Demonstrating Baylor's Christian Commitment Through History
March 23, 2021
Dear Baylor Family,
On behalf of the members of Baylor University’s Board of Regents, I wish to express my gratitude for the Baylor Family’s devotion to fulfilling Baylor’s founding commitment to be a Christian university “to meet the needs of all ages to come.”
Today we find ourselves, as a Christian community and an institution of higher learning, with an important opportunity as we give consideration to the thoughtful observations and recommendations found within the final, independent Report of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations. This 90-plus-page document — being the result of a prayerful, scholarly and collaborative approach over an intensive, five-month period of time — is truly a gift to Baylor University. This gift will create significant and enduring benefits to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. I join my fellow Regents and President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., in sincere appreciation for the 26-member Commission’s tireless and noble work on behalf of the University.
The Commission was charged by the Board last summer with independently reviewing and evaluating the historical record and context of the University and its early leaders solely as it relates to slavery and the Confederacy. The Commission was also asked to offer recommendations regarding all statues, monuments, buildings and other aspects of the campus within this context. Throughout its work, the Commission was given full latitude to utilize the format, language and imagery it deemed appropriate to convey its observations, interpretations of the historical record and subsequent recommendations for consideration by the Board. The report represents in full the words and work of the Commission.
In evaluating the Commission’s report, it is important to remember that the scope of the charge to the members was intentionally narrow, focused on an important, but largely unrecognized and unchronicled narrative to Baylor’s early history. The Commission’s work should not be viewed as a complete history of Baylor, particularly as it does not consider the historic implications of other racial and ethnic groups, nor should it be viewed as a biographical treatise on the University’s founders and early leaders or as a discourse on the history of slavery and its impact on our state or University. To read and evaluate the report as such would not only result in a limited and skewed portrait of the University’s founders and early leaders, but would also diminish the integrity, validity and potential impact of the Commission’s important work.
Foremost, Baylor’s Christian mission calls us to excellence. It also calls us to relentlessly pursue the truth, as all truth is God’s truth. The Commission on Historic Campus Representations provides us with an example of humility and civility that should inspire us in our pursuit of truth as we read and prayerfully consider the Commission’s report.
As we begin our important work in response to the Commission’s report, let me again state that we are proud of the name of Baylor University. Our institution will continue to be known as Baylor University. And like the name of our institution, the statue of our namesake and founder, Judge R.E.B. Baylor, will maintain its current location and presence on our campus. As you will read in the Commission’s report, Judge Baylor was not a perfect man. As a slaveholder, he engaged in a practice we know to be sinful and abhorrent. We do not justify or downplay the evil of slavery. With our University, Judge Baylor established the foundation for hundreds of thousands of students — which now include all races and creeds — to receive a unique educational experience that combines academic excellence and a Christian commitment. We will continue to recognize Judge Baylor for the founding of Baylor University, just as we commit to presenting a more complete history of the University.
In his epistle to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
This is our prayer as well. As stated in its resolution of February 19, 2021, the Board of Regents will work closely with President Livingstone and her team in the weeks, months and years ahead seeking to discern what is best as we consider the multifaceted aspects of the Commission’s observations and recommendations. All recommendations will be evaluated and considered thoroughly, and I anticipate additional tangible actions that were not brought forth by the Commission will also be forthcoming as part of Baylor’s ongoing commitment as a Christian community and an institution of higher learning to present a more complete history of the University.
Before delving into the Commission’s report, I encourage you to watch the recent Baylor Conversation Series: Perspectives on Our History, in which three panels provide important historical context into Baylor’s founding in the mid-1800s. These discussions will inform your review of Baylor’s history related to the Commission’s charge as presented by the Commission on Historic Campus Representations as well as its recommendations at https://historiccommission.web.baylor.edu/.
The resulting actions the Board and University ultimately will take will be guided solely by our Christian mission, anchored singularly in the Gospel’s pattern for redemption and reconciliation, and directed at fostering an environment through which racial equality is inextricably linked to our mission and in which students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of color know they are valued and loved throughout the Baylor community.
Chair, Board of Regents