Faculty Statement

Dec. 7, 2004

Statement in regard to the faculty referendum released by the following faculty members:

From: Michael Beaty, Walter Bradley, Steve Eisenbarth, Jan Evans, Steve Evans, Jim Farison, Barry Harvey, Douglas Henry, Byron Johnson, Robert Kruschwitz, Robert Marks, Martin Medhurst, Scott Moore, Mitchell Neubert, Robert Roberts, Alden Smith, Michael Thomas, Michael Thompson, Kenneth Van Treuren, and Ralph Wood on behalf of like-minded members of the Baylor University community.

Debating ideas is the hallmark of the academic life; taking polls is the province of politicians. Professors should be in the business of debating ideas. The Baylor Faculty Senate's recent referendum was a political move that did not give any such opportunity, even as it was also a flawed and invalid means for assessing faculty opinion.

In short, the much-touted referendum did not deliver what the Senate hoped. Despite months of planning, extraordinary publicity, and easy access to the balloting, nearly 400 of Baylor's faculty elected not to participate. Despite the Senate's claims of an "avalanche of faculty grievances" and "a deeply polarized and relationally paralyzed Baylor community," it appears that plenty of folks are content enough with the university's ambitious vision under Dr. Sloan's presidency.

Furthermore, plain-dealing statisticians--regardless of the results one way or the other--have judged the polling methodology to be biased and invalid. While statistically valid and reliable methods were available to the Senate, they instead pursued a voluntary poll, the likes of which are used in political campaigns. One can reasonably ask why the Senate took the referendum route, and one would be justified in concluding that political tactics fit its purposes better than statistically sound research.

By its own admission, the Senate's referendum is not binding upon anyone. The Board of Regents is not obliged to do anything in response. Indeed, they unanimously declined the opportunity to conduct the referendum, and they cannot possibly welcome the presumptuous rhetoric of some Senators that the referendum has "established a precedent" for the future conduct of the 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. Their previous 26-6 (81%) and 28-5 (85%) 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.

If any implication follows from the Senate's referendum, it is that the status quo for the Senate is over. The burden is now on the Senate to demonstrate that it is not the chief catalyst for division and disagreement on the Baylor campus. A promising step in the right direction would be for 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. Another positive step would be to volunteer a wholesale change of leadership in the Senate. Such steps on the part of the Senate would do wonders for helping the whole University community to move on from the present contentiousness, and to unite, to be reconciled, and to resume our proper work.

Surely we all share enthusiasm for a better Baylor, one that honors the past but unhesitatingly improves upon it. In this spirit, let us as a faculty build on our mutual commitment to Baylor and find ways to resolve the issues that we face together. By so doing, we will live up to the best of the university's heritage, one in which faculty honor one another and the truth by dealing with ideas and issues with honesty, forthrightness, and good will.

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