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Faculty senators upset about recruitment letter

Sept. 19, 1996

By Neal Suit

Lariat reporter

At a spirited faculty senate meeting Tuesday afternoon, some senators expressed concern with President Robert B. Sloan's recruitment letter to prospective faculty members in regard to phrasing that might be construed as placing too much emphasis on religious criteria for employment.

'I invited Dr. Sloan to come and address any issues he felt were important enough to address,' said Dr. Jeter Basden, faculty senate chair and associate religion professor.

The majority of the time was spent in a question-and-answer session between Sloan and the senators about the recent publicity the University has received.

'There was a great deal of faculty interest in expressing to Dr. Sloan the dissatisfaction with the letter that he is sending to prospective faculty members,' Dr. Lewis Barker, psychology professor said.

The major concern appears to be about the phrasing of the letter. Some fear that it may give the impression of Baylor associating with the far right.

'The fear is, and judging from the reaction of the senators, perhaps rightly so, that receiving this letter out of the blue may be a cause for concern [for prospective faculty members],' said Dr. John Fox, anthropology professor.

Fox said that the phrasing of the language may be very common among the Baylor and Baptist communities, but it could lead those unfamiliar with the terminology into linking Baylor with the far right.

Sloan addressed the issue by making an offer to review his letter. Another faculty senator asked Sloan if he would allow a faculty senate committee to write a letter for him to review. Sloan rejected the idea.

'Dr. Sloan has a very nice style, a very open style,' Fox said. 'He indicated, in my opinion, that he would take a look at the wording but would not change his position.'

''President Sloan indicated it [the letter] needed to be reviewed and perhaps rephrased,' said Dr. Bill Jensen, art professor.

The issue of the recent controversy over the Siebens Foundation grant to Dr. Larry Chonko, marketing professor, and Dr. Michael Mansfield, political science professor, to study journalism and mass communications at the University was also discussed.

'He [Sloan] said if the professors did not want to go on with it, in fact, the money would be given back to Siebens,' Barker said.

Last week, Sloan said that a $50,000 grant had been given to the University by an anonymous donor and not from the Siebens Foundation proper. On Tuesday at a faculty senate meeting, Sloan said the money came from Stewart Siebens. According to documents obtained by The Lariat, Siebens has represented the foundation in discussions with Baylor beginning in 1994.

Barker said Sloan did indicate that Chonko and Mansfield would make a decision by Wednesday. Late Wednesday, neither Chonko and Mansfield would not confirm if a decision had been reached.

After Sloan left the meeting, the senate continued a heated discussion. At one point, a senate member asked if a vote of 'no confidence' in Sloan was in order, but the idea was quickly discarded.

'A comment to that effect [a no-confidence vote] was made, but in the context that down the road if dialogues weren't open that could be the situation,' Jensen said.

One unidentified faculty senate member was not sure if the exact term 'vote of no confidence' was used, but the source did confirm that the idea was presented in case the impasse between the faculty and administration continued.

The faculty member expressed a concern that members of the faculty were being intimidated about speaking out, especially those who had not yet received tenure.

There is also a concern among the faculty that progress between the faculty and administration is being impeded by the press.

'I think we're much more likely to carry on helpful conversations if they are not in print,' Dr. Robert Baird, philosophy department chairman, said.

'I think both he[Sloan] and the Senate were disappointed that the issue could not be dealt with in the common course of things, inside the family,' Basden said.

Jensen was optimistic that Sloan had opened the avenues of discussion with the faculty.

'It just needs to be stressed that this is an on-going discussion,' Jensen said. 'I had the impression at the meeting Dr. Sloan was willing to work with us.'

Sloan was unavailable for comment late Wednesday.

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