Starr appoints diversity official to push initiative

Baylor University president and chancellor Ken Starr announced his appointment of Dr. Elizabeth Palacios to the post of special assistant to the president on diversity.

Palacios currently serves as the dean for student development in the Division of Student Life and was a faculty member for 10 years prior to joining the department.

Palacios will work closely with the president and his advisory council on diversity while continuing to serve as dean.

Last semester, Baylor’s administration first considered creating a diversity officer position to increase the diversity of faculty and students at the university.

While Baylor is one of the most diverse campuses in the Big 12 in terms of minority students, only 13 percent of Baylor’s faculty identify as a racial minority.

“We are delighted that Dr. Palacios has agreed to provide her expertise through this important role. We welcome her vast experience in helping our students, faculty and staff embrace the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds that make up the fabric of our campus community,” wrote President Starr in an email. “Her deep understanding of and warm partnership with students will be especially important as we implement a wide range of programs and initiatives central to greater cultural awareness and competency.”

In addition, to Palacios appointment, the university also announced the creation of a Regent’s Task Force on Diversity which will be comprised of four former members of the Baylor Board of Regents. Albert Black, Donell Teaff, Ramiro Pena and Emerita Sue Getterman will investigate and work to find ways to support diversity at the institution.

The Task Force will begin meeting immediately and a full report of their findings will be presented to the board at their July retreat.

“The Board of Regents is incredibly grateful to these former regents for their willingness to commit their time to better understanding the campus conversations about diversity and inclusiveness,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. “The work of this group will help the board learn more about ways we can support the administration and offer resources that move Baylor forward.”

As part of her efforts to increase campus diversity, Palacios will examine existing practices to responding to actions that are not in line with Baylor’s Christian mission and will establish new opportunities for students to engage in cultural experiences such as the Civil Rights Tour.

Palacios will develop additional practices and encourage initiatives to realize and fulfill Baylor’s new dedication to diversity, including inviting multicultural speakers, increasing multicultural student recruitment, increasing funding for culturally based programs and developing cultural competency training.

“Many of the ideas that have been implemented or are on the verge of implementation were drawn out of our conversations with students,” said Kevin Jackson, Ph.D., vice president for student life. “We have a strong partnership with students, faculty and staff, and Dr. Palacios has been a vital part of that work.”