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Faculty speak out in Sloan's defense

Sept. 11, 2003

By Caressa Lattimore, reporter

Students, faculty and staff members crowded around a podium on the front steps of Pat Neff Hall Wednesday where three professors and one staff member spoke of allegiance to Baylor and President Robert B. Sloan Jr. following a no-confidence vote passed by the Faculty Senate Tuesday.

'We gather here today on the steps of this historic administration building to share together the heavy burden of pain we feel in this hour,' Dr. Randall O'Brien, chairman of the religion department, said. 'Our university is in crisis. Our president is in crisis, and we are in crisis. Each of us feels a heartrending sense of loss. Loss of community, loss of innocence, loss of wellness. A broken bone in our universe needs to be set. Let us give ourselves permission to grieve.'

Concerns raised by five members of the Baylor Board of Regents and by the Faculty Senate regarding Sloan's capabilities as president have sparked debates between his supporters and critics.

Wednesday's rally gave supporters the chance to express themselves before the board of regents meeting Friday.

O'Brien brought a copy of a letter from Sloan to the chairman of the Faculty Senate that stated his 'desire to work with all of Baylor's constituents to march hand-in-hand and arm-in-arm into a bright future.'

Dr. Charles Tolbert Jr., chairman of the department of sociology and anthropology, said that years ago he wasn't sure his 'professional development prospects would be fully realized' if he came to work at the Baylor he once knew.

'We're not the only ones now who can attest to that,' Tolbert said. 'Baylor has changed in many ways that accommodate my professional needs. But there remain also the cherished constants that made it possible for my parents to give 35 years of their lives to this institution.'

Tolbert said it's the leadership of the Baylor administration that has allowed Baylor to become an advanced institution. He said he came back with 'a little trepidation' because he isn't the stereotypical Baylor employee.

'You see, I don't exactly fit the mold that some have tried to cast for this administration and its supporters,' Tolbert said. 'I'm a quantitative social scientist, not one who wears the humanities label very well. I was raised a liberal democrat.'

Tolbert refuted the reliability of the faculty and staff survey conducted in February calling the overall response rates of 40 percent 'borderline satisfactory.'

'A survey on sensitive issues like these is likely to generate something we call selection bias,' Tolbert said. 'Folks who feel strongly are more likely to respond. At best, we probably have a fair description of the polar ends of these issues.'

Sarah Jane Murray, assistant professor of great texts, said she's excited to be at Baylor and said she doesn't agree with the negative views some have taken toward the interviewing and hiring process at Baylor.

'I'm not here today to discuss the merits or the unworthiness of such allegations,' Murray said. 'My interview with Baylor was particularly pleasant and intellectually stimulating. In many ways, the Baylor interview set the standard by which I was to judge all my other campus visits.'

She said she was proud that Baylor looked to what she herself had to offer the university as a prospective professor and was glad to be a part of a school where everyone comes together for a common goal.

'We're all here for exactly the same reason,' Murray said. 'So that our students can become prepared to go out into the world and make a difference because of the time they have spent at Baylor.'

It was because of Baylor's 10-year vision to give students the best education they can get that she decided to come here, she said.

Sloan's Vision 2012 is one point he's been highly criticized about. Loans taken out for construction and tuition hikes for students have given fuel to his critics' fire.

O'Brien said that Baylor is 'between the not yet and the already,' and Baylor's progress has added to the concerns raised about the university's direction. He said he sees this as an 'opportunity to model a Christian response to conflict.'

'We gather here today neither to canonize nor to demonize any person,' O'Brien said. 'It's going to be okay. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but in due season, everything is going to be alright.'