Board adopts task force recommendations

Gregory Brenneman, Independent Chair of Governance Review Task Force, and Douglas Bech, chair on the Governance Review Task Force, answer questions during a media break during the Baylor Board of Regents meeting. Photo credit: Jessica Hubble

By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer

The Board of Regents voted with an overwhelming majority to adopt the governance review task force recommendations at a meeting Friday, said Ron Murff, board chair.

The task force recommended changes regarding input for regent selection, selection of board leadership, changes to the removal process for regents, greater regent emeriti involvement, rotation off the board of the past chair after one year, reorganization of committee responsibilities, and streamlining of committee meetings, according to a previous Baylor Lariat article.

The board did make one change to the recommendations provided, voting to allow the student regents serving the second year of their two-year term to be a full-voting regent.

“[Student regent voting rights] was not a part of the initial recommendation,” Murff said. “The student regents made their proposal and made their case as to why they thought it should be different than what was proposed. There was a full and robust conversation about why the task force recommended what they did initially, that was considered against and with the comments of the student regent,s and ultimately the will of the board was to make the change.”

This changes comes after a push from Baylor student government asking the regents through a bill to grant voting rights to student regents. Student regents gaining voting rights was also on the platform of recommendations from the Bears for Leadership Reform and the Baylor Line Foundation.

The president of Bears for Leadership Reform, John Eddie Williams, released a statement Friday afternoon expressing his dissatisfaction with the regents voting to adopt the governance recommendations.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Baylor Board of Regents did not adopt more comprehensive reforms,” Williams’ statement read. “These changes are baby steps, not the real reform the Baylor family wants or deserves from its leadership in response to this crisis.”

Williams specifically expressed his disagreement with the fact that the regents will still be appointing themselves and have not disclosed all of the facts and details from the Pepper Hamilton investigation.

“We are 18 months into this tragic crisis, and there seems to be no end in sight. It’s clear that failed leadership was at the root of this tragedy,” Williams said in the statement. “This vote is sadly just a continuation of failed leadership.”

Murff expressed his confidence in the board, Baylor’s administration and the thoroughness of the governance review task force. Murff also confirmed that he will not be the chairman of the board next year, and a new chairman can be expected in June.

“Important thing is, we are moving forward, we are focusing on the future of the university. There are so many great things that are happening here,” Murff said. “Garland and the administration are doing a great job, and we are excited for the future of Baylor University.”

Baylor interim President Dr. David Garland gave the board an update on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation warning. He said there were two possible sanctions the SACS could have given Baylor: probation or a warning. Warning is the lesser of the two sanctions. Garland said Baylor was given a warning because of the actions they took last May in response to the sexual assault scandal, and that SACS needs another year for Baylor to demonstrate the effectiveness of the reforms before they lift the warning.

“Baylor remains accredited and is in excellent condition,” Garland said. “Baylor is a very resilient university and a very strong university.”

Garland said Baylor is in a good financial situation, but there has been a slight drop in donations this year.

Baylor welcomes the verification of its implementation of the Pepper Hamilton recommendations by the Big 12, Garland said.

“It simply will be a double confirmation of what we intended to make sure that these events will never happen again,” Garland said.

Garland said the investigations by the Department of Education and the NCAA are ongoing and that Baylor is cooperating fully.

The president also said he believes the governance changes and reforms the board have made are incredible and that alumni and donors are extremely supportive of the university.

“I am very comfortable with the level of transparency. I know no university who has ever produced a findings of fact with 105 recommendations, so I consider that to be extremely transparent,” Garland said. “What we are more interested in is what we will do in the future.”

Chair of the governance review task force, Gregory Brenneman, said the recommendations are set up for the president to have to freedom to step in and operate as the chief executive officer of the university.

“The president needs to be the chief executive of the university,” Brenneman said. “They need to have full authority and power to hire and fire and run the university. Every piece of our recommendation was made with the idea in mind that the board would provide the proper level of governance.”

At its meeting, the board received an update from the presidential search committee. Murff said they do not have names of finalists yet, but it is still the goal to hire someone by the end of this semester and have them start June 1.

“We do believe this will move Baylor forward in a very positive way,” Brenneman said. “The single most important decisions in front of the university now is who’s going to be the next president.”