Baylor University

President's Perspective: A Time of Adjustment

Nov. 2, 2003

Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr.

At various times in the stages of life and/or leadership one perceives a need for an adjustment or shift of priorities. Sometimes this calls for an increased emphasis upon some tasks. In other situations, it calls for a new direction. I am at such a point now -- I must adapt in strategic ways to the developing needs of Baylor and our vision.

The more than eight years of my presidency have been a period of change as we have aimed to sharpen the focus of Baylor and heighten its profile. Some change is easily visible. The many new facilities spread over the campus are tangible reminders of one type of change that moves our programs forward. Other changes, difficult to see yet of great importance, are focused upon heightening the profile and quality of the Baylor experience both academically and with respect to student life.

Understandably, different people have different tolerance levels for comparatively rapid change. I know, with a renewed clarity, that it is both an obligation, especially given the controversial issues of recent days, and a privilege of my office to be the pivot point at which our vision is articulated. In this regard, it is necessary that all of us reach out to one another. We need to listen to and truly hear the differing views and perspectives offered by those within our constituencies.

Room for change

There must always be room for adjustment and improvement in any plan. The 10-year term of Vision 2012 by its very nature makes some change in direction and emphasis inevitable as its implementation plays out. As with any long-range plan, the Vision will evolve and unfold in ways that cannot be fully charted at the outset.

To this end, I have been listening intently to those who have well-intentioned concerns about the Vision -- be they faculty, alumni or other constituencies. That is healthy for the University and it's healthy for every person touched by our work. There is also no mistaking the fact that the broad parameters of Baylor 2012 have already yielded much good for the University in terms of faculty, staff, student life, facilities, resources and academic programming and initiatives. Indeed, the Regents have repeatedly emphasized and reaffirmed the importance and primacy of the Vision. It is, and will continue to be, our blueprint; but ongoing revisions will occur as called for by our experiences and by our developing insights.

Two priorities of time

I am also at a juncture now at which I want more time to focus upon two critical endeavors to advance our University. These two matters form, I believe, the central core of feasibility and opportunity for a university of the national and regional stature of Baylor.

First, it is apparent that notwithstanding all our planning and aspirations, Vision 2012 -- and, in fact, the very future of the University -- turns upon the availability of significant resources. While gifts to the University have clearly increased over the last eight years, we need to move to a higher level. I plan to re-double my efforts in reaching out to an increasingly diverse audience -- indeed one that is nationwide, not just statewide or regional -- that embraces what we are doing as a unique endeavor that is critical to the common good within higher education and in our nation. We need as appropriate to tap into all of the potential resources available to us for realizing our aspirations as a university.

Second, I want to extend our message to a broader audience. We have a vision and a perspective that I believe will be heard with enthusiasm well beyond our traditional base. I would like to be able to bring the message of the University community and its many disciplines into a broader forum. The message is not just Baylor 2012 and the logistical aspects of the Vision. Our message -- our voice -- needs to be carried into a national forum. We at Baylor, in our programming and in our vision, are a repository of much wisdom and experience across the disciplines.

The areas to which Baylor is especially equipped to give direction involve not only the dynamics of higher education and our distinctive identity and experience, but also the many public policy issues which ought to be informed by Christian perspectives. Such themes include social order, justice and the ethics of culture -- including biomedical research, the corporate board room, the media, the arts and sports -- to name but a few areas of inquiry. These are the great issues of our day which can be so well debated and shaped on a discipline-specific level by work done at Baylor.

A voice for Baylor

I am looking forward to investing my time more fully in these endeavors. We need even greater resources, and we need to project our institutional voice to a far broader audience. I am ready, willing and able to do so, and I believe the University is well positioned for all of us to enjoy greater success on these fronts. I am indeed privileged to be in a position to be a servant to, and a voice for, the Baylor community in moving ahead on these objectives.

As the years go by, I am increasingly aware of the importance of delegation. Some of the matters with which I have invested certain amounts of time in the past -- including faculty hiring, the setting of faculty salaries and tenure issues -- are well-placed in the Office of the Provost, which in turn is working in concert with University deans and chairs and the faculty units in the schools and departments with which they serve.

While as President I have an accountability in these matters which I cannot and must not abdicate, I believe that Vision 2012 and its reflected aspirations are well served in the good and wise hands of many others and will require a lesser investment of my time. I have become an ardent believer in the truth of the observation that "if the work you're doing can be done as effectively by someone else, then you're wasting your time doing it."

I need now -- with the Vision in place, and the implementation of it set within a context of ongoing adaptation -- to be doing that which only the president can do. I look forward to a continued broadening of Baylor's influence, as all of us work together to accomplish the tasks set before us.

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