Regents announce search process, SG responds

March 6, 2009

On March 6, Dr. Howard K. Batson, chair of the Baylor University Board of Regents, announced through a university press release the appointment of both a presidential search committee and presidential search advisory committee, a search model that almost identically resembles the process used to appoint Dr. John Lilley.

The fourteen member, Regent-only presidential search committee will be assisted by a ten-member advisory committee, made up of constituency representatives for Baylor, Waco, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Of the ten member committee, only one student, Chelsea Saylors, was selected.

A role on the advisory committee, however, was not what Baylor's major constituencies desired.

In the fall semester, the Faculty Senate, Baylor Alumni Association, and Baylor Student Government passed formal resolutions requesting voting rights for constituency representatives on the presidential search committee. According to Student Body President Bryan Fonville, the Regents' announcement diminishes the role students had hoped to play in the search process, something he says does not serve the best interests of Baylor.

"We believe full representation is characterized by voting rights, and the Board's announcement today falls short of fulfilling the requests of Baylor's major constituencies," said Fonville. "We are disappointed with both our selection to an advisory role and the level of student representation on the advisory committee. The Board has signaled--through its selections--which constituencies it considers priority, and the committee's composition appears to suggest that students are not at the top of that list."

Student Body Internal Vice President Parker Short, expressed a similar sentiment regarding the appropriation of advisory committee seats.

"Baylor students have much at stake in the selection of Baylor's next president," said Short. "As one of Baylor's biggest stakeholders and largest financial contributors--with tuition accounting for approximately 70 percent of the university's operating budget--student concerns for the next president should be at the forefront of these conversations."

According to the university's release, "Batson invited the Baylor Alumni Association, Faculty Senate, Staff Council, and Student Government to recommend specific candidates for the 10-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee." Of the candidates submitted by Student Government, Saylors was selected.

"As a graduate student next year, Chelsea will bring both consistency and experience to the advisory committee," said Fonville. "In the three years I've known Chelsea, she's proven to be a hardworking and articulate leader that displays maturity beyond her years. She works well with faculty, staff, and administrators and possesses an understanding of the complex issues facing Baylor."

While Short communicated that this wasn't Student Government's preferred process, he emphasized that Student Government was committed to supporting the advisory committee.

"We are fully committed to working with the advisory committee," said Short. "We have full confidence in Chelsea and will look for every opportunity to provide her with the support and information she requests."

In Baylor's previous presidential search, the advisory committee had just one student, something Student Body External Vice President Nicole Yeakley hoped would improve this time around.

"We hoped the Board might select both an undergraduate representative and graduate representative to more fully serve the interests of students," said Yeakley. "That form of student representation is becoming a norm at top-tier institutions."

To assist both the search and advisory committee, the Regents have launched a presidential search Web site where members of the Baylor family have the opportunity to provide input.

Yeakley had mixed reactions to the Web site.

"At this point, I think it's too early to tell just how effective this site will be," said Yeakley. "The important thing is that the next president of Baylor should be selected in the best interests of students. At the end of the day, the university exists because of students."

According to the university's March 6 release, "both the Presidential Search Committee and Presidential Search Advisory Committee are expected to begin their work within 30 days."

Other Related Press Items:

- Waco Tribune-Herald: Some at Baylor will have a voice but no vote in presidential search

- Baylor University Press Release: Baylor Regents Chair Announces...

- The Baptist Standard: A proposal for healing at Baylor (editorial by Marv Knox)

- The Waco Tribune Herald, Letter to the Editor: Predictions of presidential trouble for Baylor (letter by Henry H. Walbesser)