WACO, Texas – Students at Baylor University pose in front of the Judge Baylor Statue on campus.
As Baylor University celebrated its 176th Charter Day as the longest running institution in Texas, some students used the day to not only highlight the past – but a future towards racial healing.
“We are going to make a statement that Black History Month deserves as much attention as Baylor’s birthday,” says student Sam Onilenla.
Onilenla began to make plans for a demonstration, but wanted to wait to see if other students would support. He felt the need to go through with the demonstration when the police where called on a group of students at Moody Library on campus.
After this incident, students began to reach out to him on social media. Then he shared his demonstration idea.
“The fact that many people came out just through word of mouth is very impactful,” Onilenla says.
Baylor later issued a statement on their Instagram stories which said:
“We strive to be a welcoming community on our campus as part of our Christian mission, and over the past year, we have made a strong commitment to doing better and being better.
In this instance, there was a cultural disconnect, and we simply missed the mark. We understand changes need to be made in how we treat and respect others within the Baylor Family, and we must further the important conversations related to race and cultural understandings on our campus.”
“They didn’t miss the mark,” Onilenla says. “They have always been missing the mark. And I wanted to demonstrate where the mark was originally missed.”
On the first day of Black History Month, Onilenla and a group of students took pictures in front of Judge Baylor. Each student was dressed in all black, and some had signs that read, “Black Lives Matter.”
The students used this demonstration to advocate for removing the statute of Judge Baylor because he was a slave owner. The students believe doing this will start the journey towards racial healing.
“I feel like having that statue on there is a reminder that we weren’t supposed to be here in the first place,” Onilenla says.
In June, the Board of Regents acknowledged the University’s historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy – unanimously passing a resolution towards racial healing and justice.
The statement started with, as both “an opportunity and an obligation to pursue racial healing as an expression of the Christian faith and adherence to Biblical principles of justice and love.
“The Baylor University Board of Regents has unanimously passed a Resolution on Racial Healing and Justice that openly acknowledges the University’s historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy. The Board’s acknowledgement initiates a process on racial conciliation across the University and calls on the Board and the University to ‘pursue opportunities to inclusively explore and engage in significant conversations about this aspect of the institution’s past.’”
In July, Baylor announced a 26-member commission on historic campus representation – reviewing the historical context of the university and it’s connection with all statues, monuments and buildings.
“They try to focus on it a lot, but they have not done what is necessary to actually have diversity and inclusion,” Onilenla says.
The full board has heard two presentations from the Commissions co-chairs and select members. The next board meeting is scheduled for February 17th through 19th – when the board is scheduled to discuss further Commission’s report, it’s historical findings and recommendations.
Baylor Spokesperson Jason Cook says, “Chair Rountree and President Livingstone sincerely appreciate the extensive work of the Commission members. They worked tirelessly under an extremely short time frame to understand Baylor’s complete history and make recommendations to the Board that demonstrate Baylor’s support, understanding and love for students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of color throughout the Baylor Family.”