Baylor University President Robert Sloan will step down at the end of the current semester and accept a new role of chancellor June 1.
Sloan announced the decision, which he said was reached mutually by him and the board of regents, at a press conference Friday morning. As chancellor, he will work in fund raising, student recruitment and promoting Vision 2012, Baylor’s long-range plan to move the school to a top-tier university while retaining its identity as a Baptist institution.
Sloan has been criticized the past 18 months for implementation of the plan, which opponents say has resulted in excessive debt, declining enrollment and division among faculty, students and alumni.
“The reality is that my role as president has become a distraction to the main goal of fulfilling the vision,” Sloan said Friday. “The vision is more important than any one person. No one is indispensable.”
Saying his leadership has often been a “lighting rod,” Sloan said he now believes it is in Baylor’s best interest for him to step aside to allow a new leader “with different gifts and the benefit of a clean slate.”
Sloan became the 12th president of Baylor University on June 1, 1995, leaving his position as founding dean of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
A 1970 Baylor graduate, Sloan earned a master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a doctorate from the University of Basel in Switzerland in 1978.
After teaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Hardin-Simmons University, Sloan joined the faculty of Baylor’s religion department in 1983.
He was appointed dean of Truett Seminary in 1993.
Baylor regents voted in February 1995 to elect Sloan Baylor’s 12th president, succeeding Herbert Reynolds.
Sloan and his wife, Sue, have seven children.
Much of the debate over Sloan’s leadership has concerned his plan to make Baylor, which enrolls close to 14,000 students, an academic powerhouse with a Christian mission.
Critics say Baylor is burdened by nearly $250 million of debt, rising tuition and declining enrollment.
Baylor’s faculty senate has twice voted no-confidence in Sloan’s leadership. A faculty referendum in December showed a majority of those voting did not support him as president. A leading donor, Houston businessman John Baugh, has said he would withdraw his support for Baylor unless there is a leadership change.
Amid calls for his ouster, the board of regents voted 31-4 to affirm Sloan as president last September. In May Sloan survived a closer vote, 18-17, to retain him as president.
Board chairman Will Davis commended Sloan for leading Baylor “through a tremendous period of growth and progress.”
Davis said regents would officially vote on the role change in February and begin discussion on interim leadership and finding a permanent successor.
Despite the leadership change, Davis said Baylor’s regents are committed to continuing in the direction laid out in Vision 2012. “Baylor 2012 remains our blueprint for the future,” he said.
Sloan said he and Davis first began discussing the possibility of his stepping down in November. While there are many things he would do differently a second time, he said, “I have absolutely no regrets about the core commitments and decisions over the years about Baylor.”
Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas said the state’s Baptists will unite behind the announcement and new leadership.
“Texas Baptists can come together around this positive decision,” Wade said. “Baylor University always has strived to provide quality education in a decidedly Christian context, and none of that will change with this transition.”
Member churches of the BGCT provide funds for the university and select a portion of the Baylor Board of Regents.
Citing friendships with Sloan and regents, Wade said he has been saddened by the recent rancor and desires for Texas Baptists to move forward.
“We have supported both the Baylor regents and the president,” he said. “I know the goal of everyone is to raise the level of excellence at Baylor along with a desire to deepen its commitment to Christian truth and values.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.