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Baylor president overcomes another ouster push by critics

WACO, Texas (BP)–Despite reports that Baylor University President Robert Sloan would be fired, the university’s board of regents unanimously reaffirmed their commitment to Sloan’s ambitious “Vision 2012” 10-year plan during a July 23 meeting in Waco, Texas.

At the conclusion of the retreat-setting meeting, the board released a resolution stating: “The Regents of Baylor University reaffirm our commitment to Vision 2012, and recognize the positive impact it has made to our campus and in the lives of our students.”

The meeting marked the third time in less than a year that Sloan has survived ouster efforts by critics. Sloan, 55, former dean of Baylor’s theology school, has been the 14,000-student university’s president since 1995.

Former Baylor professor Bill Carden had predicted before the meeting that Sloan would be ousted.

No vote, however, was taken on Sloan during the regents’ meeting, and there was no discussion of Sloan’s status as president, chairman Will Davis told reporters after the meeting.

Carden, after the meeting, said, “I stand by my statement” predicting Sloan’s ouster, according to a report in the Waco Tribune-Herald. “There are more than half of the regents that are ready to remove Robert Sloan,” Carden, who was an assistant to one of Sloan’s predecessors, asserted.

Previous votes by regents to dismiss Sloan failed 18-17 in May and 31-4 last fall, according to news reports.

Sloan said after the meeting, “I’ve said it publicly, I am not going to resign.”

Sloan’s Vision 2012 plan seeks to transform Baylor from a teaching university into a “tier one” research university patterned after schools such as Princeton, Notre Dame and Harvard. Under the plan, professors would teach fewer classes in order to pursue publishing, and graduate programs would be bolstered by the employment of nationally recognized scholars. The initiative also includes various building projects, including a recently opened $103 million science building.

Critics, meanwhile, have targeted the university’s $250 million debt and tuition increases and enrollment declines in recent years. A faculty majority issued a no-confidence vote last fall and reaffirmed it in April.

An organization supporting Sloan has named itself “Friends of Baylor,” while critics have rallied under the name of “Committee to Restore Integrity to Baylor.”

This fall’s freshman enrollment, according to university officials, will be about 2,750, approaching the targeted goal of 2,800.

Sloan said he expects “there will still be those who would wish that the university would go a different direction.” Nevertheless, he said, “I think we have real signs of progress.”

Davis, although indicating he supports Sloan, said after the meeting, “I don’t have any real reason to believe that there is not a continuing division of some kind” among the regents.

Among Sloan’s supporters: student body president Jeff Leach, who told the Waco Tribune-Herald that “the worst thing that could happen this summer is for us to lose our president.”

“Not only does he act like a president, he acts like our father,” Leach said. “He cares about the students.”

The most recent flap prompted the Dallas Morning News to editorialize:

“Supporters say [Sloan] is badly misunderstood and is branded a ‘fundamentalist’ — a scare word in some circles — though he dropped the campus ban on dancing and hired Catholic faculty members as part of his broad mission to take Baylor more deeply into the classical roots of Christian education. Without Dr. Sloan’s leadership, they warn, Baylor’s distinct Christian identity will erode.

“For his part, Dr. Sloan, an ordained minister, has not displayed the leadership skills or conciliation needed to close the rift. On the other hand, some of his enemies have played dirty, throwing everything they have at the man, hoping enough mud will stick to send him to the showers permanently.

“This has to end. No institution can carry on indefinitely with its top leader facing up-or-down votes every time its board meets.”

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