Francis Beckwith denied tenure at Baylor

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Humblesmith, Apr 13, 2006.

  1. Humblesmith

    Humblesmith
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    See the link for an article explaining that Francis Beckwith was denied tenure at Baylor.
    http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=22949

    Of course, I don't know the details. But everything I've ever seen from Beckwith is first class scholarship. If this turns out to be what it appears on the surface, it's absolutely outrageous. They ran off Dembski, Sloan, and now they're trying to shut out one of the finest scholars in his field. Absolutely outrageous. If this turns out to be as it appears, Baylor is going downhill on greased grooves.
     
  2. Humblesmith

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  3. RandR

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    The World article and the BP article borrow heavily from a couple of opinion pieces by First Things writers. The articles are right on several points, premature on a couple, and unfair on one or two.

    Beckwith was denied tenure for purely personal and political reasons. That isn't really up for debate. The former interim president (Unerwood)--who basically hated the former president for whom Beckwith was a vocal apologist--appointed a vitriolic critc (Patton) of the former administration to be the chairman of Beckwith's tenure committee. His request was basically dead before the ink was dry.

    Several factors: The Dawson family hates Beckwith's conservative politics and have been very critical of his involvement in the "JM Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies." Also, many of Baylor's longer-tenured faculty have no grasp of "faith and learning" outside of the so-called "two umbrella" or "Christian envirnoment" model. Some of Beckwith's educational philosophy is simply foreign to them. Probably the biggest factor, though, is Beckwith's approval and vocal support of former president Sloan, his philosophies of Christian education, and his Vision 2012. Underwood, Patton, et al. saw an opportunity to make a statement and they seized it. No need to bring up Beckwith's credentials, teaching ability, publications record, reputation in the broader evangelical world, etc. because they likely were not ever even considered by the tenure committee.

    But don't overlook the fact that the First Things pieces--and consequently the World and BP pieces that drew from them--are written by friends of Beckwith coming to his defense. As such, they're going to make some broader generalized statements in defense that are conjecture at best. Does Beckwith's tenure decision mean that new bright young Christian faculty need not apply? Does it mean that the objectives of 2012 are in the toilet? Does it mean that Baylor will now inevitably slide towards the complete secularization of everything but its history? Not necessarily.

    The Board sets policy. Whether or not the objectives of Sloan's 2012 will be abandoned lies in their hands. So far, they've continued to support those objectives. Objectives which are bigger than any one particular faculty member, regardless of his popularity in evangelical theological and publishing circles.

    The balance on the board has been tenuous at best at times. There are certainly some who would abandon the objectives of the last decade and go back to a Baylor circa 1980s tomorrow if they could. But so far, the majority of the board has remained committed. And since conjecture seems to be perfectly acceptable on this subject, I'll offer my own.

    It occurs to me that this move by the "old regime" (for lack of a better term) just might backfire. President Lilley (a short-timer) and Provost O'Brien (a sort of Baylor politics "pacifist") have received no shortage of mail, e-mail, and phone calls about their refusal to overrule the obviously biased tenure committee. Further, the negative press the school has received from national media outlets has forced them to take on a "damage control" posture of publicly reaffirming the goals and objectives of 2012...goals and objectives which are aimed some thing distinctly different than a completely "secular" university.

    Further, board members have received no shortage of correspondence critical of the tenure decision. Those board members who are/were most sympathetic to the Sloan/Jeffery administration and 2012 were none too pleased with the Beckwith decision and will likely become even more resolute.

    Time will tell, I guess. But I remain optimistic in the midst of my disappointment and frustration. I just hope that articles like those in First Things and World don't drive the best and brightest Christian students and faculty away in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. That would be more tragic for Baylor in the long run than the loss of one faculty member--even one of Beckwith's caliber.
     
  4. Humblesmith

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    Thanks for the balanced response.

    All I know is what I read in the papers, which addmittedly only present a slice of information. I would like nothing more than to see schools like Baylor be well-respected in evangelical circles. But I'm afraid the school already has a liberal reputation, and actions like this only add to it.

    For example, I never met Sloan, and don't know much about him other than what was in the news during the controversy before he left. From reading the articles in the secular press, the Baylor faculty (at least the faculty senate ones that were quoted)came across like they were determined to keep Christian influence out of their classrooms. To someone on the outside like me, I just can't fathom how a Christian school could get to that point. Except that it's already happened to most of the ivy league schools, which started out as Christian, and went liberal years ago.

    I think conservative students are already turning away from the school....my niece did this last year, and went to another Christian school. Maybe this deal with Beckwith will be the last straw, and it'll turn around. Maybe.

    But thanks for the insights.
     
  5. RandR

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    You'd probably be surprised by how many of the state-convention owned Baptist colleges in the U.S. operate under the "secular classroom"/"Christin campus environment" model and call it "Christain education."
     
  6. Broadus

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    Your statement describes the rule instead of the exception. Some state-convention Baptist colleges are becoming more conservative, North Greenville University (South Carolina) and Brewton-Parker College (Georgia) come to mind, but most are basically secular institutions of higher education in a "Christian campus environment." Religion is basically a subjective, individual experience.

    Bill
     
  7. RandR

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    Broadus,

    Right. I knew I was describing the rule and not the exception. Some other exceptions are Union and Baptist College of Florida; and Louisiana College is working on it.
     
  8. Baptist Believer

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    Most Texas Baptist schools, other than Baylor, work hard to integrate a Christian worldview into all areas of study.

    That does not conflict with the ability for students to study all sides of issues/doctrines/philosophies, but it does mean that professors and instructors are to provide a overall Christian frame of reference for their subjects.

    For instance, at my alma mater, evolution was presented in some of my science classes so we would understand the theory. In my geology class, we took field trips to collect fossils and examine rock formations in road cuts. The professors left the final conclusions to the students.
     

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