By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
Professors in the department of religion wrote a statement of support and solidarity at Baylor standing with marginalized groups on campus.
The statement has been made into a Google Doc and put on Facebook so additional faculty and staff members beyond the department of religion can sign it.
One of the authors, department of religion professor Dr. Beverly Gaventa, said student’s reactions to the elections prompted her and her colleagues to write a statement of support to students.
“Immediately after the election, we heard from and about students on our campus who feared for their safety, and we wanted to express our support,” Gaventa said. “We wanted them to know that they are not alone on this campus.”
The statement stresses its alliance with Baylor’s Christian mission and asks all faculty members to add their names in solidarity with students who may feel at risk on and off campus.
“We are aware that there are members of our community–students, staff, and faculty alike–who, in the aftermath of the election, feel anxious and marginalized. Some even feel physically at risk,” the statement reads.
Gaventa said she hopes this statement of solidarity will connect the community in faith.
“Hopefully, a statement like this reminds all of us of our commitment to respect and civility,” Gaventa said. “At the very least, we wanted our students to hear our declaration that we understand bigotry to be incompatible with the gospel.”
A co-author of the statement Mikeal Parsons, professor and holder of the Kidd L. and Bruna Hitchcock Macon Chair in Religion, thinks a statement like this would be beneficial to most college campuses but he and his colleagues saw a particular need at Baylor.
“[This] statement would be appropriate on most campuses just now, but in view of Baylor’s Christian identity, it seems especially apt to affirm our understanding that bigotry has no place here,” Parsons said.
Similarly, on Monday afternoon the Baylor Faculty Senate sent an email to Baylor faculty and staff celebrating diversity and speaking out against hatred and racism within the community.
“[Baylor’s] mission as a faith-based institution compels us to embrace diversity with love, compassion, charity, respect, and with the humility that comes from being equal participants in the shared human experience,” the email said. “We can in good spirit tolerate disagreement; in fact we must. But we cannot abide hatred, intimidation, or marginalization.”
The email called on all members of the Baylor community to also condemn racism and to actively create a loving and safe campus for everyone.
“We therefore condemn any acts of racism, and call upon all of the Baylor Family to foster an environment of Christian compassion in which the dignity and safety of all people are supported,” the email said.
The statement also reiterated the desire for respect and solidarity with all groups, particularly as this aligns with the Christian faith.
“We reaffirm our commitment to these Christian convictions and to the Christian practice of treating everyone with respect and dignity,” the statement said. “We also express solidarity and unity with those in our community who, at this moment in our life together, have a heightened sense of vulnerability, and we confess that God welcomes persons of all ethnicities, nationalities, genders, income levels, and religious traditions.”
Dr. Blake Burleson, associate dean for undergraduate studies, strategic and enrollment initiatives, said he signed the statement as a way to stand against injustice and prejudice.
“I signed in order to express my concern and solidarity with vulnerable members of our Baylor family in light of the hateful and racist rhetoric on the national and local level during the recent national, state and local elections,” Burleson said.
Burleson said he believes the Bible teaches all people to stand with the abused and oppressed, and that all people, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, need to be respected as children of God.
“My hope is that vulnerable members of our Baylor family will not only feel safe on our campus but that they will be safe,” Burleson said. “This hope is tempered, however, by what we are seeing across our nation. Something has been unleashed that is ugly, alarming and dangerous. We are, therefore, right to respond immediately whenever an act of violence, in word or deed, is perpetrated against members of our Baylor family. We will not be silent when others are harmed.”
Statement in it’s entirety:
We, the undersigned faculty members of the Department of Religion, respect the democratic process that led to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. We acknowledge also that there are varying political views represented in our department and across the university. At the same time, we are aware that there are members of our community–students, staff, and faculty alike–who, in the aftermath of the election, feel anxious and marginalized. Some even feel physically at risk.
Thus, we reaffirm our commitment to the mission of Baylor University as an institution of higher education that values intellectual freedom and inquiry: “within the context of an ethnically and culturally diverse community, Baylor strives to develop responsible citizens, educated leaders, dedicated scholars and skilled professionals who are sensitive to the needs of a pluralistic society.” This mission is firmly grounded in the Christian tradition: “the University derives its understanding of God, humanity and nature from many sources: the person and work of Jesus Christ, the biblical record, and Christian history and tradition, as well as scholarly and artistic endeavors. . . . Baylor’s pursuit of knowledge is strengthened by the conviction that truth has its ultimate source in God and by a Baptist heritage that champions religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”
We reaffirm our commitment to these Christian convictions and to the Christian practice of treating everyone with respect and dignity. We also express solidarity and unity with those in our community who, at this moment in our life together, have a heightened sense of vulnerability, and we confess that God welcomes persons of all ethnicities, nationalities, genders, income levels, and religious traditions.
We invite members and friends of the Baylor family who share these concerns and commitments to join us in affirming this statement of Christian solidarity by adding their names below.