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Baylor standoff continues after Faculty Senate-sponsored vote

WACO, Texas (BP)–“The recently conducted Faculty Senate referendum on the leadership of President Sloan sheds no new light on the fact that a segment of faculty do not agree with the current administration of the university,” Baylor University board of regents chairman Will Davis of Austin stated in response to a third no confidence vote in a 14-month period involving Baylor’s Faculty Senate.

The Faculty Senate arranged for the referendum to be conducted by the McLennan County elections office, in reaction to charges that opposition to Baylor President Robert Sloan was limited to a small, vocal group of faculty on the Waco, Texas, campus. Unlike previous ballots of the 33 senate members, the vote was open from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 to 838 Baylor faculty, including tenured and tenure-track professors, fulltime and senior lecturers, instructors and those in fulltime academic professions such as librarians. Retired, part-time, contract and administrators without faculty rank were excluded.

Of the eligible voters, 59 percent participated, amounting to 490 ballots cast. By a vote of 418 to 69, 85 percent of those voting opposed retaining President Sloan. “The results of the referendum confirm and reinforce the position that the Baylor Faculty Senate has taken in its two no-confidence votes against President Sloan in September 2003 and May 2004,” according to a statement released by the Faculty Senate’s executive committee. The committee said the results of the more broadly-based vote refuted the assertion that only a small group opposed Sloan’s leadership.

Both the Baylor board of regents and Baylor’s student congress had conveyed disappointment that the referendum had been scheduled, and 47 faculty members advertised their objection by asking colleagues to boycott the planned ballot.

Baylor student body President Jeff Leach expressed a similar reaction, stating, “The results of the referendum do nothing but to once again state what we already know. We call for divisive steps such as these to come to an end so that Baylor students can move forward, continuing to be proud of the university that we all love so dearly and so that true unity and reconciliation may be achieved.”

Last year Sloan was affirmed by a 31-4 vote of the regents while a vote in May resulted in a close 18-17 decision against the call for him to resign. More recently, regents postponed indefinitely a repeated call for his resignation in the September meeting. The group convenes again Feb. 4 of next year.

A group of 20 Baylor faculty members issued a statement describing the referendum as a political move that gave no opportunity for debate. “Debating ideas is the hallmark of the academic life; taking polls is the province of politicians.” Preferring “the business of debating ideas,” the faculty group called the recent referendum a political move that was a flawed means of assessing faculty opinion.

“The much-touted referendum did not deliver what the Senate hoped. Despite months of planning, extraordinary publicity and easy access to the balloting, nearly 400 of Baylor’s faculty elected not to participate,” the statement read. “Despite the Senate’s claims of an ‘avalanche of faculty grievances’ and ‘a deeply polarized and relationally paralyzed Baylor community,’ it appears that plenty of folks are content enough with the university’s ambitious vision under Dr. Sloan’s presidency.”

The group called on the Faculty Senate to demonstrate “that it is not the chief catalyst for division and disagreement on the Baylor campus,” calling for an end to “closed meetings, its unrepresentative at-large elections, its secret reports, its clandestine voting records and its lists of grievances for which no evidence is provided.”

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