Guest Column by Interim President David E. Garland
I count it a tremendous privilege to welcome the more than 16,000 men and women who have come to Baylor University from across America and around the world to prepare academically, socially and spiritually for their future endeavors. Along your journeys, you will encounter exemplary faculty and staff who care deeply for you as individuals and challenge you to become all God intends you to be. I am honored to serve for a second time as Baylor’s interim president.
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5a). This scripture, though talking about the end time, can certainly resonate with first-time students who are facing a new journey. It may also strike a chord with many who are returning from summer activities to find changes on campus — changes you may have followed in the news. “New” does not always mean “new and improved” in our world, but if God is involved, it does get transformed into something better.
Organizations sometimes need to reset their course, and this adjustment sometimes requires a change in leadership. Institutions are not perfect, and this summer, as Baylor came face-to-face with its failings related to the prevention, response and support of students who experienced sexual assault while in our care, the need for a change became evident.
Over the summer, a large group of faculty and staff leaders joined forces to begin work on 105 recommendations resulting from the independent investigation initiated by the university last August. The investigation revealed an opportunity for improving the processes and systems designed for responding to complaints of sexual assault. These systems are in place to support a law called Title IX, which protects students from sex-based discrimination that impedes access to education. Included in this protection are acts of sex-based discrimination such as sexual assault or sexual violence. As an example, a student who has been sexually assaulted by a person in her class may feel unable to attend that class for fear of encountering the assaulter. The assault impedes her access to education, and, when reported to the university, we must take action under Title IX to help the assaulted student feel safe and have access to her classes and other support systems.
Two executive-level task forces are overseeing work on these recommended improvements so that Baylor can become a standard bearer in Title IX compliance. Updates on our work in this area can be found at baylor.edu/rtsv/progress. I would like to share a few highlights of our progress this summer.
• Baylor’s Counseling Center staff has doubled in size and a physical expansion is underway to bring the Center in line with the best universities in the country.
• An after-hours crisis hotline (24-hour) is live and fully operational.
• Session limits and co-pays for students utilizing the Counseling Center have been eliminated.
Title IX Infrastructure
• The staff of our Title IX Office has been expanded and the office is now one of the largest in the Big 12. Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford also is working to plan for continuous training among students, faculty and staff and among those in the Title IX Office.
• Policies and protocols related to Title IX have been revised and, among other changes to reflect best practices among Title IX offices, will specify amnesty for violations of the sexual conduct policy.
• Jim Grobe was named interim head football coach. He is known as a great coach and a tower of integrity and his hiring was applauded nationally.
• Following a national search, I named Mack Rhoades as vice president and director of Athletics. Rhoades comes to Baylor after serving as director of intercollegiate athletics for the University of Missouri.
We are committed to striving for excellence in all that we do, in academics, teaching, research, spiritual formation and athletics. We look forward to a great year at Baylor in all of these areas.
As often as possible, I eat lunch in the Penland Crossroads food court. I invite you to introduce yourself, and I would welcome your company as we break bread together. I value students’ perspectives on our life together at Baylor. I am grateful for your belief in the mission of Baylor University and encourage you to be a part of the new things God is doing in and through His people here.