Baylor Makes Governance Changes in Efforts of Transparency

Feb 17, 2017

The Baylor Board of Regents voted today to approve reforms to the board’s governance structure, following recommendations issued by an independent task force.

In part, the governance reforms create an internal “360-review” of each regent before they can be reappointed. Regent terms have also been updated to establish a three-year term limit, with a limit of 3 consecutive terms. Reforms also changed the regent selection and removal process, although critics maintain the language and specifics of that process remains vague. 

Additionally, the governance amendments also give voting rights to students, faculty and athletics representatives.

The board adopted an additional change not suggested by the task force. Going forward the regents will grant voting rights to one of the two student representatives. 

Board chairman Ron Murff said the actions “will make Baylor’s governance model one of the most response and transparent of any major private university.”

However, days before Friday’s vote, Baylor alumni and supporters said the suggested governance reforms were short of the transparency needed at the university.

In a statement, Bears for Leadership Reform president John Eddie Williams said he was “deeply disappointed” the board didn’t adopt a more comprehensive reform. Part of the changes Williams’ group called for included a larger number of faculty regents and changes to how those faculty members are selected.

"It's clear that failed leadership was at the root of this tragedy. This vote is sadly just a continuation of failed leadership," Williams said. 

Apart from the reforms, today’s motion also maintains certain governance structures, such as closed board and committee meetings. The task force was hesitant to suggest adopting open meetings, writing "very few other leading private universities open board meetings to broad attendance.

But former Texas governor and Baylor alum Mark White say opening meetings would be beneficial and would create a high-level of transparency for the school. White addressed his concerns about closed meetings at a town hall this week. 

"Why doesn't Baylor come out of this debacle with the best leadership and the best moves to change our governance, so others are gonna say, 'see what Baylor did, let's follow them,'" White said. 

Established in November 2016, the governance task force was formed to review the board’s structure and practices, including the relationship between the board and the school. Their recommendations came out last month.

“We do believe this will move Baylor forward in a very positive way, create best practice governance here,” task force chair Greg Brenneman said, adding that the governance changes would be helpful in hiring the next university president.

The university is currently conducting interviews for the next school president.