Adviser works toward inclusion, diversity through President’s Council

Ira Watkins, Waco native, painted the mural of Martin Luther King Jr. in 2005 to commemorate his memory. In response to the rapid growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, Baylor has created the new position of Special Adviser to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement. Brittney Matthews | Photo Editor

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

In light of the recent murders of Black citizens George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others, followed by the Black Lives Matter movement exploding this summer, Baylor has responded in a number of ways to engage racial equity, inclusivity and diversity on campus.

Special Adviser to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement Malcolm Foley is the first to take on his position advising the president and her president’s council as they consider initiatives for diversity, inclusion and equity.

“My fundamental purpose is to see those who have hurt, healed, and those who have been ignored, listened to; looking at the policy and policies of the school are adjudicated equitably,” Foley said.

He distinguished between diversity, inclusion and equity. Foley said Diversity is about who is in the room, what are their backgrounds and experiences. Inclusion is about who is speaking, ensuring all of those experiences in the room are represented in conversation. Equity is the process of making sure those in the room are able to speak and do their jobs well.

Foley referenced Martin Luther King Jr. in response to the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins.

“What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter, if you can’t afford to buy a burger?” Foley asked. “Diversity in the sense of just kind of having a bunch of different people in the room, yeah that’s a good thing, but we also want to be able to build a community, where everyone can speak into their situations and actually be listened to. My goal is essentially making sure that everyone can buy a burger, so to speak.”

As faculty have ideas to diversify their curriculum and add different perspectives to their curriculum, Foley is there to speak into those conversations and plan to best address “pain points” from those who have felt excluded or disrespected by the school.

Dean of the Garland School of Social Work Dr. Jon Singletary said in the summer they held listening sessions to gather input from Black faculty and students addressing the role of race in their educational experience and how the school of social work has responded to those events this summer.

Singletary said the sessions really helped them hear how the Black students are struggling, though it was uncomfortable and emotional for everyone, the conversation continued.

“They feel often marginalized or left out of either conversations or decisions that affect them. They feel like the school is rooted in a culture that doesn’t value them, that doesn’t see them, that doesn’t appreciate them. That was difficult to hear. It was eye opening, but it was also painful,” Singletary said. “And we all tried to be really careful that while we wanted to feel those feelings, we didn’t want people to feel like they couldn’t talk because we were upset. We said, you know, this would not be about our feelings as white people, it would be about our students’ safety in expressing themselves.”

From the listening sessions, Singletary said the faculty and students wanted more representation of voices that reflect them. Priorities for the classroom include more diverse speakers, more readings by authors from various racial and ethnic backgrounds and a higher number of diverse professionals as mentors.

Foley said the main goal is to prepare students to enter a world where they regularly interact with people of different backgrounds. The hope is to teach students to obey the two great commandments in these interactions: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

“This isn’t just a matter of how we think about one another, though how we think about one another is important,” Foley said. “It’s also a matter of how we treat one another. It’s also a matter of how the institutions and systems we find ourselves in treat people. It’s a multi-level issue that requires a multi-level response. But that includes the spiritual, it includes the way that we think, the way that we act and it includes the way that we interact with the processes that we find ourselves in.”