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Administrators, faculty discuss Siebens grant

Sept. 12, 1996

By Liberty Lay

Lariat Staff Writer

In a meeting Wednesday afternoon, university officials and some faculty discussed Baylor's involvement in a journalism and mass communications research project.

Although the meeting, which was conducted by President Robert B. Sloan Jr., had been scheduled for some time, it was held amid controversy that erupted Wednesday morning when the Wall Street Journal and the Waco Tribune-Herald published stories concerning the University.

An article in yesterday's Waco Tribune-Herald stated that some faculty members have complained to Sloan about Baylor's relationship with the conservative Harold W. Siebens Foundation of Dallas.

However, Sloan said that references to the foundation and its affiliation with Baylor were 'inaccurate' and that the meeting was about an 'anonymous' donor.

'What we have is an individual donor who has requested that his name not be used,' Sloan said.

Dr. Michael Bishop, journalism chairman, voiced concerns about Baylor's ties to the Siebens foundation.

After Wednesday's meeting, Bishop expressed some optimism that the research project could be separate from its current political relationship and funded and completed on its own merits.

'If other questions can be resolved, there should be a way in which we can move forward together,' Bishop said.

According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, Siebens paid two non-journalism Baylor professors $65,000 to conduct research on journalism programs.

Although the story did not provide the professors' names, Bishop said he was 'impressed by the research commitment and professionalism' of Dr. Larry Chonko, marketing professor, and Dr. Michael Mansfield, political science professor.

Chonko and Mansfield could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Bishop said that the research matter is currently under advisement.

'My impression is that the University will continue to look at the questions of this particular project,' Bishop said.

He added that, at the meeting, others 'listened respectfully to my concerns' but some 'took different viewpoints.'

Bishop's concerns stem from the opinion that involvement with organizations like the Siebens foundation could be interpreted as a 'sell-out.'

'They want to buy Baylor's name,' Bishop said.

Although faculty members have 'serious objections' about building any sort of relationship with Siebens' 'extremist group,' Bishop said '...the journalism department will work in a cooperative spirit with legitimate research.'

'Our concerns are that the foundation seeks to build a journalism education program that will turn out arch-conservative reporters and editors. To construct such a program at Baylor would damage our academic reputation and destroy the program we have now,' he said.

The foundation, which financially supports conservative media organizations, became involved with Baylor when university fund-raiser Randy Lofgren met with Stewart Siebens at a 1994 football game.

According to a memo from Lofgren, Siebens proposed establishing a relationship between his family foundation and Baylor in order to '...counter the prevailing philosophy of the [journalism] profession.'

Siebens, Lofgren said, expressed concern about the '...prevalence of the liberal perspective in reporting.'

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