Liberal faculty at Baylor University are coming out swinging with a letter to university president Linda Livingstone on “diversity and inclusvity.” Full text below:
Dear President Livingstone,
It has come to our attention that a small group of faculty and retired faculty has recently written you and the Chair of the Board of Regents to express their dissatisfaction with aspects of the Intersections Title IX training that they fear undermine various aspects of Baylor’s Christian identity. This group also suggests that you and the Board of Regents affirm a certain definition of marriage as an essential aspect of our Christian institutional identity. In light of the importance of the ongoing Provost search, we would like to express our support for your work and for the University’s efforts to address the many injustices that have occurred through an array of Title IX violations on campus.
We affirm that the University’s commitment to making us a more educated community with respect to the many ways that Title IX violations occur is addressed in much needed ways in the Intersections Video. The University placed the care and concern for all students at the heart of their response to this legally mandated training.
One of the many challenges that the new Provost will face is how to navigate the terrain at Baylor where some faculty think an emphasis on diversity and inclusivity in Title IX training videos, Human Resources materials, and faculty recruitment efforts is simply code for altering the University’s policies and hiring practices in relation to the definition of marriage. Many other faculty, staff, and students do not share that view and understand that the University does not intend to change its policy or hiring practices.
We know you were not a part of our campus community in 2015. At that time, there was a great deal of concern about the University’s attempts to establish the position of Chief Diversity Officer who would be tasked with diversifying the composition of the Baylor faculty in terms of gender and race. This small group of faculty, who are, by and large, the same small group that sent you the letter, were instrumental in having a Provost removed from office after serving only eight months. There was a great deal of instability at that level of University leadership for some time before that and that instability continues to the current moment. This instability has hampered Baylor’s ability to focus on our aspirational goals to become Research One, Tier 1.
We write to reaffirm our commitment to the importance of diversity and inclusivity on our campus. It is a well-documented fact that minority and female students look for mentors with whom they can identify in terms of race and gender; this search is often in vain at Baylor. Furthermore, in the humanities especially, we understand that knowledge is embodied knowledge and epistemology is perspectival. This does not mean that knowledge is relativized to the point of solipsism. It does mean that social constructions such as race and gender are hardly accidental traits, but rather crucial aspects of how we know what we know and how we contribute to the web of knowledge. Thus, we reject the notion that hiring minority and female faculty somehow inevitably or inadvertently weakens the academic quality or diminishes the intellectual rigor of our university community. Rather, our experience has been exactly the opposite, and we contend that true intellectual diversity cannot be achieved without including minorities and women, whose embodied experiences and perspectives shed new light on old problems. We also affirm that addressing these issues of diversity requires that the University consciously, deliberately, and with sustained energy, attend to our faculty recruiting, hiring, and training practices such as Title IX programs.
This concern for diversity of several sorts—intellectual, gender, racial, ethnic, economic, (dis)ability—surely lies at the core of Baylor’s mission as a Christian university, which has at its disposal rich resources in the Scriptures, Church History, and Christian Theology and Ethics. At the heart of the biblical witness is a profound concern for the “other.” In the Old Testament, that means the marginalized widow and orphan; in the New Testament, it means Gentiles of varying sorts. We do understand that achieving real diversity is not simple or straightforward. The earliest Christian communities appear to have experienced their most serious challenges around the inclusion of women, of Gentile “minorities,” of people with varying interpretations of the Law of Moses. We remember with some trepidation that Peter himself initially resisted God’s demand that the gospel be preached to the Gentiles (Acts 10:27-28). And we find encouragement in St. Paul’s imperative, “Welcome one another, as Christ welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). The biblical witness resonates with Baylor’s Baptist heritage. Based on his understanding of the Gospel, Baptist founder, Thomas Helwys, came to the defense of the “other” as construed in his early modern England when defending the importance of religious diversity. It’s crucial to remember that all of us are “others” who are welcomed into God’s household.
Finally, we affirm the value and practice of diversity as continuous with the moral vision of the Christian gospel, which promises and demands reconciliation between hitherto divided persons and communities (Galatians 3:28). We affirm such reconciliation as the material expression of God’s redemption of historical, social, personal, and racial injustice and so diversity as a necessary but not sufficient condition for such reconciliation and redemption. As a Christian university, Baylor is especially well-positioned for the work of racial and gender reconciliation where the faithfulness of our diversity efforts has the effect of witnessing to a world that too often suffers under the burdens of racism and sexism. While diversity efforts within universities have often proven challenging, any institution under the banner of Christian faith should proceed with the confidence that comes with the call to faithfulness.
Proponents of the letter are calling for faculty signatures.
A source within the university alumni community tells me:
The rhetoric here in this faculty letter is well-crafted. The letter-writer has equivocated between the sort of inclusion and diversity characteristic of the Gospel, and the notions of inclusion and diversity as understood by Identity Politics. They are not the same, in fact they are precisely the opposite.
Talk of diversity and inclusion may initially sound like the language of the Gospel as St Paul himself says that there is no longer male or female, nor Jew or Greek because all are one in Christ. Is Christ’s church not diverse and inclusive? Yet the vision of diversity that the proponents of identity politics have in mind is the exact opposite of the New Testament’s. The fundamental conviction of identity politics which informs and defines buzzwords like “identities”, “diversity”, “inclusion”, “multiculturalism”, and “cultural humility” is the denial of a shared and common human nature. Whereas Paul’s vision of diversity is achieved because all other identities are subordinated to and united within a single human nature assumed by Christ, identity politics preaches the opposite: these identities are everything and there is no substantive shared human nature–we are all fragmented into separate identities. Identity politics fosters antagonism between male and female, viewing them as inherently at odds, and shockingly elevates race to a category that defines one’s nature, interests, and sets the boundaries for one’s “community”. It even treats unnatural sexual desires as defining one’s identity.
