Wayland faculty and staff gather for professional development

Wayland Baptist University’s faculty, staff and administration entered a time of reflection Wednesday, hearing from Dr. Bobby Hall, president, and Dr. George Yancey, professor of Sociology at Baylor University.

 Hall focused on the coming academic year, while Yancey addressed dealing with racial awareness in a Christian manner. Their comments came during the opening session of three days of professional development at the university. Yancey is a senior fellow at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion and the author of Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism.

Donnie Brown, Director of Spiritual Life, set the tone for the session as he offered stories about how Wayland has “fueled the flame” this past year. “It’s a new semester, and it is all about Jesus,” he said. Brown introduced “Jesus…I am” as the theme for Wayland chapel and spiritual life programming this year.

Hall announced a new three-year strategic plan, stating WBU had succeeded with portions of the previous three-year plan, which was primarily carried out during the COVID pandemic.

 “We have accomplished a lot of that plan,” the president said, noting that the primary focus had to do with infrastructure needed to be successful. “We have made good strides.”

Hall said the plan “targets those things that will drive enrollment and fundraising growth” and includes “major strategies and tactics supporting each of those.”

“We will be pushing involvement and leadership in this plan deeper in the organizational chart than we have before,” he said. “So, some of you will have the opportunity to show your leadership and investment, and I am looking forward to working directly with many of you.”

Noting that Wayland is designing the university’s next fundraising campaign, Hall said the campaign will be “tied directly to elements in the strategic plan as it should be.”

 The president said he is “thrilled by several facility improvements,” mentioning the start of construction on the Mabee Laboratory Sciences Building, new carpet in Harral Memorial Auditorium, signage at the Amarillo campus and the opening of the Flying Queens Museum in February 2023.

Hall touted Wayland’s success in securing federal grants, then turned to expectations. “We are encouraged by what we hope will be some solid enrollment growth,” he said. Listing improvements, such as financial aid and information technology, the president said, “We hope that all of these things together can create the kind of momentum we would like to see, and that similar growth on external campuses will follow.”

Hall also spoke of legislative and regulatory activity that “could potentially have a drastic effect on all of higher education.” He noted Title IX and overtime rule changes as well as religious freedom issues that could affect Wayland’s federally approved religious exemption. He described the exemption as “the most powerful tool we have to do what we do — be a Christian institution practicing our sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“I hope we will be more intensely dedicated to our Christian mission than ever before,” he said. “Thank you for putting your shoulder to the wheel that drives this mission that drives the university.”

Yancey followed Hall, focusing on dealing with racial awareness in a Christian manner. He identified a racialized society as one “wherein race matters profoundly for differences in life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships.” He asked, “How do we correct for the historical and contemporary racial dysfunctions in our society in a way that is fair to everyone? How do we recover from our history of racial abuse in ways that most of us can consider those efforts to be fair?”

“Only by accounting for our desire to protect our self-interest can we deal with group conflict,” he said. “Only holding each other accountable can we find solutions for racial alienation.”

Noting “we are both a creature of depravity and a child of God,” Yancey said, “a Christian solution must take into consideration both our depravity and status as a child of God.”

He advocated for mutual accountability, “a Christian-based approach whereby we recognize that people of all races have a sin nature that has to be accounted for. Thus, everyone has an obligation to work toward healthy interracial communications to solve racial problems.”

Yancey said studies on healthy interracial relations show under the right conditions interracial contact helps to alleviate bias. “Having a common group identity increases positive feelings,” he said. “Families with a collaborative orientation have more positive interactions and relations with each other; collaborative communication in an atmosphere of mutual support creates volitional compliance. Motivational interviewing, which uses collaborative conversations, has been shown to be effective in creating lifestyle change.”

The sociologist said power is necessary at times but “carries serious shortcomings.”

“Moral suasion, not power, is necessary to produce lasting change,” he said. “Moral suasion builds community, power builds compliance. Collaborative conversations are about using moral suasion instead of power.”

Yancey called for teaching collaborative conversation by building rapport and identifying areas of agreement. “Admit when your opponent has a good point, understand your opponent’s arguments, and look at what the person wants below the surface,” he said.