By Claire St. Amant
When I walked into Bennett Auditorium Monday evening for the Student Q&A session with Dr. Lilley, I didn’t know what to expect. For starters, I didn’t know if anyone would actually show up. And even if they did, I didn’t know if they’d come with serious questions or just curiosity about Lilley’s favorite movie. Apparently I wasn’t alone in doubting the student body. Lilley seemed pretty unprepared himself.
He opened the session with a quip about the Dr Pepper/Coke fiasco, and even gave Kappa Omega Tau a shout-out as the culprit behind the report that Baylor had struck a deal with Coca-Cola to replace DP as the official beverage. He also said he wanted to dispel the rumor that the interlocking BU was being phased out. Lilley said if there were any remaining questions, he’d be happy to answer them. I must admit he looked a bit shocked as hands flew up amongst the two hundred-plus students in attendance.
While some questions were more biting than others, students weren’t afraid to raise big issues, including concerns about student loans, parking, and tenure. I was proud to be part of such an engaged student body. I wish I could say I felt the same about my president.
He appeared taken aback when I asked about the feasibility of a student regent. Even though this issue is on the platform of every candidate for student government, Lilley asked why it was important, as though he’d never heard of it before. To make matters worse, he made a wisecrack about the risk of having a student regent get arrested. This is hardly the norm at Baylor, and for Lilley to insinuate that students are so unreliable that not even one could be above reproach is insulting.
When a sizable group of engineering students began to take their turn at the mike to address specific tenure decisions in the department, Lilley had to explain the legal issues surrounding their disclosure. He hadn’t opened the student session with ground rules about tenure as he had for the faculty. After all, why would a bunch of silly students care about tenure when there’s a faux soda controversy to address? The mood quickly became hostile in the auditorium as students defended their professors, calling several out by name and asking for answers. Lilley could only respond with variations of, “It’s against the law for me to tell you that.” But the students, like their faculty counterparts in the previous hour, weren’t satisfied with his citing of legal loopholes.
Besides tenure, the issue of the branding and the interlocking BU took center stage. It was this subject that elicited the most crowd response, including one student who cried, “You’re out of your mind!” Although he reiterated that the symbol wasn’t disappearing completely, Lilley maintained that the decision to emphasize “Baylor” over “BU” was sound, and “Marketing 101.” I know this will probably draw a lot of ire, but I agree with Lilley on this one.
Why not put our whole name out there on the national stage? Why not utilize the exposure of Division I athletics to promote Baylor in the clearest way possible–by writing our name on our helmets? Although cries of broken tradition abound, how is it untraditional to call ourselves “Baylor”? It seems to me that’s tradition boiled down to its core. As long as we don’t abandon the BU entirely, I’m OK with prioritizing our full moniker.
Despite a somewhat tumultuous atmosphere, the overriding feeling was one of appreciation for the forum. Even though students may not be pleased with the quality of Lilley’s answers, we were still glad to have the opportunity to raise them. This type of access to our president is exactly what we’ve wanted for years. Hopefully, as the number of conversations that Lilley has with a diverse group of students grows, so will his awareness of important issues.
Claire St. Amant is a professional writing major from Katy and is the current city editor of the Baylor Lariat. She will graduate in May.
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