On Campus

Baylor cuts president loose

Regents short on specifics for firing

The world’s largest Baptist university is now without a president.

Yesterday, the Board of Regents at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, fired president John M. Lilley. Board chair Howard Batson only vaguely outlined the reasons for the action at a press conference.

“The reality is the board lost the confidence in John’s ability to unite the various Baylor constituencies,” he said.

The Houston Chronicle attributed the firing to accusations that Lilley interfered in the tenure process and that he was “meddling” in the process of creating a new logo for Baylor.

The Chronicle said that Lilley denied 12 of 30 tenure applications approved by faculty—10 were appealed and seven eventually accepted.

Another reason reported was apparent disagreement between Lilley and the regents about Baylor 2012, the school’s re-branding campaign that hopes to make the school a top research school that also adheres to its Christian principles.

Lilley became president less than three years ago, following the controversial exit of former president and current chancellor Robert Sloan. AP reported that Sloan, who had served as president since 2005, “had been blamed for rising tuition costs and rifts among professors who had been calling for his ouster for months.”

In a statement responding to his termination, Baylor disagreed with the regents’ decision.

“I deeply regret the action of the board, and I do not believe that it reflects the best interests of Baylor University,”
he said.

Lilley didn’t say much more when asked to elaborate by Inside Higher Ed.

“I just think my love for Baylor is such that as a triple alumnus I just want to be very careful about what I say, and I fashioned that statement and that’s just really all I care to say right now,” he said, alluding to the three degrees he earned from the school in the 1960s.

Batson said Lilley’s faith was not a factor in the firing. Lilley served as a ruling elder in a Presbyterian church before heading to Baylor in November 2005.

Former Baylor board chair Harold Cunningham has been named interim president.