Baylor University’s board of regents on Friday elected a new chairman, overhauled its structure and honored its interim president through a scholarship fund at its quarterly meeting at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative.
Baylor officials said the university also has fully implemented the much-discussed 105 recommendations given to them by an outside law firm last May to improve its Title IX compliance and care for victims of sexual assault.
Chairman Ron Murff, president of a Dallas-based private investment firm, will on June 1 hand the reins of a board in transition to Joel Allison, the former president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health, who now serves as vice chairman.
The meeting was the last under a board format of five committees and an executive committee. Moving forward, the 32-voting member board will be comprised of eight committees and an expanded executive committee — changes based on a slate of governance reforms meant to rebuild community trust approved at the board’s February meeting.
“There’s a lot of good things going on there as we continue to make changes related to our governance and structure and in terms of how we govern ourselves,” Murff said in a press conference after the meeting.
Linda Livingstone begins her Baylor presidency on June 1. Managing fallout from a sexual assault scandal, including several lawsuits and investigations, is among the first responsibilities for Livingstone, who will become the first female president in Baylor’s 172-year history.
“Obviously as we go forward, it will be continuing to keep people updated and informed on how we’re dealing with the ongoing issues that go along with implementing the rest of those recommendations, completely embedding them in the experience in what we have,” Livingstone said. “Certainly, keeping people updated as we work through the investigations and the lawsuits.”
The 105 recommendations were handed to Baylor last year by attorneys at Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP after an investigation into institutional Title IX compliance and the university’s overall response to sexual assault allegations. The investigating attorneys, now of the law firm Cozen O’Connor, will conduct internal and external audits of the work completed by faculty, administrators and regents during the past year. The university will release a written report from the attorneys, Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez, later this summer, according to the Baylor press release.
The Big 12 Conference is also reviewing Baylor’s progress in the area of Title IX compliance.
Two student regents, “B” Association regent Debbie Bradley Mann, and four-term board Chairman Richard Willis cycled off the board.
Melissa Purdy Mines, a 1990 Baylor graduate, won the first alumni election to a three-year term, narrowly edging current regent Julie Turner, 3,787 votes to 3,238 votes. Steven Ryan Mitchell received 1,474 votes.
Turner will remain on the board for at least two more years in an at-large capacity.
Faculty regent Andrea Dixon will serve another term in the role, and Gaynor Yancey, a professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and director of the Center for Family and Community Ministries will become the second voting faculty regent next month, as laid out in the governance reforms.
Drayton McLane Jr. — possibly Baylor’s most influential booster — will remain on the board as a voting regent emeritus.
McLane is also a founding member of Bears for Leadership Reform, a group of influential alumni and donors that has consistently criticized the board’s leadership throughout the sexual assault scandal that has cast a cloud over the university since August 2015.
The scandal crescendoed last May when President Ken Starr and head football coach Art Briles were fired and Athletics Director Ian McCaw left the university after a damning report from the Pepper Hamilton lawyers found “fundamental failure” in Baylor’s Title IX implementation and a football program operating “above the rules.”
Regents also have divulged information about the wide extent of the scandal through a legal filing, yet have continued to decline to release the full Pepper Hamilton report, despite pressure from donor groups, alumni, faculty and students.
Bears for Leadership Reform on Friday issued a statement expressing hope for Allison’s upcoming chairmanship. Allison and McLane have ties through McLane’s position on Baylor Scott & White Health’s board of directors. Both also participated in a meeting between regents and the frustrated donors in December.
“Joel is a respected and seasoned chief executive and is well-equipped to lead the board at this critical time in our university’s history,” the statement said. “We offer our full support to Joel. We stand ready to work with him to move Baylor in a positive direction — one that includes greater transparency, accountability and reform.”
In the press conference, Murff said he did not remember the last time he spoke with John Eddie Williams, an outspoken Bears for Leadership Reform member and namesake of Baylor’s law school library and football field. The football stadium itself bears McLane’s name.
“I know we’re going to have a really great working relationship,” Livingstone said of Allison’s election. “He is just committed to the success of the board and the ongoing development and evolution of the board from a governance perspective. We’re going to partner together on that and in partnership with the executive committee of the board.”
Regents also honored interim President David Garland with a $5 million scholarship fund for Truett Theological Seminary students in his name. Garland will return to teaching there next spring.
“I was just overwhelmed that they would give $5 million in my honor to my home, Truett Seminary, to support the students and scholarships,” Garland said. “This is what Baylor is all about — our students. The generosity of the regents is just amazing.”
Garland is wrapping up his second stint as interim president at Baylor, in both instances tasked with guiding the school out of turbulent times. From August 2008 to May 2010, he held the role between the presidencies of John Lilley and Ken Starr. Lilley had been fired after a controversial presidency which included a debacle dubbed the “faculty massacre,” in which Lilley rejected tenure to 12 of 30 candidates.
Garland also was interim provost from June 2014 to July 2015 and dean of Truett from June 2007 to June 2015.