On the evening of April 5th, 2021, Baylor’s Men’s Basketball Team won the NCAA National Championship, and suddenly everything was good.
As Head Coach, Scott Drew, said in an interview with The Standard: it was “very similar to…when the kids are opening up presents [on Christmas morning] and are so happy: To see people happy makes it all worthwhile.”
But how long will these happy feelings last? How long will our campus be unified by feelings of gratitude—for the basketball team and for Coach Drew—and by feelings of exuberant school spirit?
That is a hard question to answer, because Baylor’s campus culture has sadly followed the trends of our national political culture. We have become increasingly politicized, polarized, and fractured. And these tendencies have had a notably corrosive effect on our love for Baylor, our gratitude for its existence, for its many virtues (vices notwithstanding), and for the positive good it does in the lives of so many people who come into contact with it.
Baylor is not a perfect institution, of course. Its past, present, and (no doubt) future will benefit from moral criticism. Yet a peculiarity of our age is that people are so quick to criticize; and we tend to forget to be grateful for the many good things around us.
In our current “cancel culture,” we suppose we have exhaustively disposed of a person by naming some isolated act or statement we find abhorrent. So too with institutions such as Baylor: we’re prone to list injustices (real or perceived) and to forget the many good things Baylor does as well.
Baylor wins titles in men’s and women’s basketball. But it’s not just in sports that Baylor is good.
Dr. Wes Null, Baylor’s Vice Provost for undergraduate education and institutional effectiveness encourages us to think of Baylor in the way we think of individuals when we’re most inclined to be charitable: “Just as individuals have their unique flaws, we don’t write them off.” So too with Baylor, we shouldn’t write the institution off before accounting for the many goods it performs.
But what are these goods? A noticeable trend in news coverage is the bias towards negative stories. This is, no doubt, an instance of what sociologists call “negativity bias,” the basic human tendency to pay more attention to negatives than positives in our daily experience. Perhaps this helps explain why news outlets, including ones in Waco, spend relatively little time on Baylor’s achievements. These get washed out by criticisms—even minor and petty criticisms.
We cannot correct for this bias in one short article, but we can at least mention a few considerations and encourage readers to strive for a general attitude that is, while appropriately critical, also open to feelings of gratitude and a hermeneutic of charity. Let’s consider a few newsworthy facts.
The Baylor community—students and faculty combined (not to mention staff)—consists of about twenty-five thousand individuals at any given time. This is an educational institution that affects many lives—a “place of learning and teaching” in which knowledge is transmitted as well as discovered, and in which students and teachers form bonds of friendship that last for life.
Baylor is, in a certain sense, a living ecosystem. Or perhaps a better metaphor is a coral reef. It literally supports life. It evolves. It adapts. So too can it be harmed by internal and external threats.
What we’ve covered here is Baylor University, a historic and ongoing institution that supports the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness for all those who come into its orbit.
But the main point here is that without this ecosystem, so many lives would have to find their present “livelihood” somewhere else. Baylor supports nearly 3,500 dedicated faculty and staff whose commitment to their vocations helps keep the ecosystem alive. If one considers that the university has been thriving since 1845, one has a sense of how many lives (of faculty and staff) this institution has supported.
Nor is the Baylor ecosystem limited to “lives,” as if merely living were the only goal of everyone involved. For faculty in particular, the institution has offered a springboard for the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, a pursuit that issues in benefits not only for students, but also for American culture as a whole and, in some cases, the human race.
In 2005, Baylor alumnus Steven Stucky won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his “Second Concerto for Orchestra.” Class of 1999 alumnus David M. Hillis recently received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation award for his career as a molecular biologist contributing to the understanding of life on Earth. The list of such pathbreaking achievements by Baylor alumni is voluminous.
In terms of impact on students, Baylor has no fewer than 125 degree programs, and more than 100 masters and doctoral tracks. From Business to Biology, from Music to Metaphysics, Baylor has a program that supports your interests and cultivates your mind.
Many who graduate from Baylor find success almost immediately in their fields: Grammy Award winners, Olympians, entrepreneurs, and scientists. Other graduates benefit from the mentorship and support of Baylor alumni who help give them a leg up. The alumni network is in fact enormous and tight-knit: another “good” that Baylor offers to those who join its ranks.
One concrete example of Baylor’s alumni network in action is the way Baylor graduates living and working in Washington, D.C. mentor the Baylor students who study there. Every Baylor student who participates in the Washington, D.C. semester program is paired with a mentor, and these relationships are not only professional in nature. They are also spiritual and intellectual. Again, we are dealing with an ecosystem with far-reaching implications in the lives that come into contact with it.
Baylor is also a place where those who struggle with disadvantages of all kinds discover a helping hand and ongoing support. Baylor’s Success Center, for example, helps transfer students, veterans, first generation students, and minority students succeed in their classes and careers.
According to Dr. Null, Baylor’s many programs that help the less advantaged have had “a direct and powerful impact on many students, improving their grades and helping them to graduate in four years.”
This is not all that can be said, but what we’ve covered here is Baylor University, a historic and ongoing institution that supports the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness for all those who come into its orbit. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and even future students benefit profoundly from its existence and its excellence.
Perhaps Coach Drew sums it up best, saying, “the fact that [Baylor] gets to help develop young people spiritually, academically, and on the court—champion preparing champions for life—that’s what makes it different.”
Mia Gradick is a Junior from Dallas, TX. Studying Political Science, English, and Philosophy on a Pre-Law track, her interests lie in constitutional law, political philosophy, and her passion: religious liberty. She has interned at First Liberty Institute, the Senate Budget Committee for Senator Graham, and writes for several publications regarding faith and policy's intersection. In her free time, Mia enjoys singing, spending time with the Lord and with her friends, and preparing for her goal to attend law school.