We, the Students . . .

“We, the Students . . .” provides a platform for thoughtful reflections arising from the student body of Baylor University, and is addressed to our esteemed faculty, administrators, and regents. This blog conveys the sentiments of numerous current Baylor students and is not affiliated with nor approved by the University or any of its constituent parts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What About Us, Marv?

On October 14th, the Baptist Standard posted an editorial that named "four major stakeholding constituencies" which should be represented on a proposed "reconciliation task force": the regents, the faculty, the Alumi Association, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Later that very day, we, the students, were informed of the editorial; after reading it, we were quite concerned that perhaps the single most important "stakeholding constituency" had been left out: us--the students.

We immediately e-mailed the author, Mr. Marv Knox, with the question, "What about the students? Shouldn't our concerns be heard?" We have yet to receive a substantive reply to our question, but we do look forward to hearing a response from Mr. Knox.

We would like to note, however, that the editorial board of the Waco Tribune-Herald has taken up our cause in this matter, if even ever so slightly. In an October 23rd editorial, the board listed Mr. Knox's four constituencies and then made the following comment: "A constituency he doesn't mention, but which would be equally valuable in providing a voice and direction, is students."

Thanks for that, Waco Trib.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A New Plea To Our Regents

We, the students of Baylor University, with a view toward the advancement and strengthening of our cherished alma mater, and in hope that our petitions will be taken to heart by you, our esteemed Board of Regents, whom God has seen fit to place in a position of service and trust for our well-being, offer the following plea on behalf of literally thousands upon thousands of our like-minded classmates.

We abound in love for our university and we believe that you do as well. We were quite heartened by the resolution you adopted this past July, in which you declared, first, Baylor's commitment "to recruit and hire highly qualified faculty who are committed Christians" (our emphases) and, second, the "expect[ation that] every faculty member . . . examine and consider how his or her faith impacts his or her professional life." Thank you for making it unequivocally clear that Baylor is a place where academic excellence is sought and informed by a Christian commitment that actually makes a difference.

Recent historical studies of formerly Christian universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, and Vanderbilt have demonstrated that these institutions were led slowly and imperceptibly down the road to secularization by administrators and faculty members with deeply religious commitments who simply failed to be intentional in their integration of faith and learning. For the sake of our alma mater, we believe that Baylor can and must learn from their mistakes. Therefore, we, the students, urge our Board of Regents to select a new president who understands the vital importance of being intentional with respect to strengthening Baylor's identity as a distinctively Christian university. Any old university can strive for academic excellence, but precious few share anything like Baylor's exceptional potential to realize academic excellence while simultaneously fostering deep reflection on the academic disciplines from an unapologetically faith-informed perspective.

We refer to "Baylor's potential," as if this goal were not yet being realized; but certainly we are already beginning to achieve these goals. A December 2002 article in Christian Century about Baylor's ambitious Vision 2012 concluded thus: "One question remains: if you build a world-class university in Waco, Texas, will topflight Christian faculty come?" Contrary to the predictions of some, we now know that the answer to this question is yes. Will better and brighter students come? We now know the answer, again, is yes. Baylor's combination of academic excellence with intentional Christian commitment is its greatest and most distinctive strength.

We, the students, are convinced of the importance of a new president's being selected who appreciates the vital necessity of continuing to reaffirm and strengthen Baylor's Christian identity. We maintain the highest hopes and deepest affection for our university. We can do nothing but trust in you to make the right decisions regarding our future.

Please, show us that we are in good hands.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Full Texas Legislature Commends Vision 2012

An attentive reader has pointed out that in 2003 the entire Texas legislature passed a resolution (S.C.R. No. 5) written specifically to "commend Baylor's commitment to achieve top-tier status as embodied in the university's 10-year vision, Baylor 2012."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Texas House of Representatives, BGCT Boards Honor 2012 Visionary

Now here's a story you won't read in the Lariat. In the past three weeks, two boards of the Baptist General Convention of Texas have voted to honor 2012 Visionary (and current Chancellor), Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr. The Christian Education Coordinating Board (on September 15th) and the Executive Board (on September 27th) passed resolutions expressing their appreciation to Dr. Sloan for his decade of leadership as President of Baylor University. The full text of the Executive Board's resolution follows:

Whereas pioneer Texas Baptists voted in 1844 to “found a Baptist university in Texas upon a plan so broad… that it would be susceptible of enlargement and development to meet the demand of all ages to come”; and

Whereas Baylor University was chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845 and is today the oldest university in continuous operation in the state and the largest Baptist university in the world; and

Whereas since its creation Baylor University has fulfilled its mission in a close and cooperative relationship with Texas Baptists and specifically with what is today the Baptist General Convention of Texas; and

Whereas Baylor University has enjoyed the leadership of many presidents who have served the university and Texas Baptists with great ability and distinction; and

