a friend at Baylor had predicted this [Sloans resignation] would happen several months ago, after the Baylor faculty senate unanimously endorsed the Baylor 2012 plan—something they had not done for several years. His prediction seemed counterintuitive. After all, Sloan was the main architect of Baylor 2012—the blueprint for elevating Baylor to the top tier of research institutions in the United States while strengthening its Christian identity. Wouldnt faculty senate support of that plan strengthen Sloans claim to continue to be Baylors president? No, my friend said, now that the plan was in place the plans architect could go. Thus opponents, supporters, and Sloan himself saw that he was expendable now that 2012 was secure.
Sloan said he would not have made the decision to resign if he had any doubts about the future of the 2012 vision. "I think the tipping point for me was when I realized that the 10-year vision had really taken hold at the university," he said. "I became persuaded that our board would take up the mantle of the central convictions of Baylor 2012." Sloan will move to the chancellors office, where he will be devoted to fundraising and institutional relations, but no longer involved in setting university policy.
The timing of the resignation was crucial. First, it gave the supporters of Baylor 2012 more time to move forward with it in all its dimensions. Second, Sloans firm stand in the midst of great turmoil forced the issue of 2012 on the board and the faculty senate, both of which endorsed it. Third, his tenacious resolve and the public support for 2012 make it much more likely that his successor will not be able to take Baylor in a different direction. Fourth, holding on as long as he did makes it possible for his supporters to accept his decision to step down with a sense of hope, not despair. And, fifth, his standing firm sent a clear message that Baylor was not being run by an assortment of its critics, but by the board of regents and the university president.
Thus, there is good reason to believe that Baylor 2012 will go firmly forward under a new administration. There is no guarantee that this ambitious plan will be completely successful or that it will now be free of controversy, but its likelihood of success is now greater without Sloan than it was with him.
Baylors governing board has insisted they stand behind Baylor 2012, but it remains to be seen what they mean. If the root problem really was the agenda and not the man, will the next president be any more successful in furthering it? In other words, can the turmoil at Baylor be resolved while continuing to move Baylor 2012 forward?
Or more basic still, are the dual aspirations of Baylor 2012 even compatible? No institution has accomplished its twin agenda yet, for the very reasons so evident in Baylors recent experience. The question is, given the size, complexity, and astonishing costs inherent in becoming a first-rank research university, are there sufficient personnel and resources to enable such an institution to be systemically Christian?
That famous philosopher Charlie Brown once bemoaned, "There is no heavier burden than great potential." By such a measure Baylor 2012 represents a heavy burden indeed. Let us all pray that the Baylor community can find a way to shoulder it.
It will be interesting to see, not only who the interim President is, but who the next President will be.