Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Beckwith Denied Tenure at Baylor

On Friday, Baylor University officially notified Francis Beckwith that he was not being granted tenure for his position as associate director of the JM Dawson Institute for Church/State Studies. This is causing a good deal of hullaballoo, with claims of bias and, inevitably, accusations that this denial has something to do with us evil “Darwinists”. As someone firmly on the anti-ID side who is friendly with Frank Beckwith and relatively familiar with the politics at Baylor, I thought I should speak out on this one.

The first thing that needs to be said is that the denial of tenure has nothing at all to do with an evil Darwinian Priesthood out to oppress anyone who advocates ID. This has to do with the internal theo-politics of Baylor University and the Baptist church that controls it. There has been a power struggle going on there for years between, more or less, liberals and conservatives (and I mean that theologically as well as politically). This mirrors a larger struggle within the Baptist church in general, particularly over the issue of church/state separation.

JM Dawson, the namesake of the center for which Beckwith is the associate director, was a staunch separationist, in the long tradition of Baptist separationists going back to the founding itself and men like Isaac Backus and John Leland, Baptist ministers who strongly supported Jefferson and Madison’s vision for separation. But Baptist opinion has swung over the last 30 years or so toward a more conservative accomodationist position and that has been the source of a good deal of struggle, particularly in Baptist academic circles.

Frank was a bit of an anamoly at Baylor from the start, a Roman Catholic conservative with an accomodationist streak in a place that is traditionally strongly separationist. He was brought in by a more conservative administration that is no longer in place and his strongest supporter, Derek Davis, his boss at the Dawson Institute, recently departed as well. So it’s not a big shock that with the internal political struggles going on, he was denied tenure.

Still, I think the reason they gave for that denial – lack of collegiality – is patently absurd. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer, more engaging person. We have had many disagreements over the last few years, including times when I have been harshly critical of his work, and he has never failed to reply with civility and collegiality even to someone he had no reason to view as a colleague. The alleged basis for this claim is a ruse, but not an unexpected one – you certainly can’t expect them to deny him tenure and blame it on internal political struggles, can you?

His grad assistant, Hunter Baker, has an article on it in the American Spectator, under the pseudonym “Graduate Student X” and a post at Southern Appeal as well. His response is fairly overwrought and he tries to turn it into another “we conservatives are so persecuted” affair. This is a struggle over theological and political positions at a private Baptist university. Had Sloan and his backers won the power struggles, things would have turned out differently. But none of that has anything to do some larger conspiracy, either against conservatives or against ID advocates.

With private institutions, these kinds of struggles go on all the time and there’s always a winner and a loser. I am sorry to see Frank Beckwith lose this one because he’s someone I genuinely like and respect despite our enormous differences of opinion. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet somewhere else. But the inevitable conspiracy theories and blame mongering from the ID crowd isn’t going to help the situation any and it won’t be an accurate portrayal of what really happened.

Comments

  1. #1 RBH
    March 27, 2006

    Note carefully that as far as I can see, Baylor did not issue any statement about the reason(s) for the denial of a tenured appointment to Beckwith. The “collegiality” business is Baker’s speculation pure and simple:

    Many suspect that if the university ever issues a justification for its actions, “collegiality” will have been the all-important factor.

    So we flat don’t know why Baylor denied Beckwith a tenured appointment and almost certainly never will — institutions very rarely publicly announce the grounds for appointment decisions.

    The downside of that, of course, is that people like Baker can simply make up purported reasons ad lib and then rail against the institution for using those made up reasons when no one outside Baylor’s senior administration (and tenure committee, if Baylor has one) actually knows why the decision was made. The decision becomes a Rorschach stimulus for attributions of devious motives and underhanded political machinations. Those attributions tell us more about the complainants than the decision.

