Baylor University is investigating a member of its board of regents suspected of tipping off students about an undercover drug sting operation on the campus in Waco, Texas, according to a report Saturday by the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Jaclanel Moore McFarland, a Houston attorney, refused to resign as a regent, denied telling anyone about drug investigations and accused Baylor President Robert Sloan of carrying out a personal vendetta against her, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.
According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, Sloan demanded McFarland’s resignation May 9 during a meeting in Houston offices of board chairman Drayton McLane Jr. Following a preliminary investigation, a subcommittee of the board of regents determined there was enough evidence to warrant a full investigation if she did not resign.
McFarland did not comment to the media when she walked out of a board meeting Friday afternoon, held in conjunction with graduation ceremonies at the Baptist-affiliated school. According to the Houston Chronicle, however, McFarland said there is no credible evidence against her, and Sloan wants her off the board because of her continued criticism of him.
The internal investigation by the 36-member board of regents stems from an undercover drug sting conducted April 29 by Baylor police, in which six people were arrested on charges of selling marijuana and one more for possession.
The yearlong operation had to end sooner than intended—allegedly resulting in fewer arrests–because it became compromised when an undercover police officer’s cover was blown.
A 22-year-old Baylor police officer reportedly posed as a freshman this year, took classes and joined Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
McFarland is suspected of learning of the investigation and passing the information on to her 22-year-old son, Allen McFarland. Her son, who was a member of the fraternity before leaving school last spring for medical reasons, is said to have in turn warned current members.
While no members of the fraternity were arrested, some eventually asked the posing student if he was an undercover cop. Baylor officials claim the leak placed the officer in physical danger.
Both the regent McFarland and her son denied knowing anything about the sting operation until the April arrests. After the arrests, Baylor police chief Jim Doak began questioning members of the fraternity, and ultimately asked them if they had been tipped off by either McFarland.
A Baylor official declined to answer questions about McFarland’s investigation by the board of regents.
“The university cannot comment on confidential board matters,” said Larry Brumley, acting vice president for university relations.
The investigation could lead to the first impeachment and removal of a board member in Baylor’s 158-year history.
McFarland was reportedly told at one point that she was also the subject of a criminal investigation, but is unclear what law or laws might have been broken.
McFarland, a former vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and current officer of Texas Baptists Committed, served on Baylor’s board of regents from 1991 to 2000. In 2001, she was re-elected to fill the unexpired term of member Paul Powell, who resigned from the board that February to become dean of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
A member of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, McFarland was counted among Sloan’s strongest supporters when he was being considered as Baylor president in 1995. Over time, however, she has become a vocal critic of debt that is piling up as a result of Sloan’s “Baylor 2012” building program, which calls for $130 million in construction projects and increasing the university’s endowment from $365 million in 1996 to $2 billion by 2012.
The Waco newspaper mentioned an incident last winter, in which it says McFarland led an effort demanding a meeting over Sloan’s plans to buy a $2.3 million corporate jet for the university without discussion by the board of regents.
Other critics have viewed with suspicion Sloan’s aim for Baylor to be recognized as one of the nation’s top 50 universities without sacrificing its Christian character. If that goal is achieved, Sloan has said Baylor would be the only top-tier university as ranked by U.S. News & World Report with an overtly evangelical Christian mission.
Some have questioned recent faculty appointments that appear to move the school toward the cultural right.
For example, Sloan announced in March the appointment of Boston College professor Thomas Hibbs, who reviews films and writes about cultural issues for the conservative National Review Online and reviews books for The Weekly Standard, as dean of Baylor’s honors college and distinguished professor of ethics and culture, beginning July 1.
Baylor’s new associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies, Francis Beckwith, has written books questioning the legal basis of affirmative action and abortion rights and on balancing the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools with a particular creationist view known as “intelligent design.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.