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Lilley is puzzling pick for next BU president

Nov. 8, 2005


The presidential search has moved too quickly again. But this time, it's permanent.

The regents announced Baylor's 13th president, Dr. John M. Lilley, at a press conference Friday, only about six weeks after a near-total breakdown in the search process.When the presidential search committee and advisory committee were split between interim President William D. Underwood and Pepperdine University business school Dean Linda Livingstone, it looked like the search for a president was starting over.

Under the circumstances, the regents made the right decision to hold off on the search for a while. That makes Lilley's pick all the more puzzling.

The university has been fine in the perfectly capable hands of the Underwood administration.

Ben Humeniuk | Lariat staff
Plus, Lilley is stepping out of a bitter situation as the president of the University of Nevada, Reno. A faculty report issued earlier this year showed that only 17 of 281 faculty and staff poll respondents had a positive view of morale on campus.

The report also talked about a climate of strong fear and distrust sparked by lawsuits the university filed against professors and the firing of a dean who disagreed with Lilley's long-term plans for the university, among other things.

Lilley was the president at Penn State Erie from 1980 to 2001 before his stint at UNR, so it's possible that he stepped into a bad situation with unsolvable problems. But the way he handled conflicts should at least raise some questions as to how he can help heal division on a campus that's seen no small amount of fighting over the past several years.

No matter what the case was at UNR, Lilley needs to operate with a light touch at Baylor. The university is still healing after years of division and bickering. The last thing it needs right now is what the UNR faculty report described as a climate of fear and intimidation.

The most important thing Lilley needs to do is be open and honest with faculty and staff, helping create an atmosphere of transparency and openness.

After so much fighting, the Baylor family deserves a little open air.