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Sloan defends stance

Sept. 13, 1996

President doesn't see publicity as destructive


By Alyson Ward

Lariat Night News Editor

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. spoke of balancing religion and academics Thursday to a constant stream of microphones, tape recorders, video cameras and telephone receivers.

Faculty members spent the day discussing the sudden controversy over the University's supposed shift to the right under Sloan's leadership ­ for it, against it or determined not to have any opinion about it at all.

And at least one student reacted to the uproar by protesting on the steps of Pat Neff Hall. Ted Nguyen, an Austin senior, milled around in the background of Sloan's television interviews carrying a sign that said, 'More academics ­ Less Jesus.'

Articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Waco Tribune-Herald Wednesday suggested that Sloan's presidency has placed religious devoutness above academic competency.

Since then, University officials, faculty and students have all been searching for definitive answers, attempting to get to the bottom of the controversy. But the three-way confusion and Thursday's media swarm settled no disagreements and only left the University disheveled.

'Publicity's always a two-edged sword,' Sloan said. But he doesn't think the bad PR is necessarily going to destroy Baylor's reputation.

'By and large, I don't mind the situation at all,' he said, adding that it gives him one more chance to publicize Baylor's purpose ­ academic excellence and a Christian commitment.

Many question whether the University's two goals can possibly be on perfectly equal footing, and some students and faculty members have said that academics have taken a backseat to judgment and narrow religion since Sloan became president in June 1995.

Sloan says academics are just as important as ever, though ­ that 'academic excellence and religious commitment are not mutually exclusive.'

Some Baylor faculty members are disturbed by the fact that Sloan has tried to re-write the University's faculty recruiting ads. They said that Sloan focused on the University's religious affiliation to the point of exclusion.

Sloan said Thursday that the changes in the ad only clarified the policy in effect for two decades 'so the ad would tell people upfront' what to expect from the University and what the University would expect from them.

Nguyen said that he was protesting what he sees as the tight religious control the administration has over the faculty. He said faculty members already hired are limited by the heavy religious atmosphere on campus and that the University hurts itself when it applies religious restrictions in the hiring process.

'I think academics should be what those people can do as teachers, as researchers, how they can contribute to the students,' he said. 'That's the important thing.'

'That doesn't mean that religion can't be a component,' Nguyen said, but in the long run academic capability should take priority.

Sloan said that since the University is a Christian university with a high academic standard, the debate over which is more important will continue.

'There will always be a tension in an institution such as Baylor between religious commitment and the pursuit of intellectual excellence,' Sloan said. 'Our task is not to slide off on one side or the other.'

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