Board of Regents commits to fund free student food pantry

President Linda Livingstone speaks after the Board of Regents agreed to fund a free student food pantry. The decision was made after hearng a student presentation on food insecurity. Shae Koharski | Multimedia Journalist

By Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer

The Board of Regents committed to funding The Store after they heard a presentation on food insecurity from Baylor students on Friday in their official board meeting.

The Student Success Initiatives started The Store, a free food pantry for students located in the basement of the Sid Richardson Building, in Dec. 2017 to combat food insecurity.

The other topics discussed were the first pillar of Baylor’s academic strategic plan, “Illuminate,” the approval of the new student regent and the closure of two Baylor-owned apartments.

Undergraduate and graduate student leaders spoke to the Regents’ Student Life committee about student financial well-being and food security. This led to the topic of The Store, which has an average of 123 student visitors each week according to the director of Student Success Initiatives, Michelle Cohenour.

“The student panel discussion led the full Board to commit personally to funding The Store for the next year,” Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said, in a press release on the decision.

Cohenour found out about the decision made at the Board of Regents meeting while watching a movie with her family on Friday.

“It’s amazing. I may have teared a little bit when I got the news on Friday. It breathed life into the project,” Cohenour said.

Cohenour said The Store is donation based, receiving donations from Baylor staff, students, parents and alumni and that they could change the future for The Store.

“We have heard from many of the Board of Regents that have already given. There’s an online giving site and what happens when people give online, our team finds out a few days later so that we can right thank you [cards] and follow up with those people,” Cohenour said.

Cohenour said she also received emails and phone calls asking about how they can donate.

Baylor President Linda Livingstone said the board meeting, which began Thursday, was successful and was consolidated into two days instead of three.

“We spent a lot of time talking about our mission and particularly how we live out our Christian mission embedded throughout the experience of the organization,” Livingstone said at a press conference Friday.

The discussion was also focused on the first pillar of the university’s campaign, “Illuminate,” an unambiguously Christian educational environment.

“We talked about how that mission plays out in terms of the academics and faculty hiring, in terms of our student experience, in terms of how we’re thinking about diversity on our campus,” Livingstone said.

Livingstone said it’s important that Baylor does not lose this Christian distinction as it pursues higher levels of research.

A Campus Climate update was also given during the Board of Regents meeting. Dr. Robyn Driskell, vice president for internal administration and compliance and chief of staff, was one of the presenters.

“[Driskell] oversees our equity office, our diversity council and many of the functions on our campus that look at how we are creating a campus climate that really exhibits Christian hospitality to the folks on our campus, really helps create a climate where our students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds and experiences feel a part and included, helps us when thinking about recruitment and retention, particularly in faculty and staff in under-represented groups,” Livingstone said.

Livingstone said they also heard from leaders of the Black Faculty and Staff Association that began in Jan. 2019.

The board also approved a new student regent. Colleyville junior Cassidy Parshall, a Baylor Business Fellow and finance major on the premedical track, will begin a two-year-term on the board on June 1.

The Regents also approved the closure and demolition of two Baylor-owned apartment complexes, built in the 1970s. Cottonwood and Baylor Plaza will be closed following this semester because of expensive costs and the high maintenance of the buildings.

Current residents of the apartment complexes have been told and will receive a $250 moving credit for moving into other Baylor-owned properties.

According to the press release, the properties will be demolished this summer and the land will be left open for more green space.

At the press conference, Livingstone said that the decision of the new provost will be finished and they make announcements very soon.

“One of things we really talked about as we went out and looked for candidates, is thinking we want somebody that is committed to our Christian mission, that understands where we’re going with Illuminate, but also as we look at diversity. There are elements of that that could be really important in terms of their background and experiences and so on, so certainly it was a factor in looking at the hiring process,” Livingstone said.