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Pressure Mounts on Baylor President

Problems continue to mount for Baylor University President Robert Sloan, attempting to deal with death and scandal in the school’s basketball program, along with a faculty and trustee board already divided over his leadership.

The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that faculty leaders planned to seek a vote of no confidence against Sloan, because some feel he is too divisive to lead the school during the basketball scandal.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
“This is a time when the university needs a unifying figure,” said Charles Weaver, immediate past chairman of the faculty senate. “Is he the right person right now? He’s such a divisive figure. I’m not sure that’s the kind of leadership Baylor needs.”
 
Sloan fired back Thursday, however, telling reporters that hundreds of faculty members gave him a warm welcome at a private meeting earlier that day.
 
“I heard and felt the support of what I think had to be the overwhelming majority of the faculty,” Sloan said, the Dallas Morning News reported today.
 
Several dozen faculty and staff members also gathered to describe broad support for Sloan. Barry Harvey, an associate professor of theology, said if the faculty senate proceeds with the no-confidence vote after Thursday’s show of support “they will surrender any pretense of being a representative body.”
 
Weaver disputed claims that Sloan enjoys wide support, however, telling the Dallas newspaper that a survey done by the administration found that only about 30 percent of the faculty support the president.
 
On Tuesday, David Brooks, vice president for finance and administration, took over as interim athletic director. That came after Sloan was criticized for allowing the former athletic director to stay on temporarily after resigning Aug. 8 along with head basketball coach Dave Bliss.
 
Those resignations came after revelations that Bliss, caught on audio tape, told players to lie and say slain teammate Patrick Dennehy was a drug dealer in an effort to cover up alleged violations of NCAA rules.
 
Sloan was already under fire from some regents over his ambitious 10-year campus growth plan that critics fear could lead to financial ruin, and from faculty and alumni divided over his approach to carrying out the Baptist-affiliated school’s religious mission.
 
On top of that, some in the media are now saying Sloan should accept responsibility for the basketball scandal.
 
The Houston Chronicle called for Sloan’s resignation in a Monday editorial.
 
“As university head, Sloan bears the ultimate responsibility for ensuring Baylor runs an upright program,” the paper said. “Having failed dramatically, it’s time for him to step down. Failing that, the board of regents must make the decision for him.”
 
The Waco Tribune-Herald called for “a good house cleaning” at Baylor and criticized leadership for trying to manage the scandal by controlling the flow of information.
 
The chairman of Baylor’s board of regents, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr., recently sent an e-mail telling board members not to talk to the media about events unfolding at the university.
 
“Regrettably, top Baylor officials appear to believe that it is better to hunker down and batten the hatches rather than throw open the doors and clear the air,” the newspaper said.
 
Sloan, in an online question-and-answer forum with Baylor alumni, said he would not resign.
 
“As I’ve said many times, I serve at the will of our board,” he said on the Web site BaylorBears.ocsn.com. “I am totally committed to this university, to the 10-year vision of the university, and I intend, again at the will of the board, to continue to serve the university.”
 
Sloan repeated that he had no plans to resign when he spoke to reporters on Thursday. “I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received from the faculty of this university, and I’m very grateful for the support I received from the regents of this university,” he said. Sloan said McLane called him Thursday to say his office had been flooded with supportive faxes.
 
Meanwhile, a member of Sloan’s administrative team sought to rally support for the embattled president on another Web site.
 
“Since those opposed to Dr. Sloan and his administration have been so vocal, I believe it is time for the supporters of Dr. Sloan and his administration to be heard,” Bethany McCraw, associate dean for judicial and legal student services, wrote in an online discussion at www.baylorfans.com.
 
The posting included e-mail addresses for regents and other leaders and urged Sloan supporters to use them to register a “vote of confidence” for Sloan.
 
Tom Stanton stepped down Tuesday as interim athletic director, but Baylor officials said there was no evidence that he knew anything about of any cover up of NCAA violations.
 
“Right now, the only thing I know for sure is that I want my departure to contribute to healing the hurt and anger that Baylor supporters feel about recent events in our men’s basketball program,” Stanton said.
 
The university will hold a campus-wide memorial service Aug. 28 for Dennehy, who was allegedly shot and killed by a former teammate on or around June 12.
 
After Dennehy’s death, Bliss told assistant coaches and players to tell investigators that he sold drugs to raise money for tuition to divert attention away from questions about improper payments to players and mishandling of drug tests, according to tapes of meetings turned over to the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
 
Bliss reportedly said on the tapes that Dennehy couldn’t deny the accusations because he was dead. Bliss could face criminal charges if it is determined that he attempted to mislead police.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.