950974. Any issue or incident that violates the University’s Civil Rights policy or other policies must be reported through the Report It website at www.baylor.edu/reportit or in conjunction with Baylor’s Equity Office.
It breaks my heart to live in a world that says a life is not valuable based on the color of one’s skin. I want our students, faculty and staff of color to know that you are valued and you are loved. The Black Lives Matter movement is more than just a catchphrase, a rally cry or social media tactic to garner support for protestors. It is a social movement to help people understand that once Black lives begin to matter; all lives will truly matter. At Baylor, we value our faculty, staff, students and friends of color. Black lives absolutely matter.
Finally, I hope you will join me beginning next Wednesday for a weekly virtual gathering over the summer: “The Baylor Family Praying … in Lament, for Justice and towards Healing.” This 15-20 minute prayer service will include leadership from across the Baylor community as we read scripture, sing and offer prayers of repentance, petition, intercession, trust and commission. I will share more details with you later in the week.
The Lord has shown us what is good and what is required of us: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) May the Lord grant us peace and justice at home, at Baylor, throughout the nation and among all people.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.