Multiple hires will “definitely” be made to coordinate diversity initiatives at Baylor University, said Lori Baker, chairwoman of the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity.
“We need more than just a chief diversity officer,” Baker said. “So I just want to make sure everybody understands we need more than that.”
The advisory council released a timeline for leading a campuswide discussion about Baylor’s commitment to diversity. In the past two months, the council has reviewed past campus input and university practices and met with leaders from other schools that use diversity initiatives. During the next two months, the advisory council will gather input from around campus and continue its research.
Baker said organizations that encourage diversity already exist at Baylor, but the university doesn’t maintain a source of information about the groups in one place.
“There’s not one link you can go to and get it all, and there’s a lot going on,” she said. “If we can compile, it might make it easier to find people more similar to themselves, or an easier way to connect to people.”
Baker said Baylor’s First in Line initiative is one of the efforts that already promotes diversity on campus. The program assists first-generation college students by allowing them to live in the same dorm on campus and facilitating access to university information.
“It’s a great program for helping to give people a family away from home,” Baker said.
She said first-generation students are more likely than any other group to leave Baylor after one year, and many first- generation students also are minorities.
After spending the summer analyzing data and identifying key themes, the advisory council will release a report, then distribute a “campus climate” survey to gather more feedback.
Baker said Tonya Lewis, a member of the advisory council and Baylor spokeswoman, will create the survey form. Faculty, staff and students can fill out the form electronically or on paper.
“That will give us an idea of where we stand,” Baker said. “It’ll give everyone who wants to be heard a chance to be heard.”
She also said President Ken Starr wants this advisory council to be the last committee to discuss diversity before implementing recommendations.
The initiative began with the Chief Diversity Officer Implementation Planning Group, which was convened by then-Provost Edwin Trevathan, at Starr’s request. The planning group held two town hall meetings last fall.
Trevathan stepped down as provost in January and remained at Baylor as a neuroscience professor.
In an Oct. 28 online article, Baylor Honors Program Director Elizabeth Corey wrote, “Christian schools should think long and hard . . . before they sign their souls over to the secular rule of diversity officers.”
In a Nov. 11 letter to faculty and staff, Starr wrote, “As the now unfolding (and lively) conversation on our own campus overwhelmingly demonstrates, we need to redouble our efforts to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of both our faculty and staff.”
In fall 2015, more than 35 percent of undergraduates were minorities, and 13 percent of full-time faculty were minorities. Starr noted in his November letter that 17 percent of full-time staff were minorities.
“When you want to increase diversity, when you want to have cultural competency, when you want to have equity, this can’t just happen in pockets,” Baker said. “It has to be across campus, and it can’t just happen at the top level and it can’t just happen at the bottom level.”