Baylor University unveiled the Spiritual Life and Character Formation Task Force on Thursday as the school looks to improve its responses to sexual assault and prevent further assaults.
Led by Executive Vice President and Provost L. Gregory Jones, the group was formed to re-focus the university around its Christian mission, the university announced.
“We envision this to be both a process that we want to have things done by the time students arrive for the fall semester, so there’s a short timeline between now and August. There are also larger questions we’re going to be wrestling with throughout the next academic year and beyond,” Jones said.
The 21-member group of administrators, faculty, staff and students will work in smaller implementation teams that will meet more frequently than the full task force, Jones said.
Interim President David Garland last month announced two task forces and 12 implementation teams to work on the 105 recommendations from Pepper Hamilton LLP, the Philadelphia law firm that conducted a nine-month investigation into how Baylor responds to sexual assaults.
According to Baylor’s board of regents, Pepper Hamilton found a “fundamental failure” by Baylor to implement federal laws that protect women, including Title IX, and a culture within the football program that operated “above the rules.”
Notable members of the task force include associate anthropology professor and Vice Provost Lori Baker, University Chaplain Burt Burleson, Vice President for University Mission Darin Davis, Vice President for Human Resources Cheryl Gochis and Vice President for Student Life Kevin Jackson.
The group also includes two students.
“We worked with student government leadership to identify people they thought would bring strength and breadth,” Jones said. “They are students from different backgrounds, exhibited leadership on campus and have good connections to other students to focus on what’s working well and where the students themselves experienced gaps in the process.”
Jones said faculty who live in residence halls also will have a sense of what works and what does not at Baylor.
The group will work to find “greater collaboration among all university units, departments and programs to more consistently encourage and communicate the highest ideals of the Christian life,” the university announced.
“The more that you interact across sectors — whether that’s disciplines and schools, whether that’s student groups — the more there’s a possibility to build bridges and to nurture new kinds of relationships,” Jones said. “Part of what character is formed by is learning to listen well and engaging people of diverse backgrounds.”
In a statement, Davis said the task force will find where moral and spiritual formation is already flourishing at Baylor.
“We want to build on those practices and enhance them,” Davis said. “But we also want to ask challenging questions about the very nature of the community we are called to be — as students, staff, faculty, graduates and constituents.”