Presidential Perspective - March 4, 2021
Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
The health and well-being of our campus community is our top priority, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on and we near the end of the spring semester. I want to be clear that Baylor will not be relaxing or changing our COVID-19 precautionary protocols – facemasks will continue to be required on campus through the end of the semester.
We understand that you are tired and longing for a return to normalcy. With our existing COVID-19 protocols and weekly testing, we have been able to significantly “open up campus” since Feb. 8, when our moratorium for on-campus events lifted. For example, we:
- Hosted 625 student organization events or meetings, with more than 67% in person at discretion of student organization leaders;
- Continued weekly traditions like Sundown Sessions, Movie Mondays, Dr Pepper Hour and hosting local food trucks;
- Resumed intramurals, including 1,300 students for indoor volleyball, 1,500 students for soccer and hundreds more playing tennis and pickleball.
- Returned campus-wide events such as Vertical Ministries Weekly Worship, Asian Student Association’s Lunar New Year, fraternity and sorority life recruitment and Baylor Athletics events, including basketball, volleyball and a host of spring sports; and
- Plan to host Indian Subcontinent Student Association’s Gateway to India, Delta Night Live Concert (Delta Delta Delta Sorority), Student Foundation Sic ’em 6K, Zeta Phi Beta’s Stompfest, Hispanic Student Association’s ¡Parranda!, Heavenly Voices Gospel Concert and many other springtime activities.
Earlier this week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., stressed: “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
It is unfortunate that Texas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Here in McLennan County, our community continues to struggle to get access to adequate vaccine doses. As we currently have a high COVID-19 case count on our campus, we will continue to do what’s best for Baylor and our entire University community.
Some additional updates for this week:
- While the winter storms wreaked havoc across campus, The Store food pantry in the Paul L. Foster Success Center was there – regardless of the weather – to provide food and hygiene items for our students in need. From Feb. 15-22, The Store experienced its highest usage ever, which meant after the ice and snow melted, the shelves would need to be restocked. With grocery stores empty, The Store posted its Amazon Wish List on Instagram and Facebook, and parents, alumni and many others responded in kind as 150 boxes filled with much-needed items arrived at The Store this week. Thank you, Baylor Family, for your overwhelming generosity!
- If you were unable to join us Tuesday evening for our first Baylor Conversation Series: “Perspectives on Our History,” a recording of the educational, engaging event is now posted online. These open discussions come in response to the final, independent report of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which will be released later this month. Ronald Angelo Johnson, Ph.D., The Ralph and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair of History, will lead another academic panel this upcoming Tuesday from 6:30-8 p.m. on slavery in Texas and among Texas Baptists. You can find more information here.
- We’ve talked a lot recently about Baylor “firsts.” During Black History Month, we remembered Baylor’s first Black graduates, Robert Gilbert and Barbara Walker – and were excited to announce that the first cohort of Trailblazer Scholars will be named in their honor. Associate Athletics Director Walter Abercrombie also looked back on former Bear John Hill Westbrook, the Southwest Conference’s first Black football player, and the impact that seeing Westbrook play had on his life as a young boy. As the calendar turns to March, we now celebrate Women’s History Month, beginning with a look back at Baylor’s first female graduate, Mary Gentry Kavanaugh – Class of 1855. Each of these incredible Bears – Gilbert, Walker, Westbrook, Kavanaugh and so many others – have left a lasting legacy at Baylor, in many ways pushing us to tangibly demonstrate the caring Christian community that we strive to be. We celebrate their stories and are thankful for their pioneering spirits.
- Later this spring, we will honor and celebrate the unsung heroes of Baylor’s past and present through Champions of Change. This inaugural program recognizes and acknowledges the accomplishments of faculty, staff and alumni who have demonstrated efforts to foster greater appreciation and advancement of diversity, inclusiveness and equity for communities of color at Baylor and in Waco. You are invited to submit nominations through March 15. I look forward to celebrating our Champions of Change, who will be recognized permanently at a future public space on campus dedicated to honoring cultural wealth at Baylor.
- On the research front: Stephanie Gerow, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational psychology in our School of Education, has received a first-of-its-kind grant awarded to a Baylor faculty member: a highly competitive Early Career Development and Mentoring Award from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the statistics, research and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Gerow will use the $493,412 grant to fund her research that will provide early childhood professionals with behavioral intervention training for children with developmental disabilities, expanding the School's work serving the local community and increasing meaningful applied research opportunities for graduate students.
And to end on a great note: Congratulations to Coach Scott Drew and our men’s basketball team for winning Baylor’s first conference championship in 71 years (!) and to Coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears for winning their 11th straight Big 12 title. Baylor joins Gonzaga as the only schools to clinch an outright “double-dip” so far this season.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.