EDITORIAL: Baylor regent reforms useful if part of a major transformational shift
February 18, 2017
After months of questions, protest and criticism regarding its role in addressing a plague of sexual assaults, the embattled Baylor University Board of Regents moved Friday to what some might call greater transparency, others might dismiss as mere formalities only hinting at it. Still, in the overarching picture of this sprawling scandal, regents’ vote under alumni pressure to adopt governance reforms at least indicates they recognized the need to do something.
So long as they understand that their limited steps last week are but a beginning to broader governance reform and the sort of transparency that helps put to rest so many rumors and questions festering among alumni, donors, parents and the press, we welcome regents’ action. But if regents demonstrate little resolve in practicing these reforms passionately, if they show even less resolve in explaining the actions that drove their decisions on May 26, 2016, the hard feelings and misunderstandings will continue.
Regents attending the Baylor Line Foundation’s town-hall meeting last Wednesday night got an angry earful from 150 or so alumni churning over the scandal that threatens this Christian institution’s worthy athletic and academic aspirations. One alumnus even suggested state officials step in and put Baylor into receivership so it can be reconstituted. You know things are bad when someone thinks politicians can help make things better.
The three alumni-elected regents who showed up more or less had to be there, given that the Baylor Line Foundation celebrated their elections last June. But regents Jennifer Elrod, a respected U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and Mark Rountree, a tax accountant, did not have to attend. Yet there they were, busily scribbling notes as questions were raised, solutions proposed and criticism hurled.
By Thursday, Bears for Leadership Reform — a group of prominent alumni and donors who have aggressively pressed for more about the sexual-assault scandal and have lambasted regent leadership — asked the board to postpone its vote on governance reforms “to try to find some middle ground between [regents] and Bears for Leadership Reform.” That idea unfortunately fell on deaf regency ears.