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Baylor President Narrowly Survives Vote

Problems persist for embattled Baylor University President Robert Sloan.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reported on Saturday that Sloan survived a secret-ballot vote by the university’s board of regents by one vote. The paper cited unnamed sources reporting the vote, taken in executive session, as 18-17 in Sloan’s favor.

Also at last week’s regents’ meeting, a major donor said he wants loans repaid and past contributions returned unless Baylor changes direction.

Sysco Corporation founder John Baugh traveled to Waco from Houston despite failing health to meet with the board of regents behind closed doors Friday. According to a text of his comments, Baugh, 88, accused regents of looking the other way while Baylor is departing from its tradition as a “Baptist-principled” institution.

“Should the regents—either by specific decision or by default—allow the university’s course to continue to be altered, we shall request the several million dollars currently on loan to Baylor by the (John and Eula Mae Baugh) Foundation be paid without delay,” Baugh’s statement said. “Additionally, the further request will be made that Baylor return promptly the aggregate amount of contributions that Mrs. Baugh and I have made to the university in order that the proceeds may be immediately redistributed to the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”

Baugh said he and his wife were establishing a new fund for higher education in BGCT-related institutions “that are clearly committed to Baptist and BGCT ideas and ideals.” He said the fund would equal or exceed the amount made previously by all members of Baugh’s family to Baylor. A board of trustees comprised of Baylor graduates, faculty and other “well-qualified persons” will oversee the new “Partnership for Christian (Baptist) Education,” Baugh said.

The reported vote on Sloan’s leadership is the second in less than a year.

Five members of the board of regents announced their intentions to have Sloan fired last September. The full board instead gave Sloan a 31-4 vote of confidence, while directing him to work to improve relations with some faculty.

Baylor’s faculty senate has twice voted no-confidence in Sloan’s leadership. On May 4, faculty leaders voted 28-5 to reaffirm last September’s no-confidence vote, saying little had been done to improve a climate of distrust between faculty and administration.

Sloan’s supporters, however, said he has worked to reach out to the faculty and that the second no-confidence vote was politically motivated.

Last month Sloan wrote regents complaining that critics were conducting a letter-writing campaign to wear him down, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Faculty critics accuse Sloan of favoritism and retaliation, saying professors who criticize the president are passed over for promotions and pay raises.

He also is accused of using a fundamentalist approach to bolster Baylor’s religious identity, which some faculty say threatens academic freedom.

Other criticism targets Sloan’s long-range plan to increase emphasis on research, which some believe would diminish teaching and price the university out of reach for many students.

Sloan’s defenders say the faculty senate is out of step with the majority of the school’s teachers, who support his leadership. The faculty senate is asking regents to conduct a referendum on support for Sloan among all faculty this fall, if he is still in office.

Lower-than-expected enrollment numbers the last two years and construction costs required Baylor to cut $10 million from its budget this year and to borrow $4 million from reserves. Leaders said this year’s enrollment figures look more favorable.

Some were concerned at recent reports that Sloan, who makes $560,000 a year, received double-digit percent raises during three years when faculty salaries were flat.

He also has been criticized for use of a university airplane, which critics said illustrated a lavish lifestyle.

Sloan has been praised for his handling of alleged NCAA violations that came to light after the murder of basketball player Patrick Dennehy last year. Sloan accepted resignations from basketball coach Dave Bliss and the school’s athletics director and appointed a task force to review the university’s recruiting practices.

In a recent “State of the University” address, Sloan admitted he had made mistakes in relating to alumni and in not anticipating “unintended effects” of his Baylor 2012 long-range plan but also cited achievements including opening of a new residence hall and museum.

Sloan has been president of Baylor for nine years. Before that he taught in the university’s religion department and in 1993 was founding dean of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Regents last week elected Austin attorney Will Davis as their new chairman, replacing Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane. McLane was eligible for re-election but would not say at a press conference is he was nominated.

Davis is regarded a Sloan supporter.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.