Ad Unitatem: Toward Unity

April 25, 2022
Ad Unitatem: Toward Unity

Message from the Special Advisor to the President, Malcolm B. Foley, Ph.D.

Diversity and equity are not zero-sum games. Consider one of the texts of Scripture that we often try to qualify, which can be found in each of the three Synoptic Gospels: Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler.

In Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18, a rich young man comes to Jesus asking how he might inherit eternal life. Jesus begins by repeating to him many of the ten commandments, which the young man feels he has already obeyed. So Jesus gives him a final one: “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). The young man goes away sad because he has many possessions.

What is heartbreaking about this text is that if the rich young man did what Jesus asked of him, he would have gained far more.

Discussions of diversity and just distribution of power and resources often meet with this same kind of reasoning: if someone else is to gain, I have to lose. It may be money, it may be influence or it may be one of the many currencies that we trade in. Yet if we are to invest in a diverse and equitable, caring Christian community, that work must be rooted in this assumption: that sacrifice for my neighbor’s good is a gain, not a loss. In fact, it is precisely what Christ and the Apostle Paul encourage us to do — to look not to our own interests but to the interests of others (1 Corinthians 10:24, Philippians 2:4).

Continuing to seek diversity of perspectives, thought and experiences in the divisions and departments on our campus will be disruptive, but it must be so in order for us to grow. In addition, that commitment must be paired with support. I am especially encouraged by a number of things going on around campus:

  • The founding of the Latinx Faculty & Staff Association
  • The appointment of Dr. Cindy Wu (currently Professor of Human Resource Management) as the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Hankamer School of Business
  • Provost Nancy Brickhouse’s ongoing internal search for a Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging
  • The numerous hires of tenure-track BIPOC faculty across campus

This is but the tip of the iceberg. I’m currently working with a small group within the Baylor Family to develop a moral and measurable framework for diversity and equity work at Baylor that necessarily flows out of our Christian mission. The building of a caring Christian community requires such deliberate work from the top of the organization to the grassroots.

It is not enough for you to merely be here, brothers and sisters. We want you to belong.

Continuous Improvement

Baylor University continues to implement a variety of initiatives designed to create a more equitable and compassionate campus. It’s a demonstration of the University’s commitment to making continuous improvements in all areas of Baylor’s operations and institutional programming as we bring a Christian voice to the table among the nation’s leading universities as a preeminent Christian research university.

  • This was the first semester for the Black Business Student Association (BBSA) to be on campus as an official student organization at Baylor. Begun as an interest group in November 2021, the BBSA promotes unity and community for black students in the Hankamer School of Business. “We have about 15 members right now and have an ongoing recruiting process. People can join at any time throughout their time at Baylor,” said BBSA President Chidi Okeke, a senior management information systems and international business major. The BBSA has held events focused on giving members the tools to succeed in their job and internship searches, including resume and interview workshops. “Building the community of people is really the most important thing,” Okeke said. “Even when members go on to become alumni, having connections with students who are still at Baylor will go a long way in giving back.”
  • This month saw the return of two annual multicultural events at full volume. On April 1, ¡Fiesta! showcased Latin American cuisine and culture on a beautiful Friday evening along Fifth Street, celebrating the Hispanic heritage of many of Baylor’s students and introducing the greater Waco community to a fuller understanding of Hispanic culture. The following day, Gateway to India was held in Waco Hall. Presented by the Indian Subcontinent Student Association (ISSA), the 25th annual event showcased styles of dance and art within Indian culture. In conjunction with Gateway to India, ISSA donated $3,000 to Developments in Literacy, an international group that provides low-cost, high-quality education to children in Pakistan.
  • The annual Kente Ceremony, open to graduating seniors and graduate students who are graduating in May, August, or December 2022, will be held May 12. Students will be presented in the ceremony with gifts and graduation stoles made of Kente cloth, a form of fabric among the Ashanti people of Ghana. Afterward, students can wear the Kente stole over their robes during Commencement. The ceremony, presented by the Department of Multicultural Affairs, is free and open to the public.
  • On Monday, May 2, the Center for Academic Success and Engagement (CASE) will unveil an Ancestral Legacy Mural during a gathering from 2:00-4:00 p.m. on the basement level (west wing) of Sid Richardson Building.