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Sloan gets no-confidence vote

Sept. 10, 2003

By Sandi Villarreal, reporter

A no-confidence motion was passed in the Baylor Faculty Senate Tuesday by a vote of 26-6. The motion is a request by the Faculty Senate to the Baylor Board of Regents to 'undertake a change in the leadership of the university.' This comes on the heels of a letter released by five members of the board of regents calling for the resignation of President Robert B. Sloan Jr.

'President Sloan's leadership methods and direction has eroded to a point where only a personal change at the top can begin to restore the trust, common purpose and faithful cooperation within and among Baylor's constituencies,' Dr. Joe Cox, Faculty Senate chairman and management professor, read from the motion in a press conference following the decision.

The catalyst of the decision came from the results of a survey given in February questioning the faculty members' confidence in the current administration. The result was a perceived level of discontent among faculty members. The Faculty Senate denies allegations that this decision was a result of the recent scandals involving the Baylor basketball team.

'The word 'basketball' was never mentioned,' Cox said. 'We're an academic unit, and we're dealing with academic issues.'

The motion delivered by the Faculty Senate does not have the power to remove Sloan from the office of president. The board of regents meets today and Thursday and will discuss the motion, but there is no plan to make a decision about it.

'The board of regents by the constitution of the university doesn't even have to consider that vote,' Dr. David L. Jeffrey, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said. 'The Faculty Senate may transmit such a vote, but there is no obligation upon the regents to confirm it.'

The most prevalent reason given for the motion and for the feelings distrust from the faculty was what is being described as a climate of fear.

'Dr. Sloan's presidency has produced a chilling work environment, a climate characterized by distrust, anxiety, intimidation, favoritism, as well as profound concerns about the sanctity of academic freedom and professional standards,' the motion read.

Faculty Senate members expressed a fear of retribution as a result of the stand being taken by the group. The members deliberated for hours on three separate occasions before reaching their decision. The end decision came as a result of a need to better the environment for both the faculty and the students.

'The overriding concern is that we want to create an environment for the students, and that is why we're here,' Dr. Charles Weaver, member of executive committee of the Faculty Senate and professor of psychology and neuroscience, said. 'We're entrusted to create the best academic environment that we can, and that's a trust we take very seriously.'

Following the press conference, Sloan responded to the vote with words of confidence in his continued leadership position at Baylor and in the level of support he has.

'I think that the Faculty Senate is only one venue for faculty members to express themselves, and I believe that there are others,' Sloan said. 'I believe that it is very important to listen to all the voices, and that is what I intend to do.'

Proponents of Sloan plan to continue their support both financially and vocally. The Friends of Baylor University have raised another $300,000 for the organization, in addition to the $1 million given to Baylor's endowment over a week ago.

'We don't think the senate speaks for all of the faculty,' Russell Trippet, a Waco businessman and member of the Friends of Baylor, said. 'Universities and organizations go through bad times and it's the leadership that will get them out of it. We believe that Sloan is the right leadership.'

The group is continuing their aid in a rally to vocalize support for Sloan today. The time and place of the event are yet to be announced.

Sloan spoke of the dissent that has grown among faculty members and staff as a result of the sweeping changes that have been taking place in school policy and in creating a more competitive university.

'Change is hard on all of us, but we have to be a university that's willing to be a distinctive voice in higher education and one that maintains a Christian commitment,' Sloan said.

Sloan said he is making no plans to step down as president of the university.

'You don't solve problems by running away from them,' he said. 'I am committed to being Baylor University's president.'