  2. #2 Krauze
    March 27, 2006

    Hi RBH,

    “The “collegiality” business is Baker’s speculation pure and simple:”

    That’s not entirely true. In the comments at Right Reason (before they were closed down) there were people who had information about what had gone on behind the closed doors, and who were defending the decision as being based on Beckwith’s alleged lack of collegiality. Hunter is disputing rumors that were already buzzing before he wrote his article.

    BTW, Ed, where are ID supporters claiming that Beckwith was denied tenure because of his views on ID? I’m genuinely curious. So far, I’ve only read about this at Right Reason and in that American Spectator article, and none of those say anything about ID being the reason.

  3. #3 RBH
    March 27, 2006

    Krauze wrote

    That’s not entirely true. In the comments at Right Reason (before they were closed down) there were people who had information about what had gone on behind the closed doors, and who were defending the decision as being based on Beckwith’s alleged lack of collegiality.

    I’m deeply suspicious (based on 20 years as a faculty member at a private college) of people who claim to have information about what went on behind closed doors. People take bits and pieces of overheard gossip and (utilizing a good deal of imagination) spin them into stories that are consistent with their presuppositions. That’s what I meant by a “Rorschach” for attributions: ambiguous stimuli on the basis of which people generate constructions in the head.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    I saw the collegiality statement made in several sources and assumed that it was accurate, but RBH is right, if there hasn’t been a statement to that effect from the university or someone with a name attached to it I don’t want to claim that it’s true. I also made another mistake in my post, referring to him as a Roman Catholic. Ironically, that mistake was pointed out by Stephen Dillard, with whom I think I was mistaking Beckwith on that matter.

    Krauze, to answer your question about where the ID accusations have taken place, the answer is nowhere that I’ve seen – yet. I’m predicting that they will show up and it won’t take long. Call it a testable hypotheses, I suppose.

  5. #5 UberKuh
    March 27, 2006

    I checked Baylor’s site and found their Tenure Policy Statement (PDF). Here is an interesting finding, listed under the “Denial of Tenure” section:

    2. Reasons for denial of tenure will not be given unless the candidate makes a written request to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs will respond in writing within two weeks after receiving the written request.

    If Beckwith wishes to make reasons for his denial public, he apparenty can… unless, perhaps, there is another policy against that somewhere.

    I understand that reasons for denial of tenure are rarely publically offered by the denying institutions. What I don’t understand is why this isn’t condemned as unprofessional across the board, for religious and secular institutions. Yes, it’s private, and, no, they don’t have to say anything, but given the circumstances – assuming that X Man is backed by an mob of zealous supporters – you would think Baylor might issue, or even leak through a faculty press interview, a statement indicating or hinting at reasons for their decision that conform with their policy, so they don’t look like buffoons to potential students and faculty.

    Then again, not that I want to help their case, but it appears that it is the tenure candidate’s responsibility to provide evidence of seven “reasons why tenure should be granted,” and one of those, the sixth, reads, “Interpersonal relationships with students, colleagues, and other members of the university community.” In short, it appears that
    if this story is to have legs, it is Beckwith who needs to run with it.

  6. #6 Ken Brown
    March 27, 2006

    Krauze:

    Ed, where are ID supporters claiming that Beckwith was denied tenure because of his views on ID? I’m genuinely curious.

    Ed:

    the answer is nowhere that I’ve seen – yet. I’m predicting that they will show up and it won’t take long. Call it a testable hypotheses, I suppose.

    But the tone of your post is quite different:

    This is causing a good deal of hullaballoo, with claims of bias and, inevitably, accusations that this denial has something to do with us evil “Darwinists”.

    [Hunter Baker's] response is fairly overwrought and he tries to turn it into another “we conservatives are so persecuted” affair. This is a struggle over theological and political positions at a private Baptist university. Had Sloan and his backers won the power struggles, things would have turned out differently. But none of that has anything to do some larger conspiracy, either against conservatives or against ID advocates.

    You imply that Hunter is chalking this up to a Darwinian (or at least, liberal) conspiracy, but all I’m seeing in his article and post are complaints against the injustice of school politics. Overwrought perhaps, but hardly suggesting some larger conspiracy. Am I missing something?