Whereas Robert B. Sloan, Jr. was elected president of Baylor University and began his service as president on June 1, 1995; and

Whereas Dr. Sloan served Baylor with tireless energy, personal passion, and great vision; and

Whereas under his leadership Baylor University has enjoyed significant progress and remarkable accomplishments across the broad spectrum of university life, has maintained a clear and intentional commitment to its Christian heritage and Baptist identity, and has embarked upon an ambitious plan for the future called Vision 2012; and

Whereas having completed ten years of service as president, Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr. was named Chancellor of Baylor University, beginning those duties on June 1, 2005;

Therefore, be it resolved that we, the Christian Education Coordinating Board and the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas extend to Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr. our sincere gratitude for the leadership he gave to Baylor University during his tenure as president; and

Be it further resolved that we also express to him our great appreciation for the many ways that he has personally participated in and supported the mission and ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas; and

Be it finally resolved that we extend to him, his wife Sue, and their entire family our congratulations and best wishes as he assumes the role of Chancellor, and commit to them our continued prayer on their behalf for God’s richest blessings and purposes in their lives.

These BGCT resolutions come after the Texas House of Representatives in May passed an equally impressive resolution (H.R. No. 2100) written to "express[ . . . the chamber's] high regard" for Dr. Sloan and his accomplishments. The House voted to honor him "for his many contributions as president of Baylor University and extend to him sincere best wishes as he continues his faithful service to his Lord, his alma mater, and the people of Texas . . ." The resolution proclaims that "Dr. Sloan can take justifiable pride in the many advances achieved during his term as its president and in the lofty vision that he championed and that is today shaping the university for the 21st century." The full text of this resolution follows:

WHEREAS, Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr., takes up a new post as chancellor of Baylor University on June 1, 2005, after shepherding that institution through 10 transformative years in his capacity as university president; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Sloan assumed the presidency of Baylor on June 1, 1995, and during his tenure he has led the school through a period of significant academic, physical, and financial expansion; that growth was epitomized by the regents' adoption in 2001 of a 10-year plan to move the university into the upper echelons of American higher education while strengthening its Christian mission; and

WHEREAS, During Dr. Sloan's tenure as president, Baylor has established three new schools--engineering and computer science, Honors College, and social work--and created five new doctoral programs; the number of full-time faculty has grown from 644 to 780, annual expenditures for research and other sponsored activity have more than tripled, and faculty grant proposals have risen substantially; in 2004, Baylor was the only school, out of 50 institutions across the country studied by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, to receive an "A" rating on its core curriculum; and

WHEREAS, While Dr. Sloan has guided the university, enrollment at Baylor has risen by 14 percent and minority enrollment has risen as well, with minorities constituting nearly one-third of the 2004 freshman class; the average SAT score of entering freshmen has also improved, and for three consecutive years, from 2002 to 2004, a Baylor student has been awarded one of the prestigious Truman Scholarships; moreover, Baylor students have gained new opportunities to expand their horizons through the addition of 19 study-abroad programs and 22 exchange agreements with international institutions; and

WHEREAS, Under Dr. Sloan's administration, the operating budget at Baylor has more than doubled and the endowment has increased nearly twofold; a five-year capital campaign, begun in 1999, was successfully concluded a year ahead of schedule, having exceeded its goal by $27 million; altogether, gifts to the university during Dr. Sloan's presidency total almost $400 million; and

WHEREAS, To accommodate the dramatic increase in academic programs and the attendant growth in the number of students and faculty, Dr. Sloan has overseen the expansion of the Baylor campus from 450 acres to almost 750 acres, together with the construction of approximately $400 million worth of new facilities; and

WHEREAS, Baylor students have enjoyed notable athletic success during Dr. Sloan's presidency, winning a number of conference championships and claiming two NCAA national championships; equally significant, Baylor student-athletes led the Big 12 in 2004 with a 78 percent overall graduation rate; and

WHEREAS, Born in Coleman and raised in Abilene, Robert Sloan received a bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1970; he went on to earn a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1973 and a doctorate in theology from the University of Basel, in Switzerland, in 1978; and

WHEREAS, After teaching for several years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, he joined the faculty at Baylor in 1983 and in 1990 became the first holder of the George W. Truett Chair in Evangelism; in 1993, Dr. Sloan was appointed the founding dean of George W. Truett Theological Seminary; and

WHEREAS, A productive, award-winning scholar, he has published extensively, presented many academic papers, and served as president of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Sloan is involved in numerous organizations related to higher education and has served on the board of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas; moreover, he has given generously of his time and talents to the Waco community and surrounding areas, holding membership on the boards of several area civic foundations and serving as president of the Lorena ISD school board; and

WHEREAS, With his wife, Sue, a fellow Baylor graduate, Dr. Sloan is the parent of seven children, including one who is a student at Baylor and five who are Baylor alumni; and

WHEREAS, Imbued with a great love for the venerable institution he has led for the past decade, Dr. Sloan can take justifiable pride in the many advances achieved during his term as its president and in the lofty vision that he championed and that is today shaping the university for the 21st century; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 79th Texas Legislature hereby honor Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr., for his many contributions as president of Baylor University and extend to him sincere best wishes as he continues his faithful service to his Lord, his alma mater, and the people of Texas; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Dr. Sloan as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.