Christianity’s teaching that all nations have their origin in Adam and that male and female originate in unity was good news to ancient paganism where the nations were thought of almost as separate races often with founding myths that precluded common ancestry. The Greek myths taught that women were created to torment men–that the sexes were fundamentally at odds. That Eve came from Adam’s rib and that all nations come from Adam was good news all on its own. Moreover, our shared nature in Adam is the very premise on which Christians claim that in Christ, the one God has acted to heal all by taking on a single human nature. Our Gospel is inclusive precisely because it denies the sovereignty of the racial and sexual identities that Identity Politics worships as idols. Identity politics turns back Christian progress, and throws us back to paganism ruling out a single redeemer by denying a common nature. Instead of casting down one’s race, sex, and desires at the feet of Jesus, identity politics incites people to seize them up and guard them jealously from Christ’s Lordship.
We are taught to judge a tree by its fruit. What sort of diversity and inclusion is the administration pushing at Baylor? Christian or Identity Politics? One only has to look at the plethora of identity politics trojan horses that have been welcomed on campus.
PC police on campus
Religious pluralism is explicitly taught in the form of Eboo Patel’s program and he is invited to Baylor as an honored guest https://www.baylor.edu/diversity/index.php?id=932034https://www.baylor.edu/multicultural/index.php?id=929345
Not to mention the forced re-education of the faculty in intersectionality that you have previously unveiled.
The attempt to hire a diversity officer was just the beginning. Baylor is on track to becoming an ambiguously Christian university that is mostly ashamed of the particular claims of the Gospel, namely that by no other name that Jesus Christ can men be saved.
I am told that the Baylor University Board of Regents is meeting this week. Big decisions will be made. Watch closely.
UPDATE: A reader from Baylor writes to point out that this letter to President Livingstone from faculty preceded the above letter. I’ve reproduced it exactly, but taken out of it the e-mail addresses of the signatories:
April 18, 2018
President Linda A. Livingstone
Office of the President
One Bear Place #97096
Waco, TX 76798-7096
Dear President Livingstone:
We want to thank you for your strong commitment to Baylor’s distinctive Christian identity and the
hiring of faculty who share that vision. Baylor provides real diversity in higher education by
advancing the frontiers of knowledge while affirming a Christian worldview. We are genuinely
grateful for your leadership, and we would like to initiate a conversation with you.
The undersigned, along with other faculty, staff, and students, share concerns that a number of the
programs, lectures, and media representing Baylor seem to conflict with our stated beliefs. Often
these programs draw from the current trend of identity-related theories, which encourage group
conflict rather than reconciliation and assume that an individual can find fulfillment through a self-
constructed identity. The effects of identity politics are playing out on other campuses with
increasing division, mistrust, repression of speech, and even violence. In contrast, the Christian
message presents a holistic view of identity, with greater human flourishing found through
fulfillment of God’s design and gifts for each person.
Both students and faculty have expressed concerns. Students have complained about orientation
sessions where classic Christian norms concerning sexuality are, if not altogether ignored, given
insufficient attention. Similarly, faculty have pointed out some problems with the current Title IX
course. We wholeheartedly support Baylor’s efforts to address the abuses that have wounded our
community so deeply. At the same time, certain elements of the Intersections course seem to be in
potential conflict with Baylor’s Christian mission and even with our own stated policies.
We enthusiastically support Baylor’s efforts “to hold firm to the conviction that the world needs a
preeminent research university that is unambiguously Christian.” Baylor’s success over the last 15
years, despite our missteps, is a confirmation of this unique mission. We have attracted top faculty
who could be at other prestigious universities and an increasing number of high quality students
from across the country who want to grow in both faith and intellect. It would be a mistake to
follow the many institutions that have strayed from their original Christian principles.
Rapidly changing cultural norms pose a challenge, and we recognize that not all students will seek to
follow Christ closely, despite our efforts as a university. But watering down the Christian message
diminishes our Baylor identity and thus our ability to make a persuasive case that the love and will of
God lead to greater human flourishing. Moreover, moving away from Baylor’s commitment to a
biblical and historical understanding of gender, identity, sexuality, and marriage would substantially
reduce the incentive for parents to entrust their sons and daughter to Baylor.
In light of all this, we perceive the need for our “distinct Christian mission” to be clarified. We
would like to recommend an affirmative statement such as the following:
We believe that every person is created in the image and likeness of God and thus possesses an inviolable human dignity. We believe that God in Christ has become human so that we might realize such dignity by ordering our lives to his love. We believe that such claims are central to Baylor’s Christian character, and thus that Baylor should employ faculty, recruit students, and hire administrators who are in accord with Baylor’s mission. Regarding sexual love, Christians across the ages and around the world have affirmed these two vocations: purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that the crucified God of suffering love summons us to compassion for those who struggle to fulfill these high and difficult callings. We therefore believe that Baylor should provide spiritual and pastoral support for all who seek it.
The Board of Regents may want to review this in order to affirm that this is indeed ourcommitment, so we are copying our letter to the Chairman.
We would like to contact you about arranging to meet with a representative group from the
undersigned to discuss these matters. Please know that we are thankful for your wisdom and
leadership, and we want to do everything possible to support you and Baylor’s mission.
UPDATE.2: I took the names of the signatories off the second letter. It seemed unfair to have the names of the signatories for that letter on this site, but not for the first (I don’t have those names).