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    Baker, and many others, are indeed claiming this is part of a larger conspiracy against conservatives. For instance, he says that it explains why conservative bloggers sometimes remain anonymous. I should also add that he wrote the article in American Spectator under the pseudonym “Graduate Student X”. He has had a problem with journalistic ethics in the past, having written a scathing article on the Brian Leiter vs. Lawrence Van Dyke situation at the National Review Online, a situation that dealt with one of Beckwith’s books, without revealing that he was Beckwith’s GA. The only reason I didn’t take him to task for writing under a pseudonym this time is that, frankly, it’s just so obvious that he wrote it that I assumed the pseudonym was a bit of sarcasm and not really intended to conceal his identity. The part about ID, as you quoted above, was after the word “inevitably” because I think it is indeed inevitable. But I’ve not seen it yet. Stay tuned.

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    As a follow up, Hunter Baker has put up a post linking to the American Spectator article as though he didn’t write it. That makes me wonder if he’s going to compound his mistake with the NRO a couple years ago. In case the posts get edited or removed, here is why I thought it was quite obvious that Hunter Baker is Graduate Student X. Follow the two links above to the article and to his post on Southern Appeal this morning and compare them.

    From the AS article:

    Prior to last Friday, the famous pro-life philosopher Francis Beckwith was at the pinnacle of his career. His latest book had been accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press, one of the most prestigious academic publishers in the world.

    From the SA post:

    He has been formally denied tenure at Baylor despite having a sterling publication record. In fact, his latest book will be coming out with Cambridge University Press, which is arguably the most prestigious academic press in the world.

    Only an insider like Baker would know the publisher of Beckwith’s book and announce it in similar terms. The rest of the article also makes clear that he is a grad student at Baylor, which Baker is.

    From the AS article:

    When I first heard the news I experienced for the first time what is known as cognitive dissonance. I couldn’t hold the two ideas in my mind. Professor Beckwith. Denied tenure. It was impossible to believe.

    From the SA post:

    I’m in a state of absolute cognitive dissonance. It is impossible for me to believe this has happened.

    These were both written by Hunter Baker. Of that I have no doubt. I’m just curious to see whether he’ll deny it. I thought it was so obvious when I read the AS article this morning that I didn’t even bother to take him to task for writing an article about the situation without revealing his close relationship with Beckwith. I thought it was so obvious that he wasn’t really trying to conceal his identity, he was being ironic. But perhaps I was wrong.

  9. #9 Ken Brown
    March 27, 2006

    Thanks for the clarification.

  10. #10 blogista
    March 27, 2006

    Ed, I thought his use of “Graduate Student X” was just a cynical gesture, too. It didn’t really even warrant pointing out that Mr. Baker is “X”.

    If by some chance they are NOT the same person then Hunter Baker is plagiarizing “Graduate Student X”!

  11. #11 Gryph
    March 27, 2006

    First Things blog has a few articles on the event.

    http://www.firstthings.com/

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    The First Things post makes an odd argument to me. It says:

    And then, to top it all off, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported on Sunday that Derek Davis, an open opponent of Beckwith’s and the chair of his department, had resigned as a “personnel matter” apparently because of some other scandal involving Davis, the details of which remain unclear.

    From conversations I had directly with Beckwith, I can tell you that Davis was not an opponent of him at all. He spoke warmly of Davis and credited him with helping protect him from an earlier attack on his hiring. So I have no idea where Bottum is getting the idea that Davis was an opponent. It also makes little sense to say that having an opponent leave would influence the tenure decision.

