Baylor University’s faculty senate passed a no-confidence vote 26-6 Tuesday afternoon against eight-year President Robert Sloan.
“Dr. Sloan’s presidency has produced a chilling work environment, a climate characterized by distrust, anxiety, intimidation, favoritism, as well as profound concerns about the sanctity of academic freedom and professional standards,” the resolution said. “But above all else, the climate is marked by fear—fear of losing one’s job, one’s hope for tenure, a promotion, a pay raise, or a friend, over an opinion or activity that might be labeled ‘disloyal’ or ‘not mission-friendly’ by a representative of the administration.”
Sloan told the Dallas Morning News that he was disappointed by the vote and discounted the notion that he created a climate of fear.
“The faculty senate is one of the important faculty voices, but it’s not by any means the only faculty voice,” he hold the newspaper. “They’re clearly not speaking for all the faculty.”
The faculty senate resolution, passed by secret ballot, followed a nearly four-hour meeting.
Baylor’s official governing body, the 36-member Board of Regents, is expected to discuss Sloan’s leadership when it meets Thursday and Friday. Five members of the board released a letter Monday calling for his removal.
“It is with sincere regret that we join together in requesting a vote of the Baylor University Board of Regents asking that the service of Robert B. Sloan, Jr., as president and chief executive officer of the university, be terminated immediately,” said the letter. Regents signing the letter were Carl Bell, Mary Chavanne-Martin, Toby Druin, Jaclanel McFarland and John Wilkerson.
Sloan’s leadership of the Baptist-affiliated university in Waco, Texas, has been under intense scrutiny since this summer’s shooting death of basketball player Patrick Dennehy. Former teammate Carlos Dotson has been charged with Dennehy’s murder. An investigation uncovered alleged NCAA violations, which led to resignations of Baylor’s basketball coach and athletic director.
The five regents, however, said scandal involving Baylor’s athletic program served only to exacerbate concerns dating back several years about Sloan’s leadership. While the five said they voted for and support Vision 2012, a 10-year plan initiated by Sloan, they oppose certain ways it has been implemented.
Establishment of a “dual-faculty system,” which some say emphasizes research at the expense of classroom teaching; hiring methods that seek “a particular kind of Christian professor;” a shift to bonded debt instead of a pay-as-you-go approach for campus buildings; and large tuition increases have divided faculty and alienated alumni, the letter said.
“Baylor has been given a black eye that will require a long time to heal,” the letter said. “We feel a major step in the process of healing would be a change in leadership at the top.”
Board chairman Drayton McLane said in a statement that he was disappointed that the five regents delivered the letter to the media before giving it to the board. He said the regents will consider the matter carefully.
“Board members will be able to convey their concerns, then look at the true facts and make a decision,” he said. “This is the correct and right process, as opposed to trying to spin stories in the media.”
Four of the five regents had a conference call with Sloan Monday before releasing the letter, according to Tuesday’s Waco Tribune-Herald.
McFarland, a regent who was recently cleared by an internal investigation of allegations that she tipped off friends of her son about an undercover drug-sting operation on campus, told the Waco paper that Sloan seemed unconcerned about the letter’s content.
“He didn’t say he’d pray about it, consider it or would like to sit down and talk with us about it,” she said, describing his response as disappointing.
A Sloan spokesman reiterated that the president has no plans to step down.
Earlier, three former chairmen of Baylor’s board of regents wrote a letter calling for Sloan’s resignation, saying he is no longer able to “lead, inspire and unite” the university.
“If resignation is not forthcoming, we urge the board of regents to replace Dr. Sloan as president of Baylor University at the earliest opportunity,” the former regents–Randall Fields, Glenn Biggs and Gale Galloway–said in a letter sent to Sloan and the regents, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Amid calls for his dismissal, however, support for Sloan also appears to be growing.
A pro-Sloan group called Friends of Baylor has hired a Dallas public-relations firm to combat negative publicity and recently gave the school $1 million as a show of support for Sloan’s leadership.
Waco insurance executive Clifton Robinson, who started the group, said several thousand persons joined in the few days. “We have support coming out of the woodwork,” he told the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Another recently formed group calling itself the Committee to Restore Integrity to Baylor, meanwhile, joined those calling for Sloan’s ouster.
The two groups ran competing ads in the Waco Tribune-Herald Aug. 30. “Because we love Baylor University and what it stands for, and because we are greatly saddened by its current state, we have no confidence in Baylor’s current leadership,” said the anti-Sloan group in its ad.
Defenders of Sloan say the president’s detractors on the faculty represent only a minority of 792 Baylor professors, about half which have tenure.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.