Royce Starnes, guest columnist: New Baylor presidency doesn’t negate unanswered questions
Op-Ed: Waco Tribune-Herald
May 6, 2017
Many in the Baylor University community who are understandably weary of nearly two years of continuous public embarrassment, nationwide scorn and ridicule will see Dr. Linda Livingstone’s appointment as president as a signal that we can finally move forward again. Yet I say: “Not so fast. We still have unfinished business that needs tending.”
Which brings me to Baylor University regent Cary Gray’s April 22 column in the Waco Tribune-Herald — one voicing strong resistance to determined state legislative efforts to force the Baylor University Board of Regents to hold open governance meetings — and an equally resolute rebuttal offered by Baylor Line Foundation President Fred R. Norton.
Norton’s statement that Gray’s column “indicates a startling lack of accountability” is absolutely true. Even after incurring more than $220 million in estimated settlement costs and legal fees, as well as through donations now being withheld and unknowable additional costs linked to the university’s damaged reputation, not to mention the pain and suffering of sexual-assault victims over a nearly five-year period — even after all this, not a single member of the Board of Regents has been held accountable for what happened on their watch.
Anyone who does not believe that at least some of the BU regents played a significant role in creating this mess is a fool. How else can one explain how quickly the regents caved during settlement negotiations with fired head football coach Art Briles? How else does one explain the regents’ steadfast refusal to provide honest answers to the fundamental questions of: What happened? Who knew about it and when did they know it? What did they do, or not do, when they got this information?
Senate Bill 1092 — legislation to compel open board meetings at private universities receiving at least $9 million in taxpayer-funded tuition equalization grants for low-income college students (in other words, Baylor) — would not be under consideration if the Board of Regents had simply come clean with all the facts when this first started to come to light. Now we are left to wonder what else is still unknown. What else might we discover about the past, or about what may still be going on? What other dark things are in our future? Is Baylor’s accreditation at risk? Will there be more public spectacle when people wearing badges start delivering subpoenas to members of the Baylor University Board of Regents?
And, as Norton asks in his broadly issued statement of April 24, how might things have been different if there had been more transparency in how the BOR conducts business and if we had a different way of selecting our leaders?