  13. #13 Hunter Baker
    March 27, 2006

    Ed, you’ve misunderstood me on all counts. With regard to the Brian Leiter thing, the reason I didn’t mention my grad assistant status in the department was much less sinister than has always been expected by the uber-Darwin crowd. I was a brand new grad student, our department was caught up in exactly the same kind of crap it’s mired in now, and I thought I’d get in trouble for involving the department. To avoid it, I asked to just be a freelance writer. National Review knew who I was and I had disclosed the Beckwith relationship in an earlier article anyway. Leiter was trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation by going after my journalistic ethics. Not that I’m any kind of professional reporter.

    On the graduate student X thing, I agree that it sounds like me. Hmmmm.

  14. #14 Chip Beckett
    March 27, 2006

    This is a side comment, but I would like to make a clarification. It is not the entire Baptist church that is having these internal arguments. It is the Southern Baptist Convention. There are other Baptist conventions, most notably the American Baptist Convention. The arguments in the SBC started about 16 years ago when a collective of social/religious conservatives organized a political takeover of the convention.

    I was raised in both the SBC and then the ABC (a switch that had nothing to do with the takeover, since I grew up in the 70s), so I know from personal background and just wanted to offer a clarification.

  15. #15 Dan
    March 27, 2006

    This is really a shame, and I say that as a person who does not agree with much of what Beckwith has to say jurisprudentially or philosophically. But I give him credit for being a rational, reasoned, and civil voice in what is most often a very rancorous debate. Though I don’t know him personally, he seems every bit the gentleman. One has to suspect that his teaching and service were at least acceptable (and likely more than just acceptable), and his scholarship certainly speaks for itself. All of which means he deserved tenure, but anyone who has been in the academy knows that simply being deserving may not be enough.

    I wish him the best personally and professionally. This will, in hindsight, probably end up being a good thing for him. He’ll get picked up by another university very quickly. If he’s not hired in with tenure (and he probably won’t be, because that just isn’t done) he’ll be on an extremely short track. If he can find an academic home where politics takes a back seat to merit, he’ll be quickly tenured and this will be a not-so-fond memory. Baylor ends up looking bad, and Beckwith finds himself a good place to work.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    Hunter Baker wrote:

    Ed, you’ve misunderstood me on all counts.

    But you aren’t going to bother to say what exactly has been misunderstood other than the entirely irrelevant question of why you concealed your identity two years ago in the VanDyke situation? What did I say that was a misunderstanding of your position? You clearly do make this into a “liberals oppressing us poor conservatives” issue, striking the martyr pose quite blatantly. Do I really need to quote your article to that effect? That’s pretty much the only argument I made about your position and it’s clearly true. What could I possibly have misunderstood?

    With regard to the Brian Leiter thing, the reason I didn’t mention my grad assistant status in the department was much less sinister than has always been expected by the uber-Darwin crowd. I was a brand new grad student, our department was caught up in exactly the same kind of crap it’s mired in now, and I thought I’d get in trouble for involving the department. To avoid it, I asked to just be a freelance writer. National Review knew who I was and I had disclosed the Beckwith relationship in an earlier article anyway. Leiter was trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation by going after my journalistic ethics.

    I love the invocation of the “uber-Darwin crowd”, as though the question of whether you should have revealed your close ties to one of the principal players in a controversy when writing about was dependent on one’s views on evolution. That’s absurd. It doesn’t matter that you had your own personal motivations for not revealing that, nor does it matter that the editors of National Review knew who you were. All that matters is that you should have told the readers of the article that you had such ties. Whether you’re an official journalist or not, you were acting as one in that circumstance and that was the ethical thing to do.

    Of course, that’s not the only criticism of your performance in that situation, which was even more exaggerated and overwrought than the one this morning. Rather than simply accusing Leiter of being rude and intemperate, which would have been a valid and accurate criticism, you tried to turn his criticism into an attempt to destroy Van Dyke’s career and that was just plain silly. But it does dovetail nicely into today’s persecution pose.

