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An Alternative Vision for Baylor

Robert M. Baird, Professor and Chair of Philosophy and Master Teacher

Robert M. Baird advocates a more fluid set of boundaries than those currently in place for religious requirements in hiring, tenuring, and promotion of Baylor faculty members. Drawing on his own experience at Baylor as both a student and a professor, Baird is persuaded that there is no reason to be anxious about Baylor's capacity to sustain its vibrant religious identity. He argues, therefore, that we should proceed with as much selfconfidence about who we are as a Baptist and Christian university, as does a Catholic university, such as Notre Dame, and that to enrich the intellectual life of the university we should be willing to hire and tenure some faculty members who may not be "vigorous in the life of faith," or who, in some cases, may be of other religions altogether. He uses three examples to make his case: Haywood Shuford, the influential philosophy teacher while Baird was a student at Baylor; Charles Hartshorne, the renowned metaphysician and philosopher of religion; and Michael Ruse, an important philosopher of science and a recent lecturer on the Baylor campus. Baird contends that notwithstanding the value these three individuals might bring to the intellectual life of Baylor, none of them, given their own spiritual perspectives, would likely be hired today because of what he calls "this intense emphasis on the religious criterion." While acknowledging the risks that such faculty hires might impose, Baird concludes by advocating "a more open hiring policy."

Excerpt

... The religious identity of the university has been secure in the past, is now secure, and I see no evidence that its ongoing security needs a more rigorous examination of the religious commitments of prospective faculty. Moreover, this intense emphasis on the religious criterion for Baylor faculty may prevent us from hiring men and women who could contribute significantly to Baylor's intellectual and spiritual life.


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