Embattled Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan, Jr. will step down at the end of the spring semester to become the university’s chancellor and Baylor Regents will appoint an interim president to serve beginning June 1, university officials announced late Friday morning.
"I will leave the president's office to become chancellor at the end of the current semester," Sloan said.
The announcement is the last chapter in a festering controversy that pitted faculty against faculty and graduate against graduate in a debate over everything from hiring practices to indebtedness and tuition rates.
The controversy bubbled to the surface in 2003 after the disappearance of Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy and a subsequent scandal that led to the resignations of the school’s head basketball coach, Dave Bliss, and its athletic director, Tom Stanton.
But it had its roots in Sloan’s ambitious Vision 2012 plan to make Baylor a top tier university within a decade.
He planned to do that by placing renewed emphasis on faculty research and by embarking on a $250 million expansion project that included new campus housing and a $103 million science building among other facilities.
As part of the plan, Regents approved a flat rate tuition plan that boosted the cost of attending Baylor enough that critics complained the school had priced itself out of the reach of the students it has traditionally served.
The plan also established a two-tier faculty system—later abolished—that differentiated between teaching and research faculty.
Sixty percent of the school’s faculty participated in a referendum on Sloan’s leadership this fall and more than 80 percent of them voted against Sloan.
Regents, who gave Sloan a strong vote of confidence a year ago, voted in May 2004 to retain him by a vote of 18-17.
Sloan acknowledged that the sweeping change he advocated produced conflict.
“My leadership has often been a lighting rod for that discomfort but the focus should always be on the vision not on the president, “ Sloan said.
Sloan said he has worked to try to cultivate understanding with those who questioned his leadership, but he said “the reality is that my role as president has become a distraction from the main goal of fulfilling the vision.”
“The vision is more important than anyone person. No one is indispensable,” he said.