Presidential Perspective - May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

As the state of Texas continues to re-open more and more businesses and other community services each week, we are receiving an increasing number of questions as to how these decisions affect the University. I want to provide a brief summary of our decisions to date:

  • The University begins a five-phased approach for faculty, staff and students to return to campus work beginning June 1. For faculty and staff, I strongly encourage you to review the Return to Campus information posted on the coronavirus website, which includes recommended timelines for your designated phase, checklists, FAQs and much more for both managers and employees.
  • Teleworking continues to be a viable option for faculty and staff who may have caregiver needs for children or other family members over the summer, may be in an at-risk group for COVID-19 or may be uncomfortable returning to campus within their designated Return to Campus phase.
  • We continue to plan for the start the fall semester Monday, Aug. 24. As I’ve stated before, this will not be a “normal” start of the fall semester. Our Project 8.24 team continues to work through details related to Move-In, Welcome Week and other first-year transition initiatives and campus activities. Additionally, Provost Brickhouse is working with the deans and academic leadership to build a fall schedule based on social distancing parameters that delivers a Baylor-quality curriculum and is flexible should COVID-19 conditions change.
  • While there is not one proven strategy to reduce the occurrence of COVID-19, we are asking the Baylor Family to familiarize yourselves with the idea that layering strategies to prevent COVID-19 can be helpful. This idea is commonly referred to as the “Swiss Cheese Model” and has been proven to improve safety across many industries. This multi-layer prevention model incorporates several strategies in response to COVID-19, including handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting, social distancing and cloth face coverings, used in concert. We will communicate further with you on such measures as our campus density increases in the weeks ahead.
  • And, finally, we are cautiously optimistic about watching Baylor football in Coach Dave Aranda’s debut season this fall. As you might expect, there continues to be many questions and hundreds of details to work through, but know I am getting excited.

I appreciate the ongoing planning efforts of so many people over the past several weeks. During a Zoom conversation with Staff Council Tuesday, I was asked about my fondest memory as President to date. Well, it has changed since mid-March – I am so proud of how the Baylor Family has come together and overcome tremendous obstacles in response to COVID-19. Thank you!

Some additional information for you this week ...

  • As I shared last week, The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty has been leading the way nationally to improve accessibility for children experiencing food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in rural areas where schools are closed. Today, the Baylor Collaborative received a $75,000 gift from the H-E-B Tournament of Champions Charitable Trust, which will support the Collaborative’s Texas Hunger Initiative in implementing the Emergency Meals-to-You program in Texas and working with rural Texas school districts for best-practice curbside and mobile meals in response to COVID-19 school closures. We are deeply grateful to H-E-B and all of our community partners for helping bridge the gap for these children and families.
  • Baylor’s Truett Seminary has announced plans to launch an extension campus for the San Antonio region in 2021 to reach students who cannot pursue traditional, in-residence theological education. The new campus, which will be housed at San Antonio’s historic Trinity Baptist Church, will equip God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside the local church. It will be Truett’s second extension campus, joining Truett in Houston at Tallowood Baptist Church.
  • A team of Baylor researchers has published a groundbreaking study in the international journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, finding that common chemical compounds in many consumer products could contribute to lipid-related diseases, such as obesity and fatty liver. The study is the first to show a cellular and metabolic effect on human cells exposed directly to those compounds. Environmental scientist Ramon Lavado, Ph.D., led the study with team members Marco Franco, an environmental science doctoral candidate; biology lecturer Maria Teresa Fernández-Luna, Ph.D.; and Alejandro Ramírez, senior mass spectrometrist in the Baylor Mass Spectrometry Center.
  • Now here’s a research-related story that belongs on Netflix: A Russian paleontologist using a homemade “selfie stick” to study an extinct aquatic reptile on the wall at London’s Natural History Museum turned to Baylor paleontologist Megan Jacobs for her expertise on the dolphin-like ichthyosaurs. The skeleton on the wall was similar to a genus of ichthyosaurs from Russian collections but discovered on the English coast. Jacobs, a doctoral candidate in geosciences, and her counterpart merged their research, determining that the Russian and English ichthyosaurs are of the same genus and one the most widespread species of ichthyosaurs in the Northern Hemisphere. Their study is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

I hope that everyone has a nice, long Memorial Day weekend. Let’s not forget the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military and protecting the freedoms that we hold dear.

Praying for you daily,

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.