The transition agreement between Baylor University and the Baylor Alumni Association has multiple aspects, all of which are important to consider when making one’s own determination on whether to approve this pact between the two Saturday. There is one part of the conversation, however, to which I bring a unique perspective: the proposal of a non-voting regent specifically representing Baylor alumni perspectives.
Last year I was selected as a co-inaugural non-voting member of the Baylor University Board of Regents. My role as student regent was nearly identical to that of the proposed alumni regent. Recently, some have suggested that the impact of a non-voting regent is negligible. I write to dispel these rumors.
It has been suggested that the position has insignificant influence without the power of a vote. Let me begin by telling you that voting is of little consequence. Last year’s board had 26 voting members, leaving each voter with a marginal portion of the vote. As Baylor continues to increase the size of the board — already nearing 30 voting members — the importance of each individual vote is minimized. The vast majority of work is accomplished during eight committee meetings prior to the full board meeting. These committees function collaboratively; non-voting regents are given the exact same opportunity to comment as voting members. Voting is the least important part of being a regent; it is the opportunity and the responsibility to articulate one’s viewpoints that can truly make a difference.
It has been suggested that the regent confidentiality agreement prevents desired transparency. The truth is that the confidentiality agreement enables non-voting regents. If the regents feared that everything I was told would soon become public knowledge, then I would have received little information. The confidentiality agreement enabled me to learn the information necessary to be a productive member of the board and to provide a student perspective that helped inform the kinds of decision-making that must be kept confidential. Removing the confidentiality agreement would have been a disservice to the group from which I was selected.
It has been suggested that any non-voting position becomes a “puppet” of the board of regents. Put simply, I think this demonstrates one individual’s lack of faith in his eventual nominee. In my case, students had the opportunity to ensure that they would not be sending a puppet to the board. All nominees for the student regent position must pass a rigorous interview from a committee comprised primarily of elected students. Similarly, a group of alumni leaders, elected by alumni and alumni only, will nominate candidates for non-voting alumni regent; I am confident this selection process can be just as rigorous.
After my appointment I was given the duty to serve Baylor’s best interests. Sometimes duty forced me to make difficult decisions; other times I felt compelled to voice an opinion that conflicted with the opinions of other regents. Most importantly, all of my actions were undertaken with a unique set of student experiences on my mind and with Baylor’s best interests on my heart. My independence was received with respect, and my opinions were received with careful consideration.
I hope this clears up any misconceptions over the impact of a non-voting regent. I concluded my tenure at the end of May confident my voice had been heard — confident I had served my peers, our beloved Baylor University and our God. If you vote to create a non-voting regent position on Saturday, I know you will be able to select someone much more capable than I to serve on the board. I can only wait to see how effectively your finest members serve in this newly created role in years to come.
Kelly Rapp, Baylor Student Body president during the last school year, graduated in May with a degree in economics. He is on a nine-month Trinity Academy Forum residential graduate fellowship to develop a foundation for living life according to a Christian calling.