An open letter to Wayland Baptist University from alumni
As alumni of Wayland Baptist University, we have come together to express our profound disappointment in the actions taken by the Board of Directors with regards to the deprecation of multiple degree programs at WBU, primarily in the Fine Arts. As former students at WBU, our beloved Fine Arts programs were marked by their excellent faculty and staff, challenging content, and effective curriculum. Despite consistently lacking resources of larger programs, they were places and spaces where students found acceptance and were developed intellectually, personally, and spiritually. While the impacts of the COVID -19 pandemic have been dire and more devastating than predicted on many institutions across this nation, and although we understand that trends in higher education continually compete for a thriving student body that meets the financial obligations of WBU, it is beyond comprehension that these impacts were not considered or forecasted by the Board of Directors in a more timely manner. In short, we are more devastated by short sighted leadership than the harsh realities of ending our cherished programs.
The actions taken by the Board have resulted in negative impacts on the lives of young adult students at all stages of their education. The futures of these students are now left perilously in doubt, with little time to maneuver or pivot to salvage their education and stabilize their next choices. A business decision was made with seemingly little to no regard for the lives of the students which this university purports to cherish and develop. While we recognize that WBU must use good business sense to meet its obligations, WBU is a university first, not a business and students are not commodities to be so quickly discarded. The students of Wayland Baptist University should not have to bear the punishment for lack of foresight demonstrated by the Board and university leadership.
Furthermore, Wayland was founded with the belief that education should be accessible to all, and grounded in faith in Christ. Wayland Baptist University exists to educate students in an academically challenging, learning-focused, and distinctively Christian environment for professional success and service to God and humankind. Honoring these uniquely Christian commitments is central to maintaining the University’s integrity and reputation as a credible institution and regional leader in its field. We request that Wayland Baptist University show courage, apply prudent risk management, and act quickly as a leader and steward of the impacted individuals. In the face of such an unfortunate crisis, WBU must live up to its Christian commitment in short-term actions, even when needing to make difficult long-term financial decisions.
We respectfully ask that the Board of Directors consider these corrective actions below to minimize the impact to the students, faculty, and staff bearing in mind the passage from Ecclesiastes, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Consider the following:
1. Allow the impacted faculty and staff to complete their academic contracts until the end of the academic fiscal year (June); or, because such sudden decisions have significantly affected their ability to search for gainful employment, compensate them 25% of their agreed spring contracts to offset sudden financial burdens;
2. Allow majors to graduate under the deprecated degree programs this spring with their peers; or, because such sudden decisions have affected their ability to complete the program of study you promised them, fully refund their fall tuition as compensation;
3. Allow current majors to continue programing in the spring as many will need to now transfer to new programs;
4. Allow the deprecated programs to continue until May, allowing current majors more time to transfer or change majors;
5. Identify the exact financial amount needed to let all programs finish in May and call for aggressive alumni fundraising efforts to see if they can meet these needs for both faculty, staff, and students;
6. Transparency. By spring, make public the institution's next five action steps in stabilizing WBU’s financial plans and identifying both financial needs and university strengths.
Former students are as much a part of WBU as current, and more importantly, the student body both past and present, not the Board, represents the life and mission of WBU. As the stewards of people, the Board should immediately create an alumni action committee to partner with solutions on how alumni might be able to assist in the short-term transitioning faculty, staff, and students in many of these above steps.