By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
Baylor student regent Daniel Thomas said one student regent gaining a vote on the Board of Regents is possibly the biggest innovation to happen for Baylor’s student body in decades.
He called the changes Baylor’s board is adopting “unprecedented” and said it puts Baylor’s Board of Regents on the cutting edge of transparency.
“If you had asked me four months ago if we were going to get a student regent vote, I would have said you were crazy,” said Thomas, a Charlotte, N.C. senior. “This is huge. I think most students will never realize how big this is.”
Thomas highlighted the difference between a student representative and a student regent. He explained that his job is essentially to be a consultant to the board, and he thinks in terms of what is best for the university, not necessarily what students want.
When the time came for the two student regents to make their recommendation to the board, they chose to defer slightly from what students have said they wanted. Student Senate asked through a bill to allow both student regents to have voting privileges on the board. Thomas and student regent, Emily Neel, a Waco senior, recommended having the regent serving their second term be a voting member.
Neel stressed the importance of the learning curve when becoming a student regent and said that if students had known about the model they proposed, where student regents take one year to learn and then vote their second year, that students would have been on board with that.
“The first-year learning curve is essential to the success of the student regent and success of the board,” Neel said. “The regents listen to us as even nonvoting student regents, and they made the right choice.”
Neel said this decision shows her that the board has confidence in Baylor students to not only be leaders years after graduation but to be leaders as students as well.
Thomas and Neel both said the decision to allow student regents to vote goes back to Baylor’s mission statement.
“The mission of Baylor University is to care for students and put them in that environment where they will go on to be worldwide leaders and servants,” Neel said. “The board is always thinking about that.”
Thomas said that at the beginning of the academic year, Board Chairman Ron Murff put a plaque with Baylor’s mission statement in front of each regent’s chair to remind them to think of Baylor’s mission with every decision they make.
“Our university’s mission statement is very student-centered,” Thomas said. “It is about discipleship and mentorship. To have a student on the board itself — our very highest level of governance — it shows willingness to listen to the student perspective. It shows that sense of mutual respect; it is not just a superior/inferior relationship. We have this master/disciple relationship.”
Neel said she thought about the decision in the context of Samuel Palmer Brooks’ “immortal message.”
“We pass the torch to the Board of Regents to care for this university, and they pass the torch to us, too,” Neel said. “It all goes back to the Baylor Line. The Board of Regents are part of the Baylor Line, and so are we.”