After the Board of Regents fell short by one vote last May to oust the President of Baylor University, opponents of Robert Sloan finally got their way on Friday without firing a shot. It was announced on Friday that Sloan would step down from the position of President and CEO of Baylor and move into the position of Chancellor. Though the public face of the transition appeared very amiable, it is an open secret that this transition was the result of pressure from opposition both within and without the University.
Sloan had become a lightning rod of sorts, advocating a vision for Baylor University that would make it a top-tier academic institution while maintaining a distinct Christian mission and identity. This vision is called “Baylor 2012.” In Sloan’s words, “Baylor University has the opportunity to become the only major university in America, clearly centered in the Protestant traditions, to embrace the full range of academic pursuits.”
In the November 2004 issue of First Things, Richard John Neuhaus expressed precisely what was at stake in this vision:
“The crux of the conflict at Baylor is over the nature of truth, and whether it is possible under evangelical Protestant auspices to build a world-class research university and thus provide a counterforce to the dreary history of the declension of Protestant (and Catholic) higher education from Christian seriousness, a declension powerfully narrated by James Burtchaell’s The Dying of the Light. . . . The cultural and intellectual influence of Christian higher education in this society has a lot riding on the bold, and predictably embattled, experiment underway at Baylor” (First Things, November 2004, pp. 71-72 ).
I fear that the vision of “Baylor 2012” will have a whole different character or be perhaps entirely lost without Sloan at the helm. However, I am reminded by a good friend that the glass may not be half empty, but half full. He writes:
“Don’t forget that the board is pretty well Sloan’s board. The chairman is a member of Prestonwood. Wouldn’t it be ironic if a greater than Sloan was elected President? Also, remember the Provost, who will run the school in the interim, is Dr. David Jeffrey, a Wheaton grad who has hired about half the present faculty, all of whom are conservative evangelical Christians who know how to integrate faith and learning. If this is a movement of God, not just of Sloan, who can stop it?”
I will be hoping and praying that my friend is right.