Baylor University to Hold Faculty-Wide Referendum on Presidency

Baylor University, the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT)-related institute that has struggled to push through a vigorous plan to remold itself as a top-tier university by 2012, may face a leadership change in the next academic year that could very well impede the 10-year plan that was championed by the university’s president in 2002.

According to the Baptist Standard, the BGCT’s newsmagazine, Baylor’s faculty senate will be holding their first faculty-wide referendum on whether the current President Robert B. Sloan should keep his job.

Sloan, the mastermind behind Baylor 2012, has been widely criticized for the high cost of implementing the vigorous plan. Under Baylor 2012, the university would dedicate $77 million to hire 230 new faculty positions, $51 million to hire staff, and spend $40 million to build new dorm rooms and lecture halls. The rocketed budget would be paid off by a tuition increase of 36 percent.

Numerous voices rose up against the plan since 2002. Most critics claim the plan has increased debt to a quarter-billion dollars and has pushed tuitions to levels unaffordable by middle-income families. Others expressed concern that the new and current faculty would have to undergo “narrow and rigid religious tests” to be eligible for employment.

Accordingly, the university’s Faculty Senate passed two votes of no confidence in Sloan as president in the last year.

From November 30 to December 2, Baylor’s Faculty Senate will hold yet another faculty-wide referendum on the future of Sloan. The ballots will be counted by hand on Dec. 6 by elections office employees.

According to the Star Telegram, “elections office personnel will monitor the parking lot to make sure no one is loitering in an attempt to identify participants or sway their votes,” and the "list of eligible voters will be destroyed after the totals are finalized, and individual votes will be kept secret.”

While many of the faculty praised the referendum, some of the pro-Sloan members questioned the appropriateness of the vote.

"I don't think students should vote for teachers, and I don't think staff should vote on their employer," said Dary Stone, a member of a pro-Sloan group called “Friends of Baylor”

Other faculty members also criticized the referendum as a move that may deepen the division on the already separated campus.

The referendum vote does not have a direct effect on Sloan’s employment, but may sway the decisions of the board of regents that has the authority to fire Sloan.

A year ago, the board voted to retain Sloan by a 31-4 vote; last year, the board voted in a much closer margin of 18-17. Meanwhile, the School’s regents reaffirmed their commitment to Baylor 2012 during a July 21-23 retreat this year.

Baylor University is the oldest institution of higher learning in Texas, and the largest Baptist University in the world. The Waco, Texas university, which has a 14,000 student body, was chartered in 1845.