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Baylor regents drop investigation of Jaclanel McFarland

WACO, Texas–A two-month Baylor University investigation found “insufficient evidence” to remove a member of the Baptist school’s board of regents suspected of tipping off students about an on-campus drug sting operation.The regent, Houston attorney Jaclanel McFarland, could have been the first member of the board to be impeached in the school’s 158-year history.

Baylor launched an internal investigation of McFarland in May, reportedly after she refused demands to resign from the board.

At the time, Baylor officials accused McFarland of leaking information about a campus police operation to her son, a former member of a fraternity under investigation by an undercover officer posing as a student.

McFarland denied discussing the probe, saying she didn’t even know about it until six students were arrested in April, a small number for the scope of the sting, which Baylor officials blamed on someone blowing the officer’s cover.

After finding “reasonable cause” for an investigation in May, Baylor regents issued a statement Wednesday saying they were closing the matter due to “insufficient evidence” to warrant further action.

McFarland said she was “pleased and relieved” to be continuing as a member of the board. She also pledged to continue the activity that she says got her into trouble in the first place, criticizing university President Robert Sloan.

“I will remain vigilant in my effort to do all I can to ensure that Baylor University remains one of the finest universities in the country,” she read from a prepared statement. “For now, my biggest concern is with the direction the university has taken under Robert Sloan’s leadership.”

McFarland, once a strong supporter of Sloan, has been one of the most vocal critics of his implementation of Baylor 2012, the university’s 10-year strategy plan. The plan, aimed at moving Baylor into one of the nation’s 50 top colleges, has some good points, she told reporters, but she said she is concerned about low morale among faculty and costs being passed on to students.

“I think we have a leadership crisis at Baylor, and it will be up to the board of regents to decide how to handle it,” she said. “I don’t speak for the board; I speak only for myself.”

McFarland declined to rule out the possibility of a lawsuit in the wake of the investigation and negative publicity it generated. “Those decisions haven’t been made yet,” she said. “We’re still considering our options.”

McFarland has another year left in her current term on Baylor’s board, but she is eligible for re-election to another three-year stint by the Baptist General Convention of Texas this fall. She said she would serve if re-elected.

Sloan said he understood McFarland’s “frustration” over recent events but insisted the investigation was handed properly.

“I think we’re all really grateful for the process,” he noted. “The process was right. We went through the process. The process worked. I think we’re all very relieved the investigative committee has come to its final conclusion–there is not sufficient evidence to pursue this matter any further.”

Sloan acknowledged that the episode had brought criticism on both him and the university, but he said his future as president is not in jeopardy.

“My future is in God’s hands,” Sloan said. “I feel very confident about the support of the regents. I feel confident about the regents’ support of the 10-year vision of the university. I’m confident, frankly, about the support of Baylor alumni for the 10-year vision. … I hear it every day. I receive e-mails and letters and phone calls on a daily basis of very strong support.”

In time, the regents and the Baylor community will resolve the rift created by the investigation, he predicted.

“Our regents are people of enormously good faith and Christian commitment, and they have already had very warm discussions among themselves about their personal relationships, about their commitment to Christ, about their commitment to Baylor,” he said. “And I expect to see every evidence of people pulling together. People don’t have to agree with one another to work together.”

This story is adapted from report by Marv Knox that appeared in the Baptist Standard.