EDITORIAL: Is compromise even possible anymore between Baylor regents, angry alumni?
January 22, 2017
In the increasingly antagonistic jockeying and jousting between the Baylor University Board of Regents and the donor-led, alumni-infused Bears for Leadership Reform, a disturbing new reality is looming: The more that regents dismiss proposals, overtures and even the legitimacy of the BLR, the more that regents reinforce growing perceptions about their own insularity and irrelevance in the battle over how Baylor restores confidence in its leadership. This is damning, coming amid legal challenges involving sexual assault and administrative indifference regarding student victims.
During a news media teleconference Wednesday, Houston attorney John Eddie Williams, for whom the football field at McLane Stadium is named, and former BU regent Randy Ferguson outlined a plan of regency reform including term limits and changes allowing Baylor alumni to elect up to 10 regents rather than three — steps that would make regents more accountable. Notably, the BLR resisted a perennial question from the press: Which regents are by now so conflicted and so failed that they must depart the scene to pave the way for any restoration of alumni confidence?
By week’s end, after Baylor regents released their own proposal of board reforms to the Trib, Williams had stepped up his criticism, inching closer to naming certain regents as contributing to not only Baylor’s current scandal through questionable actions but threatening the transparency so desperately needed in Baylor’s future.
A BU regents-charged committee agrees with the BLR on giving voting rights to non-voting regents representing faculty (and increasing their representation to two members), the Bear Foundation and Baylor “B” Association but keeping the status of non-voting student regents as is. It and the BLR are further apart regarding transparency. Bears for Leadership Reform acknowledges very few privately run colleges and universities open up their board meetings to the public or press but suggests that — particularly after a searing scandal continuing to tarnish Baylor’s image and integrity — bold and revolutionary steps are required, including opening up board meetings to the level of public universities. The regents’ committee says posting more information to BU websites will suffice.
BU regents, who have yet to approve this committee’s list of proposals (the committee included non-regents), also split with the BLR on the latter’s proposal that regents be freed from any sort of restriction requiring their silence on issues or deference to board leadership in public commentary. Regents, the BU proposal says, are free only to explain “announced decisions” of the board and listen to others’ thoughts and report them to the board.