On his first day as interim president at Baylor University, William Underwood fired the Texas Baptist school's highly visible symbol of Vision 2012: provost David Jeffrey.
Jeffrey recruited many Christian faculty as part of Vision 2012, two goals of which are a deeper integration of Christian faith and scholarship, and that Baylor become a top-tier research university. After Jeffrey refused to resign, Underwood on June 1 ended his role as provost. The move further polarized the campus, already divided over Vision 2012 and the actions of Robert Sloan, the previous president who is now chancellor.
The next day at an all-campus event, Randall O'Brien, the incoming interim provost, observed, "We're an army shooting at each other. When will this madness end?" Underwood, in emphasizing the "proper" integration of faith and learning, said at the meeting, "We largely agree that the Christian character of this university is its greatest asset."
Recently, other pro-Sloan officials have stepped down, including three vice presidents: Eileen Hulme (student life), Marilyn Crone (enrollment), and Rick Creel (facilities).
Rodney Stark, the prominent sociologist who joined Baylor's faculty in 2004, told CT, "We've made incredible progress. [But] it's hanging in the balance right now."
As Baylor's regents gather for a three-day meeting this week, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports that the divisions that preceded Sloan's departure remain . A private investigator claiming to be hired by "rich and powerful" people is researching Underwood and has contacted at least one law professor, the newspaper reported. Baylor officials speculated that the investigator was trying to dig up dirt to oppose Underwood should he become a candidate for Baylor's presidency.
The prospect of Underwood remaining as president has many pro-Sloan faculty looking elsewhere for jobs. Theology and literature professor Ralph Wood wrote in The Dallas Morning News, "Why should they want to remain at a university whose president has dismissed the man who embodied the Christian scholarly excellence that brought them to Baylor?"
"Make no mistake," Wood continued. "We will soon see a talent exodus from Baylor's faculty unless real wholeness can be restored to Baylor's broken community."
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Past Christianity Today coverage of the Battle for Baylor includes:
2012: A School Odyssey | Baylor strives to go where no Christian university has gone beforein ten years (Nov. 22, 2002)
Baylor's Sloan: 'It's Time for Someone New'| Controversial president to become university chancellor in June. (Jan. 21, 2005)
Springtime for Baylor Still Lies Ahead | Sloan's move out of the presidency isn't bad news. A view from inside Baylor. (Jan. 21, 2005)
Don't Bury Baylor | Sloan's resignation doesn't mean secularism won the day. (Feb. 16, 2005)
More articles are available at our Battle for Baylor page.
Baylor's statement about the David Jeffrey's firing is available from their website.
News elsewhere includes:
PI's questions puzzle, irk Underwood, Baylor officials | At least one Baylor University Law School professor says he has been contacted by a private investigator whose apparent objective is to uncover information discrediting interim Baylor President Bill Underwood (Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)
Baylor regents gather for low-key meeting | Regent chairman Will Davissaid he does not anticipate the board will take any significant action (Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)
Right man for BU's crisis | Bill Underwood could usher in a new Golden Era for Baylor (Thomas E. Turner Sr., Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)
Will Sloan's departure end Baylor's battle? | It's crucial that regents choose a healer as president (Ralph Wood, The Dallas Morning News)
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