Presidential Perspective - November 12, 2020

November 12, 2020

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

As we look toward Thanksgiving, positive cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continue to increase dramatically across the country and Texas and within Waco-McLennan County. This is the feared “second spike” that so many medical experts predicted at the onset of the pandemic as the weather turns cooler and people spend more time indoors.

Earlier this week the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District issued a Public Health Alert, stating that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in our county with cases expected to continue to increase. Suspected sources of this increase include household clusters, parties, family get-togethers and other forms of contact outside the immediate family. COVID-19 spread can occur simply between friends meeting for dinner or special events, which are especially risky because people are unlikely to make social distancing and mask use a part of these events.

We have been fortunate inside the “Baylor Bubble” throughout most of the semester thanks to your dedication to mask wearing and social distancing and your cooperation with testing protocols and contact tracing. However, we have experienced a steadying increase of cases since the end of October, including case counts of more than 100 over the past several days for the first time since mid-September. We must guard against pandemic fatigue or complacency with preventive measures and protocols.

As a former student-athlete, I am reminded of Hebrews 12 which encouraged the early Christians: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We are so close to our finish line for the fall semester – the Thanksgiving holidays. Please do not let up. Wear your masks, maintain social distancing, avoid large events and gatherings, wash your hands often and stay at home if you are sick.

Also, now is the time for everyone to start thinking about your Thanksgiving plans related to COVID-19. Please watch your email in the days ahead for some important COVID-19 holiday information and recommendations.

A few updates to share with you this week …

  • Baylor has partnered with AcademicBlue to offer students free access to myStrength, a behavioral health solution that provides evidence-based activities to bolster mental health and wellness. The program includes activities to support working through challenges related to COVID-19, depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain and other issues. Students who sign up can engage via the web or mobile app, allowing 24/7 access to self-help resources. Students can sign up for a free account online. To learn more about the service, watch this brief video.
  • Racially diverse congregations have nearly tripled in the United States over the past 20 years, and “there is no sign that we’ve reached a plateau,” said Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., lead author of a new study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. “More Americans are attending religious services with others who do not look like them.” Multiracial congregations are defined as those in which no one racial or ethnic group comprises more than 80% of the congregants. Researchers cautioned that the study, which included a sample of more than 5,000 congregations, does not conclude that diverse congregations necessarily promote racial justice.
  • Yesterday students, faculty and staff should have received an email from me introducing Baylor’s required diversity education initiative. This moving 40-minute video encourages us to follow the two great commandments of Jesus: “To love the Lord with all of your heart,” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.” A reminder that you need to complete watching the video (BearID and password required) by the end of the fall semester on Dec. 15.
  • For our December graduates, I know this semester has not gone as you envisioned when you first enrolled at Baylor. Even though we will not have an in-person Commencement ceremony next month, we will honor the names of our December graduates on the McLane Stadium videoboard Dec. 19. The names will be broadcast live on Baylor’s Facebook page beginning at 10 a.m. CT. Also, be on the lookout for a boxed Baylor gift to be mailed to your permanent address in late December. Pandemic-willing, I look forward to seeing you walk across the stage on campus in May.

I hope that you took time to thank a veteran yesterday as part of the observance of Veterans Day. Many of the freedoms we cherish – voting and freedom of speech immediately come to mind – have been protected thanks to the sacrifice and selfless service of our nation’s veterans. I am proud to be part of a University with many historic ties to the U.S. military and such a deep love and respect for our country.


Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

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