BLR suggests major changes to Board of Regents’ governance

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

Bears for Leadership Reform proposed a plan Wednesday that will majorly change the governance structure of the Baylor Board of Regents, reshaping the transparency and process of electing regents.

“We think it gives a more broad representation to the Baylor family and to Baylor constituents,” said Randy Ferguson, co-chair of the organization’s research and policy committee and former regent. “We feel that it provides some accountability to the constituents from the board, and it provides more transparency as well.”

The plan follows a 10 – 10 – 10 – four model, meaning that 10 regents will be elected by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 10 regents will be elected by Baylor alumni and 10 regents will be elected by the Board itself.

The proposal also calls for one regent elected by the Baylor Letterman’s Association Board of Directors, one regent elected by the Baylor Bear Foundation Board of Directors, one regent elected by the Student Congress and one regent elected by the Faculty Senate. These last four regent positions, though they exist currently, serve as advisory regents, meaning that these people do not get to attend committee meetings. The plan proposes that these final four seats become full voting board seats.

With the proposal, all regents, with the exception of the student regent, would serve three-year terms and be eligible to serve no more than three total terms. The student regent would be eligible to serve a one-year term.

Liza Firmin, Bears for Leadership Reform board member and 2006 Baylor alumna, said in addition to the proposed election modifications, the plan proposes that the Board of Regents hold open sessions and publish board meetings, minutes and governance documents for the Baylor community to view online. Ferguson said BLR feels the board has turned a deaf ear to the Baylor family, and there has not been necessary accountability.

John Eddie Williams, Bears for Leadership Reform president, former Baylor football player and donor to McLane Stadium, said these proposed reforms show the Baylor family how the board will work together in the future to increase accountability and transparency.

“We are not proposing to follow the open meeting pact that public universities have to follow,” Ferguson said. “We do feel there are legitimate reasons why you would go into executive sessions, for personnel or legal or real estate. We would just be saying that the meetings need to be conducted in an open matter. In no way would we be trying to take away the ability for executive sessions.”

Williams said Bears for Leadership Reform is calling on the board to meet with them on the proposal, and that it is extraordinarily important that Baylor changes the way business is done. There is no deadline set in the proposal, but Bears for Leadership Reform said that the Board of Regents received a message Wednesday with the hope that a meeting will be set up. Williams said that Bears for Leadership Reform is available any time on short notice to start discussing this, and the sooner it is discussed, the better.

Williams said the plan proposes a change from secrecy within the regents and is an open step in the attempt to get the Board of Regents to start listening to the Baylor family.

“It’s very important that we not just match what perhaps some other universities might do, but that we become the leader in transparency and accountability, and that we become the best,” Williams said.

The organization is pushing for regents to do business in public and to identify who is on each committee and what each committee does. This would discontinue the required non-disclosure agreement that is in place. Williams said phone numbers, email addresses or any other means of contact are not made visible online.

Ferguson said trust has been lost within the Baylor family and the main goal of the plan is to rebuild trust. Williams said he has heard more and more anecdotes of people that are frustrated and is noticing a growth of support.

“We are not going away, we will be here until the job is done,” Williams said. “The Baylor family will not be ignored, so stay tuned because there is more to come.”