Baylor regents have important decisions to make after several days last week discussing LGBTQ student safety and sexual violence reporting, top Baylor officials said Monday.
At a media appearance Monday at Baylor following up on the retreat July 18-19 in Dallas, board chairwoman Jerry Clements and President Linda Livingstone said the board benefited from presentations by experts on Title IX law and LGBTQ student issues.
The board took no action regarding students’ request for recognition of an LGBTQ student group on campus. But Janet B. Dean, a psychology professor at Asbury University, led a discussion about LGBTQ students’ experiences on Christian college campuses. She cited student interviews and research she’d conducted on the subject, and a book she co-authored, “Listening to Sexual Minorities.”
“It was a really good time for the board to ask questions of her and what she saw, but then to also have some discussion amongst ourselves about what that meant for Baylor,” Livingstone said.
Livingstone said the discussion was geared toward creating a supportive, safe environment for LGBTQ students. She said Dean has addressed Baylor’s Student Life division in the past, and her specialty is fairly niche in the Christian academic world.
“As we know, in the Christian community it’s a very difficult conversation to have,” Livingstone said. “It provided a safe environment to have that conversation around an issue that’s very important to us, to think through how we best serve LGBTQ students in a caring and loving way because of our Christian mission.”
Livingstone characterized the group discussions as a learning experience, similar to previous meetings with leadership from Samford and Pepperdine University.
“Until we understand those challenges, we’re not going to be able to find ways to address the challenges,” Clements said.
In addition to routine Title IX training, Jeff Nolan, a Title IX expert, led a discussion about state and federal legislation that will change the process in the next few years. Livingstone said federal changes to protocol could involve face-to-face discussions between accused and accusers.
“There are other methods for that cross-examination that could be done via video conference or in written form,” Livingstone said. “We anticipate there will be some kind of hearing model.”
Other changes will include “trauma-informed” processes and training for staff, taking into account the psychological effects of sexual violence. Livingstone also referred to new state-mandated reporting protocols.
“We’ll certainly be complying with those changes to state law,” Livingstone said.
Livingstone said other changes at the federal level have not been completely defined yet.
“We’re not sure when those will come down, we think sometime this fall, but we don’t know for sure,” Livingstone said. “Then, there will be a window after that, and we’ll have time to implement them before they go into effect.”
The meeting also gave the board a chance to review a summary of last year and goals for the coming year, including an overview of the university’s academic strategic plan, hiring plan and facilities logistics.
Clements said the retreat gave regents the chance to take stock of sweeping structural changes the body went through over the last several years.
“It’s really nice to see all of that evolve into a board that functions, I think, very well, and has great processes in place,” Clements said.