Monday, October 03, 2005

You Be The Judge: Did The Student Government's Predictions Pan Out?

The Baylor Student Government's resolution (mentioned below) made four specific predictions regarding what would happen if the Faculty Senate went ahead with its plans to conduct a faculty referendum. They are as follows:

  1. "A university-wide referendum vote on President Robert Sloan will add to the polarization of Baylor University."
  2. "Such a vote would be an incredible set back to the positive attitudes and atmosphere that all Baylor student, faculty, staff, and administration are striving to achieve."
  3. "With all of the positive public attention that Baylor has received over the past several months this move would bring nothing but negative media attention back to our campus and would be extremely detrimental to the pride and excitement currently held by the Baylor Student Body."
  4. "We strongly believe that reconciliation, unity, and trust will not be restored by such a divisive and unprecedented step."

So, exactly one year later, and with the benefit of hindsight, how did these student predictions pan out? We'll leave it to our readers to make that judgment for themselves.

Baylor Student Government Resolution, Exactly One Year Later

Exactly one year ago today, the Baylor Student Government passed a support resolution (CS 52-13) to "urge the Faculty Senate to withdraw its request for a University wide referendum . . . on President Robert Sloan." As we all know, the Faculty Senate did not heed the plea of our Student Government and went ahead with the referendum.

But the resolution did more than simply plead with the Faculty Senate. It also noted Baylor's predominantly positive atmosphere, as perceived by the student body at the time: "Baylor is having a tremendous fall semester. The freshman class is one of the most enthusiastic in years. Two Baylor students won gold medals at the Summer Olympic Games, bringing Baylor University worldwide acclaim. Our Men's Tennis team won Baylor it's first ever National Championship. World renowned authors, scholars, artists, musicians and theologians have continued to visit Baylor's campus to speak to students and faculty. Our new facilities have opened and are being used by thousands of students and faculty every day."

The atmosphere of a little over a year ago certainly was a relatively positive one, even if we--the students--did have a growing, anxious awareness of the divisive elements which were quite suddenly beginning to insinuate themselves into our lives. Indeed, this is no doubt why our Student Government went on in the resolution to make the following declaration: "As stated in Ecclesiastes 3:7, there is a time to tear and a time to mend, and students believe that it is time for our campus to be mended and healed."

We know that the divisive elements in our midst did not take the opportunity to mend, but instead chose to tear apart the positive atmosphere that the student body enjoyed. Nevertheless, exactly one year later, we, the students, believe that it is never too late to join the side of healing and growth. Even a year later, it is still time for our campus to be mended and healed.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Baylor Graduate Students Extolling The Virtues Of Vision 2012

From now on, "We, the students of Baylor University . . ." should be understood to encompass both undergraduate as well as graduate students. Just consider a portion of an e-mail we recently received from a current Baylor grad student. This graduate student perspective on the implications of the direction and orientation of Baylor is incisive:

Think of us as professional apprentices. We have come to Baylor to learn the tools of the scholars’ trade. We are mentored by our senior colleagues (those who have already earned their Ph.D.’s) to become practicing scholars in our respective fields of research. This is very different from what an undergraduate experiences. Most undergrads will not become scholars (rather, they will become teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, ministers, or employees of government or business, etc.), thus the focus there is largely on rounding out one’s general education in the sciences and liberal arts.

So in many ways we are more affected by the direction and orientation of the university than undergraduates are. For one thing, many of us are here for a longer period of time than the normal undergraduate. A Ph.D. usually takes around five years to complete (assuming one already has a bachelor’s degree). But, and much more importantly, our careers are tied to our identity as Baylor Ph.D’s. Unlike my bachelor’s degree, the fact that I received my graduate degree from Baylor will remain relevant throughout my professional career. This is why grad students (in general) have such a tremendous stake in the future of Baylor. Our reputations will be intimately tied to Baylor’s reputation, whatever that happens to become.

Now I know for a fact that many of my colleagues would not have considered Baylor so seriously were it not for Vision 2012. We were all shopping for top-notch programs. The main attraction for us was the new faculty hires. These new faculty members gave a boost to the solid reputation that the [X] department already enjoyed. What sealed the deal for us were the new facilities and the significant resources devoted to graduate education, along with the inherent promise of Vision 2012.

So let’s assume that Baylor achieves the goals of Vision 2012. Can you imagine the great value of a Baylor Ph.D. in ten years from now? I get excited just thinking about it . . .