Skip to comments.Can the Christian University Thrive?: Baylor 2012
Posted on 07/20/2004 4:20:19 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback
Four years ago, Baylor University announced what it called Baylor 2012. Its goal is to propel [Baylor] into the ranks of the nations top tier colleges and universities, while retaining and even strengthening Baylors Christian identity.
The most important factors in becoming a top tier college or university are the faculty and the students. To that end, Baylor has committed itself to recruiting faculty capable of achieving the best of scholarship, both in teaching and research.
More important, new faculty members must embrace the Christian faith and be knowledgeable of the Christian intellectual tradition. The goal is to exemplify the integration of faith and learning. A symbol of this commitment was Baylors hiring a first-rank scholar, Dr. Thomas Hibbs, as the head of the Honors College.
Hibbs, the former head of the Philosophy Department at Boston College, is a prominent Catholic philosopher whose specialty is the Medieval periodan age that best exemplified the kind of learning Baylor is striving for.
Expectations for students are no less demanding. Theyre expected to combine high academic merit and Christian character.
A nationally ranked research university with an unapologetically Christian worldview is the way that Baylor President Robert Sloan sums up his vision. At first blush, its hard to imagine anyone objecting to that, but it has prompted a lot of criticism. Some of the criticism is over the cost, and it will certainly be expensive to achieve Sloans goals.
But far more troubling is the criticism of the vision itself. Some suggest that top tier scholarship and an unapologetically Christian worldview are mutually exclusive.
Some faculty members also have characterized Sloans emphasis on Christian learning and preserving Baylors Christian identity as part of a fundamentalist takeover of the school. As columnist Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News has written, this accusation is laughable.
Some of the most visible additions to the faculty, like Hibbs and his former Boston Collegecolleague Rob Miner, are Catholics. When Sloan speaks of the Christian intellectual tradition, his understanding of that term is broad.
As Miner told Dreher, Many people at Baylor are more receptive to hearing and learning from the voices of Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas than those back at Boston College. This is not what you would expect from a fundamentalist takeover.
The real issue at Baylor is whether the price of academic respectability is the surrender of Christian identity. Is it true that smart people outgrow God, as secular critics insist? Or can Baylor provide an alternative, namely, a university that, in Drehers words, can speak to the broader culture from an intellectually sound but morally distinct vantage point?
Thats why every thinking Christian, Baptist or non-Baptist, has a stake in the debate over Baylors future. The alternative to the worldviews that dominate our culture must come from schools like the one envisioned by Sloan: where faculty and students can come together to show that faith and reason not only go together, but are inseparable.
Mr. Silverback & Cowgirlcutie,
First, don't worry about I-53, posting back just encourages guys like him. Second, I've had some contact with Baylor and can tell you a little about what's going on, but I don't work for them, so I can't really give you an inside view. Sloan isn't very popular with faculty, and they've had two "no-confidence" votes on him. He barely held onto the Presidency in a vote from the board of regents about a year ago. The building program is very expensive, but he is turning the campus into a beautiful facility.
The religious clause is fairly simple, and is aimed at ensuring that Christians are teaching. Non-Christians don't like it, but it's a reasonable goal, I think, for a college that seeks to be a Christian university. I debated theology pretty heavily for a while with one of the students at Truett Theological Seminary, and they are liberal theologians. For example, they teach the JEDP theory as fact. We didn't discuss New Testament much, but I suspect they toe the line to liberal theology on that as well. The basketball murder shook the entire campus, and made Baylor rethink it's athletic program. Except for football, Baylor is competitive in Big 12 athletics. I don't see Baylor ever being very competitive in football. They actually wouldn't be in the Big 12, except Ann Richards and Bob Bullock (both Baylor grads) refused to let the other old SWC schools leave unless Baylor was included. Personally, I think if Baylor had a chance to bolt to the Ivy League, they'd leave the Big 12 in a minute. They aspire to be Harvard, not Nebraska.
Baylor has worked hard to mend fences with the Texas Baptists, but there is still quite a bit of tension. A lot of Baylor's future will hinge on whether or not they get the Bush Presidential Library. Many here think they are strongly in the running because they've overhauled the campus and Bush lives close by. This would launch them into the top tier of college campuses. With the LBJ Library in Austin, and the Bush I Library at A&M, I think they've got a good chance, although SMU might also have a shot, since Bush is a Methodist and they're in the Metroplex. I'm hoping for Baylor, because the Library will mean much more to Waco than it would to Dallas Fort Worth.
Baylor will survive, but it's treading some tough waters at this time. However, they are also making significant progress. Hope this info helps.
Okay. I'll come clean. I'm a recruiter for Harvard and I'm really worried because Baylor has been nipping at our heels. Can you blame me?
On a lighter, slightly OT note, do they also have a plan to improve in Big 12 athletics?
Who cares what they do in sports as long as they keep the academics at the level they do.
I have one child with a degree from Baylor and one child starting third year there.
In my opinion they have both recieved wonderful educations from Baylor.
(Neither of them plays ball...and I'm OK with that)
I hear the President will be back at the ranch on Friday.
And some people just want to persist in being dolts.
Agreed; one should not exclude the other. The problems come when different factions define those goals differently and aggresively. Then you end up with infighting.
But, with very few exceptions, haven't they? People's minds are as free as they want them to be, but it seems the institutions of academe' are almost seamlessly un- if not anti-Christian.
I looked at the link. I don't know anything about SAU, but if they are truly centered on serving the STUDENT without unnecessary distractions, I believe they can be successful. The great Universities focus on what is best for the STUDENTS and let greatness fall where it may, instead of trying to claw themselves to some lofty tier. No pun intended.