By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
Bears for Leadership Reform, a nonprofit activist group with the goal of restructuring Baylor’s leadership, announced its support of a Texas Senate Bill that would require Baylor to comply with open meeting and records laws.
In a statement released last week, the group stated a “call on Regents to support legislation by state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, requiring the world’s largest Baptist University to hold open meetings and make certain records available to the public. [Bears for Leadership Reform] is demanding greater transparency, accountability and wholesale reform to restore unity and trust with students, their families, the public and the entire Baylor Family.”
If passed, Senate Bill 1092 would require any school that receives more than $5 million in Tuition Equalization Grants from the state to comply with state open records and open meetings laws. Under current law, because Baylor is a private institution, it does not have to obey state open records and open meeting laws.
Seliger said the recent sexual assault scandal at Baylor is exactly the reason that this bill was filed.
“We need the bill because some circumstances require some openness and transparency,” Seliger said. “Generally, private colleges are not required to be open or transparent in any way shape or form, but in some cases they need to be.”
Baylor interim President David Garland testified at a Texas Senate Higher Education Committee hearing in March, expressing his disagreement with the necessity of the bill.
“The organization supports Senator Seliger’s legislation, and that has not changed,” Julie Hillrichs, a spokesperson for Bears for Leadership Reform, said Monday.
In response to Bears for Leadership Reform’s call for Baylor to comply with open meetings and records laws, a university spokesperson gave a statement from Baylor saying the Bears for Leadership Reform requests “ignore the considerable progress the Baylor Board of Regents has made to create greater visibility into the governance of the University, as well as to combat the issue of sexual assault.”
The statement referenced several steps the Board of Regents has taken to better its governance of the university, including a change of university and athletic department leadership, the adoption of 105 recommendations from the Pepper Hamilton law firm to improve Baylor’s response under Title IX, granted voting rights to faculty, student, Bear Foundation and “B” Association Regents and posted university foundational documents, board schedules, agendas and committee assignments online.
According to the statement, the board considered holding open meetings but decided “for private institutions such as Baylor, public meetings would preclude robust and frank discussion among the Regents about sensitive issues such as sexual assault.”
Baylor’s statement also said the Board of Regents remains open to input from across the Baylor family.