Presidential Perspective - July 16, 2020

July 16, 2020

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

For the next two days, Baylor’s Board of Regents will host its quarterly meeting via Zoom. Since mid-March, the Board has been conducting periodic meetings virtually due to COVID-19, and through this technology, we’ve been able to participate in rich, productive conversations regarding Baylor’s mitigation efforts related to the virus, as well as our plans for the fall semester.

One non-coronavirus topic that has generated some feedback has been the recent establishment of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations. As a University, it is part of our obligation to understand Baylor’s history and its connection to our present. Board Chair Mark Rountree and I want to be clear that the Commission is not charged with changing Baylor’s history. Also, changing the name of Baylor University is not part of the process. This effort is focused on telling the complete history of Baylor. We look forward to the Commission’s important work throughout the fall semester.

As customary, we will provide a summary of the Board’s actions and discussions post-meeting, sometime late tomorrow afternoon.

Some additional news to share for this week ...

  • Thank you to Dr. Kevin Jackson, Vice President for Student Life, for joining me yesterday for a Facebook Live discussion on what student life may look like at Baylor this fall. We covered a lot of ground – everything from Line Camp and Move-In to the Baylor Line and Homecoming. Our conversation was clearly of great interest to many of our students and their families, as this was the University’s most-viewed Facebook Live of the year. If you missed it, I encourage you to watch it on the Baylor Facebook page.
  • As an investment in our commitment to the health and well-being of the Baylor Family, every student, faculty and staff member will be welcomed to campus at the start of the fall semester with a Family First Care Kit. Each kit will contain a Baylor-branded face mask, hand sanitizer, thermometer, water bottle and COVID-19 instructional materials to help our campus and local community curb the spread of the virus. Together we can rise to the challenges of COVID-19 in a way that makes Baylor distinctive, and I ask that you join me in committing to our Family-First approach to protecting each other.
  • Commencement ceremonies are such a special time for families to come together and celebrate a student’s accomplishments, and we wanted nothing more than to provide that opportunity for our August grads, and many of our May grads as well. But it’s equally important that we are good partners with our families and responsible citizens of Waco. We are following the Governor’s executive order from June 26 as well as guidance from the city and county that limits large gatherings. But in addition to that, bringing thousands of people from all over the country – parents, grandparents, siblings and others – to Waco for such a concentrated period of time, knowing they would have limited access to restaurants and other accommodations, would have been irresponsible considering the area’s recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

    Be assured our plans for in-person course instruction this fall remain unchanged. We have taken great care to build a plan that spreads the move-in of our students on campus over an entire week and have instituted enhanced cleaning protocols, prevention measures such as face coverings, reduced capacities and limited access to gathering spaces that provide some measure of protection from COVID-19.

  • On Monday evening we announced an exciting new initiative called the Trailblazer Scholars Program. This program acknowledges the need to live out the University’s commitment to a vibrant, diverse campus community and is a tangible step to support our students of color and the significant contributions they make to the Baylor Family. In addition to leadership development, mentoring, involvement with activities of the Department of Multicultural Affairs and other opportunities, Trailblazer Scholars will receive renewable, annual scholarship funds over their four years at Baylor. The program was launched with $5 million in University scholarship support, and we will actively engage alumni, friends and donors to help grow the program, with the goal of awarding 80 or more students with Trailblazer Scholarships.
  • I speak on behalf of the University when I say that we were pleased and encouraged by Tuesday’s announcement that the federal government rescinded its rule requiring international students to leave the country if universities had to go fully online due to COVID-19. As we have said from the beginning, our international students are beloved members of the Baylor Family. We appreciate our international students and their many integral contributions to our campus and beyond – and we are here to help provide support and guidance. We ask our international students to continue to monitor emails and updates from Baylor’s Center for Global Engagement as we move closer to the fall semester.

Let’s all continue to do our part in preparing for the fall semester by social distancing, wearing face coverings, practicing hand sanitization and avoiding large gatherings.

Praying for you daily,

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

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