The Baylor Line Foundation (BLF) will hold a Town Hall Meeting on Governance Reform on Feb. 15 at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in an effort to end an impasse between the Baylor Board of Regents and the Bears for Leadership Reform (BLR) over changes the BLR has proposed that it says will expand representation to the Baylor family and provide greater accountability and transparency.
“Consistent with our mission to inform and engage Baylor alumni, we are happy to provide this public forum where members of the Baylor Family may come together to discuss what’s best for Baylor University,” said BLF President Fred R. Norton, Jr. ‘80, JD ‘83. “Many alumni are understandably questioning Baylor’s governance model in light of the regents’ admissions of failures in the proper administration of Baylor’s Title IX office. We welcome an open and constructive debate on this most important matter, especially knowing that the regents intend to take action on their own proposal during their meetings in the days which follow, and believe participation by the regents will help to rebuild the Baylor family’s trust in the governance process.”
The Baylor Line Foundation has formally invited Baylor’s Regents and board members of the Bears for Leadership Reform to a dialogue that will be open to the public on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (1108 South University Parks Drive in Waco).
The BLR, a group that includes large donors and former Baylor regents, proposed a governance structure in mid-January that follows a 10–10–10–4 model, meaning that 10 regents would be elected by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 10 regents by Baylor alumni and 10 regents 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, which currently exist in a non-voting advisory role without the privilege of attending committee meetings, would become full voting board seats under the BLR plan.
The moderator for the event will be Tony Pederson ‘73, a Baylor Line Foundation director, former senior vice president and executive editor of the Houston Chronicle, and current chair of the Journalism department at SMU. Tony will facilitate a robust and respectful dialogue about governance reform that will give the Board of Regents and Bears for Leadership Reform the opportunity to discuss their visions for reform with each other and the Baylor Family. The meeting will allow members of the Baylor Family to ask respectful questions and share their views about this critical challenge facing Baylor.
“Our board is disappointed that the dialogue between the Board of Regents and the Bears for Leadership Reform – and between the university and the Baylor family — has been conducted only through press releases and media statements – with no face-to-face interaction,” said BLF Executive Vice President Allen Holt ’80. “We believe that this town-hall format will allow the regents to demonstrate that their approach to this situation is rooted in their love and care for Baylor.”
Holt added that the regents are scheduled to vote a few days after the Town Hall on a set of bylaw amendments that would seem to provide some common ground for a broader discussion with the Baylor family. The bylaw amendments include new voting privileges for regents representing specific groups, an expanded website with information on the board, and a rigorous selection process for regents, but do not include a measure to open board meetings to the public, a key component of the BLR’s proposal. The proposed amendments are based on a 30-page report by a governance review task force of three regents and three non-regents. The task force started its work in November and, from the outset, acknowledged a perception of micromanagement and secrecy by the board, according to the report.
In its report, the group recommends granting voting privileges to regents representing faculty, the Bear Foundation and the “B” Association. A second, voting faculty representative also would be added to the board under the proposed change.
Each of those roles would serve standard regent terms: three-year terms with a limit of three consecutive terms. A regent must then sit out for at least one year before attempting to rejoin the board. The board also would operate with three vice chairs instead of one, expand the roles of Regents Emeriti, bolster regent performance assessments, grow the executive committee to between 10 and 15 regents, and restructure other committees.
“We believe that members of the Board of Regents should – and will — welcome feedback from its core constituents before they vote on these proposals,” Holt said, adding that he doesn’t understand why the Board of Regents has been unwilling to meet with BLR representatives. “These have been incredibly difficult and painful times for the Baylor Family. Everything the Baylor Line Foundation does is designed to remind alumni why they love Baylor, and we strongly believe that resolving everyone’s concerns about our current governance structure will go a long way toward rebuilding trust in the institution.”