Skip to comments.New tenor on tenure: Baylor can’t shake faculty flirtations with secularism
Posted on 04/07/2006 6:50:38 AM PDT by rhema
The tenure system gives university professors lifetime job security. It is also a way to get rid of professors. Typically, new faculty members are hired for a several-year probationary period. Then they marshal their publications, teaching evaluations, and other accomplishments, and apply for tenure. If they do not get it, they have to leave.
So it came as a surprise that Baylor denied tenure to Francis Beckwith, one of its best-known Christian scholarsdespite his 11 books, 28 scholarly articles, a raft of teaching awards, and election as president of the Evangelical Theological Society.
Baylor's previous president Robert Sloan had put forth an ambitious program to make the Baptist school in Waco, Texas, a world-class institution distinctly Christian in its scholarship. Mr. Sloan brought on board many top-notch scholars devoted to integrating faith and learning, such as intelligent design theorist William Dembski and pro-life legal scholar Mr. Beckwith.
But the old-guard faculty resented Mr. Sloan's changes. Many insisted on a "two-spheres" approach to Christian education, in which religion is seen as a purely subjective phenomenon, with nothing to say about objective truth. Many on the science faculty rejected any association with intelligent design, fearing that departure from Darwinist orthodoxy would jeopardize their departments' scientific reputation. Others resented Mr. Sloan's assertive management style. (See "Bear of a battle," Sept. 4, 2004, and "Waco warning," June 25, 2005.)
The old guard got rid of Mr. Dembski and then Mr. Sloan, who moved into the largely ceremonial position of chancellor. Still, Mr. Sloan's Vision 2012 plan for Baylor is still on the books. The new president, John M. Lilley, former president of the University of Nevada, Reno, was a compromise candidate, so Baylor's future was unclear.
Based on information from Baylor faculty members and graduate students to whom WORLD granted confidentiality because their careers would be in jeopardy, here is what happened: Mr. Beckwith came to Baylor in 2003, as associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, over the objection of the institute's funder, the Dawson family. Mr. Beckwith had argued for the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design. The late Mr. Dawson had been an early champion for teaching evolution at Baylor.
The institute was set up to promote the strict separation of church and state, and Mr. Beckwith's pro-life activism and conservative politics put him at odds with most of his colleagues in his department. (One colleague, Jewish pro-Palestinian activist Marc Ellis, is one of "The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" in David Horowitz's new book, The Professors.)
"Beckwith was widely viewed as a conservative, Christian hire forced on the hallowed J.M. Dawson Institute by the administration," one graduate student told WORLD. "To a veteran faculty already resentful of the move to transform the university into a research university with a stronger Christian character, Beckwith's hire was symbolic of the problem."
When tenure time approached, the anti-Sloan interim president, William Underwood, appointed psychology professor Jim Patton, the chair of the anti-Sloan faculty senate, to Mr. Beckwith's tenure committee. In an e-mail message about another faculty member shown to WORLD, Mr. Patton wrote, "I clearly do not think highly of anyone who claims ID theory is science."
The deck was clearly stacked against Mr. Beckwith. His department voted 3-1 against recommending him for tenure. Mr. Patton and the rest of his university-level committee voted to accept that verdict. The provost and the president could have overruled that decision, but they let it ride.
Mr. Beckwithwho would not comment on what happenedtold WORLD that he plans to appeal his dismissal. But if he is ousted, the other conservative Christian scholars now coming up for tenure are also in trouble. And Baylor will be well on its way to becoming just another liberal, secular institution.
Nothing new here, move along now.
Just like in politics, you need to be arrogant and something of a true High School loser - e.g. you can't get published (your pride is hurt), then gather up some of your friends, gather up some money and create your own publication - "The New Journal of the Arrogant Professors".
I've only been impressed by a few professors.
Actually, at my undergrad there two (2) camps among the professors in my department, the communists granola crowd and the fascists. In one incident a professor threw a chair at another for giving a computer resources contract to the company owned by a friend.
There were also reports and FBI investigation on professors brandishing handguns.
Wow, that's not how I had pictured him. I had a medical ethics class in college where one of his books - "Politically Correct Death" - was required reading. It's an extremely well-reasoned argument against abortion; I still own it.
Of course I went to a conservative Christian university - Liberty - and by the way, there was no tenure there.
Lester Roloff, who graduated from Baylor back when it was an honorable institution, warned of Baylor's failure in the 1980's.
Nothing's wrong with Beckwith - the problem is with Baylor.
At least half of the alums of these schools are conservative. Why do they continue to support them financially? I just do not understand.
So sad, too bad, Baylor goes the way of all flesh, the way of the natural man. As has most Universities (Yale, Harvard, Princton, founded by Godly men that purposed to make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ)
(shrug)--Baylor is run by its law school, and it's a litigator's law school. Start a Baptist school, then surrender to "Wolfram and Hart"?
Baylor's well on its way to becoming a secularized institution. Sloane's vision although still techincally alive is in the process of being scuttled. Their association with the BGCT as opposed to the SBTC pretty much assures Baylor will continue down this road.
The BGCT has become increasingly liberal (they've cut off all funding to Southwestern Seminary in FT. Worth) and are in the process of jettisoning all the conservative elements within their state convention. It's too bad, Baylor had a real chance to make a difference just a few years ago, but on this path they'll become just another liberal, secular university.
Not to liberal academia, anyway, to whom this let's-cover-our-pathetic-tuchises high-handedness is quotidian.
I hate seeing this happen!
My daughter thought about attending Baylor.
I think both of us would have been disappointed. ;o(
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