Faculty Senate Releases Referendum Results

Dec. 7, 2004

by Vicki Marsh Kabat

Special from Baylor Magazine

Against the backdrop of a faculty-led boycott, Baylor's Faculty Senate announced late Monday night the results of a referendum on the presidency of Robert B. Sloan Jr. About 59 percent -- or 490 -- of the 838 eligible faculty voted in the referendum, which had one question: Should Robert Sloan remain as president of Baylor University?

Of the 490 ballots cast, 418 voted no on the question, 69 voted yes and three were blank.

Faculty Senate retained the McLennan County Election Commission to conduct the vote, held Nov. 30-Dec. 3.

There was no official comment from the president's office, but Will Davis, chair of Baylor's Board of Regents, said in a prepared statement: "The recently concluded Faculty Senate referendum on the leadership of President Sloan sheds no new light on the fact that a segment of faculty do not agree with the current administration of the University."

Davis added, "I would remind all Baylor constituents that the Board of Regents has the sole responsibility for determining who serves as president of the University. I hope that the administration will continue to make progress in reaching out to faculty to address their concerns and that the faculty will reciprocate."

The regents at their September meeting rejected a request by the Senate to sponsor the referendum, and on Oct. 3, Student Congress passed a resolution registering its objection to the referendum.

The executive committee of the Faculty Senate saw the referendum results as vindication of the Senate's previous two no-confidence votes in Sloan's leadership. "The results of the referendum unequivocally confirm and reinforce the position that the Baylor Faculty Senate has taken in its two no-confidence votes against President Sloan in September 2003 and May 2004," the Senate's statement read. "Over the course of the last 18 months, various Baylor administrators have continued to assert publicly and in private meetings that the opposition to President Sloan's leadership was limited to a small, vocal group of faculty. The results of this referendum clearly refute that assertion."

The no-confidence votes were 26-6, or 81 percent, and 28-5, or 85 percent, respectively.

The faculty group leading the boycott claimed the referendum would cause further division on campus, and that the method to be used was statistically invalid and would set an unwelcome precedent in shared governance. After the referendum results were announced, that group noted in a statement that the Senate's no-confidence votes did not accurately represent the wider faculty.

"The referendum does suggest one thing clearly: the Baylor faculty as a whole does not mimic the lopsided pessimism evident in the Senate's past votes of 'no-confidence' on President Sloan's presidency," the statement read. "Their previous votes nowhere near reflect the reality of Baylor's faculty, of which 420 -- half -- did not participate in the divisive referendum at all or else voted in Dr. Sloan's favor."

Forty-seven faculty members had sponsored ads in the student newspaper, The Lariat, urging their colleagues not to participate in the referendum. Barry Hankins, associate professor of history and church-state studies, said, "We want to stop fighting and start dialoguing, and we don't think the faculty referendum is any way going to increase dialogue. There wasn't even a dialogue leading up to the faculty referendum," he said, referencing the fact that the decision was made by the 33 senators alone.

Baylor's Faculty Senate does not hold open meetings and in the past has been criticized by some faculty for this practice. In their statement, faculty who opposed the referendum urged the Senate to "end its closed meetings, its unrepresentative at-large elections, its secret reports, its clandestine voting records, and its lists of grievances for which no evidence is provided."

The group also urged a "wholesale change of leadership" in the Senate as a way to help the University move forward.

Student Body president Jeff Leach also released a statement expressing disappointment that the referendum was held. "We believe that the recent faculty referendum was divisive and that it will prove ineffective in achieving reconciliation. The results of the referendum do nothing but to once again state what we already know."

Leach added, "We call for divisive steps such as these to come to an end so that Baylor students can move forward, continuing to be proud of the University that we all love so dearly and so that true unity and reconciliation may be achieved."

To read complete statements from various Baylor groups about the referendum, click here.

For more on this story and on the debate about academic and religious freedom on campus, look for your February issue of Baylor Magazine, mailing the end of January and online at www.baylormag.com on Jan. 17.

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