Baylor University’s president could face a third vote on his leadership in less than a year this week, and this time his opponents say they have enough votes to fire him, Texas media are reporting.
Will Davis, chairman of Baylor’s board of regents, said he has no plans to discuss President Robert Sloan’s future at meetings Wednesday through Friday, but any regent can bring it up. “By and large, it’s up to the regent body itself,” Davis, an Austin attorney, told the Dallas Morning News.
Sloan narrowly survived an 18-17 vote the last time the board met, in May. In September, regents voted 31-4 to affirm Sloan as president amid criticism of his 10-year plan to move the Baptist-affiliated school to a top-tier university while emphasizing its Christian mission. Baylor’s faculty senate has twice voted no-confidence in Sloan’s leadership.
An anti-Sloan group, the Committee to Restore Integrity to Baylor, issued a statement Monday predicting Sloan will be voted out of office this week.
“Due to changes in the makeup of the board of regents, we believe there is finally a majority of the board that recognizes only by the removal of Dr. Sloan can we restore integrity and unity to the Baylor community,” Bill Carden, president of the committee, said in the statement. “We expect that vote to be taken during the next board of regents meeting on July 22 and 23.”
Carden told the Dallas newspaper that some regents were surprised by the closeness of the May vote to keep Sloan and that the addition of three new regents also affects the mix.
The statement criticized Sloan for “high-handed methods of dealing with those who do not wholeheartedly support his views” which “have bitterly divided faculty, students and alumni.”
A Waco television station quoted an unnamed source saying at least one regent, on behalf of a third party, offered Sloan $1 million to resign, but Sloan declined.
Another rumor has Sloan being moved from president to chancellor, a way to get him out of office without firing him, but Davis denies it.
Sloan said Tuesday he remains confident in the university’s direction.
“I am president of the university and I intend to continue to serve in that capacity … at the will of our board,” Sloan told The Associated Press. “I have a sense of calling about the work I do. I wake up every morning excited about seeing Baylor go forward.”
Critics of Sloan’s Vision 2012 plan to move Baylor into a major research university say it is too expensive and will water down teaching. A bigger issue for some, however, is Sloan’s commitment to emphasizing Baylor’s religious mission, which opponents say masks a fundamentalist agenda.
Baylor’s biggest benefactor, Houston businessman John Baugh, who has given reportedly more than $25 million to the university, has said his foundation will request loans and contributions be returned if Baylor continues its current direction.
“I believe that each of you is striving to do what you think is best for either Dr. Sloan or Baylor University,” Baugh wrote regents in a letter July 15, “but I believe also that some of you have come to believe that they are one in the same.”
“Whether the members of the board are willing to recognize it or not, the perception, if not the reality, is that Robert Sloan controls and is directing the actions of at least half the board, not for the long-term benefit of Baylor but rather for his own personal benefit and welfare, and the fulfillment of certain grandiose ideas,” Baugh said.
Baugh and other Sloan critics say Baylor’s tradition as a quality academic institution dedicated to Baptist principles is at stake.
Sloan dismisses criticism as resistance to change.
“Some people want Baylor to be like it was in the 1950s,” Sloan said in the Houston Chronicle.
While Sloan’s supporters deny he wants to impose fundamentalism on Baylor, observers in the fundamentalist camp view the debate with interest.
Focus on the Family last week said some think a potential vote on Sloan’s leadership “is pivotal in deciding whether Baylor flows into secularism and becomes just another liberal arts institution.”
“I think that some people just intellectually think that faith and learning don’t mix,” Sloan said in Family News in Focus. “Baylor is one of those institutions that has not only the opportunity, but even the calling and responsibility, to be among the top-tier of American universities, and at the same time be faithful to our historic confession of Jesus Christ.”
“What Baylor is now under Dr. Sloan’s leadership should be supported, applauded, prayed for and encouraged by the broader evangelical community in the United States,” added Dr. Robbie Castleman of John Brown University.
Two top administrators have left since the May vote sustaining Sloan, and other departures are expected. Chief Financial Officer David Brooks returns to banking at the end of July. Associate Vice President Ben Renberg also left recently, according to media reports.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.