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Michael S. Hamilton

Showdown in Waco

Baylor 2012

Our story so far: The conservatives have won control of the Southern Baptist Convention and its seminaries. Will they capture Baylor, the "World's Largest Baptist University"? President Herbert Reynolds engineers a brilliant political coup and makes Baylor independent while the "fundamentalists" fume. Satisfied that Baylor is safe, Reynolds turns the university over to Robert Sloan, only to see Sloan unveil a plan for a most extreme makeover. "Baylor 2012" will turn Baylor—mainly a Texas undergraduate school—into a national university with Ph.D. programs and research professors. It will change Baylor from a Baptist university into an "intentionally Christian" university whose professors integrate their faith with learning. Dismayed, Reynolds and his allies resist. This produces so many controversies that Baylor becomes the Britney Spears of higher education. The Board of Regents turns against Sloan, he resigns, and the unknown John Lilley becomes president. Everyone wonders: What will happen to Baylor 2012?

Today's episode: Supporters of Baylor 2012 publish a history.

The book is The Baylor Project, and its publication history sounds like a Texas tall tale. Editors Barry Hankins and Donald Schmeltekopf initially planned the book as a dialogue between proponents and opponents of Baylor 2012, with responses by Reynolds and Sloan. But Reynolds and all but two opponents refused to participate. The director of Baylor University Press indicated he would publish it, then backed off. The book "did not survive peer review," he said, but he refused to let Hankins and Schmeltekopf see the reviews.

Then John Lilley agreed to have the university itself publish the book, and 500 copies were printed. Enter Reynolds, shooting from the hip. He fired off one e-mail deriding the book as a "historical embarrassment," an unscholarly attempt to salvage "the concerted efforts of a few over the past decade to create a new orthodoxy at Baylor." Then he threatened Hankins and Schmeltekopf. ...

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