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Provost O'Brien to stay for now

Nov. 29, 2005

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O'Brien

by ANALIZ GONZALEZ, staff writer

Interim Provost Randall O'Brien will keep his administrative position until after March 1, officials announced last week.

During Baylor's transitional period, the opportunity to have continuity in the provost position "should be seized," Dr. John M.Lilley, president-elect, said.

Lilley said that before selecting a new provost, he would like the faculty and administration to finish talks on how to reach two specific goals.

First, inspirational teaching/mentorship with increased scholarship or creative endeavors, and intentionality concerning Baylor's Christian mission and historic Baptist tradition.

Lilley said it is important these conversations be completed before a new provost is selected because deciding on how to implement these two goals has been "somewhat divisive." The conversations are to be completed March 1, and the search for provost will begin afterward.

"If we have greater unity through this conversation, we will have greater unity in selecting provost and we will have greater unity in attracting the candidates," Lilley said.

On June 1, Interim President William D. Underwood asked O'Brien to replace Provost David Jeffrey and serve as interim provost. O'Brien agreed to postpone his scholarly projects. Now he said he will delay them further.

"My intention was to serve simply in the transitional period until a new president was named," O'Brien said. "When John Lilley was named president, he asked me to stay a little longer to help with his transition. I agreed to do that until we could conduct a nationwide search for a permanent provost."

O'Brien said he would not want to be considered for the permanent provost position.

"I am happy to serve Baylor in any way that I'm asked to do so, but my greatest interest is in teaching and writing. So I feel like now, after serving in an administrative capacity the past seven years ... I would like to return to the classroom full time," he said.

Provost responsibilities include seeing Baylor's educational and research programs, coordinating academic programs and serving as CEO in the absence of the president.

Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said the main reason for deferring the provost selection is to get faculty input.

Lynn W. Tatum, president of the American Association of University Professors, called Lilley's openness in receiving faculty input a "positive thing."

"The more faculty input into the provost search, the better that will be for the prospects of a successful tenure," Tatum said.

He said O'Brien can been described as "balanced, moderating. ... I anticipate that his tenure will be a calming influence."

He said he hopes the permanent provost will be someone with a strong commitment to shared governance and academic freedom.

O'Brien has served in several administrative positions since 1998, including acting dean of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, special assistant to the president, chairman of the religion department and now interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.