An Open Letter to the Baylor University Regents

Dear Regents,

Circumstances at our Alma Mater are rapidly becoming critical and I am, reluctantly, writing to express my views on these matters. I have become convinced that Baylor University will not be able to function effectively as long as Robert Sloan remains its President.

I did not reach this conclusion recently, but recent events, particularly the recent severe drop in the ranking of the Hankamer School of Business, have certainly solidified my opinion. My opinion is not based upon Dr. Sloan’s character, theology, or personality, rather on his performance in the job of President.

While there are many things that have occurred during Dr. Sloan’s tenure as President that distress and perplex me, such as the handling of Baylor Hospital, dealings with the Alumni Association, votes of no confidence, and the state of the athletic program, I believe they stem from a single overarching problem. Dr. Sloan fails to understand that governance at a private university cannot be a top down affair. Faculty, alumni, students and donors must all share in determining the future direction of the University.

Clearly vision is necessary for a University or any institution, but if there is no consensus, no shared vision, there may not be anyone willing to fund, teach or attend the vision. Much more is necessary for a vision to succeed than building it.

The current “Love it or Leave it” attitude being fostered by the administration runs counter to this necessity for shared vision. This attitude is evident in everything from Dr. Sloan taking the title of Chief Executive Officer (very poor form in my opinion) to the way Vision 2012 was sprung on the Family with no discussion and no dissent permitted. While such leadership is appropriate in business where legitimate authority flows from ownership, authority in a non-profit institution flows from a consensus of stakeholders. The net results of this attempt at hierarchical rather than consensus management have been angry faculty, divided alumni, and plummeting contributions.

Worst of all has been the fracturing of the unique and very real Baylor Family. This sense of family has always been very strong for me since, like some of your families, mine has attended Baylor for multiple generations. I met my wife at Baylor and many of the greatest experiences of my life and family history are intertwined with the institution. As a result, when I met someone new from Baylor I had an automatic and reflexive sense of trust, respect and friendship for them that’s hard to explain.

But that’s gone now. Now when I meet someone new from Baylor I worry about what side they’re on. I believe that this dissolution of the Family is “collateral damage” that Dr. Sloan did not consider when embarking on his experiment in top down management. While he, and perhaps others, may consider it to be of little value, I consider it Baylor’s greatest asset. Buildings and endowments are only things, the Baylor Family is something truly special. We may or may not ever have an endowment the size of Harvard’s, but they will never have anything that remotely approaches the Baylor Family.

Please help rebuild the Baylor Family and Baylor University by finding a way to remove Dr. Sloan and replace him with someone who will help us find a shared vision for the University. You will be in my prayers as you struggle to find resolution.

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