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    Dan-

    Well said. I think it’s very dangerous to take the position that because we think someone is wrong on something, they should be denied tenure. As I explained to someone else in an email today, we certainly don’t want to take the position that anyone who says that teaching ID in public schools is constitutional is so far out that they should be denied tenure. By that reasoning, an eminent (though, in my opinion, wrong) legal scholar like Michael McConnell would be denied tenure. There is some bit of irony here, however, in that I am hearing from one person at Baylor that it had more to do with his pro-life politics than anything else (he’s actually published considerably more on that subject than on ID). How odd is to have one’s views against abortion damage your career at a Baptist college?

  18. #18 Hunter Baker
    March 27, 2006

    Ed, I think Leiter does try to destroy people and that has been evident from his weblog for years now. He was trying to punish Van Dyke for lending Harvard Law Review credibility to Beckwith’s book with a favorable comment.

    If you don’t see persecution in what’s happening to Frank Beckwith right now, then you’re blind. It’s wrong and more important, it’s a betrayal of what Baylor claimed to be doing with it’s Vision 2012. That part, of course, is really none of the business of the skeptic community.

  19. #19 Hunter Baker
    March 27, 2006

    One more thing, Ed. I don’t understand why you or anyone else views Beckwith as an Intelligent Design advocate. He has written quite a bit on the public school science issue and how that relates to ID as being religious or not religious in the First Amendment sense, but he does not claim to be an ID advocate either from principles of science or philosophy.

  20. #20 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    Hunter Baker wrote:

    Ed, I think Leiter does try to destroy people and that has been evident from his weblog for years now. He was trying to punish Van Dyke for lending Harvard Law Review credibility to Beckwith’s book with a favorable comment.

    And I think this is totally unjustified rhetoric. Leiter was certainly rude in his criticism of Van Dyke and at least one of his accusations, the claim that he was committing “academic fraud”, was as exaggerated and hyperbolic as your accusations are toward him. But all he did was criticize Van Dyke. He had no authority over him and he didn’t do anything to harm his career. There was nothing he was in any position to do to “punish” Van Dyke. All he did was criticize him. In harsher terms than necessary, yes, but that doesn’t have anything to do with your accusation. If you have actual evidence that Leiter did anything to harm Van Dyke, then present it. Unless you have that, then your standard essentially means that anytime anyone criticizes someone else for what they published they’re trying to “destroy” them. And that’s absurd.

    If you don’t see persecution in what’s happening to Frank Beckwith right now, then you’re blind. It’s wrong and more important, it’s a betrayal of what Baylor claimed to be doing with it’s Vision 2012. That part, of course, is really none of the business of the skeptic community.

    I agree that it conflicts with their 2012 project, but that is entirely my point, that there has been an ongoing conflict at Baylor for years over the direction the university is going to take and the type of professors they’re going to hire. Someone is going to win those battles, and no matter who wins, some people are going to be negatively affected by it. If the conservatives had won, I doubt you would be complaining. It’s the standard issue kinds of political infighting that goes on in private institutions all the time. If that amounts to persecution, then people on both sides of the political spectrum are persecuted all the time. I agree with Dan above, I haven’t seen anything to indicate that there was a good reason to deny him tenure. But this is pretty common in academia, and especially in private schools, and I don’t consider it persecution.

    One more thing, Ed. I don’t understand why you or anyone else views Beckwith as an Intelligent Design advocate. He has written quite a bit on the public school science issue and how that relates to ID as being religious or not religious in the First Amendment sense, but he does not claim to be an ID advocate either from principles of science or philosophy.

    Frank and I have talked about this. I usually am careful to say that he advocates the constitutionality of teaching ID, but I don’t think it’s unfair to call him an ID advocate either. My understanding of his position is that he does believe that ID is true, but that he doesn’t require that it be true in order to make the argument for its constitutionality in terms of public schools. I base this on several emails we’ve exchanged on the subject. And he is, of course, a fellow at the primary thinktank that advocates ID. Given that, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to call him an ID advocate, at least as shorthand. Still, he does make a distinction between the two positions and I’ve generally tried to note that in my discussions of his work.

  21. #21 Hunter Baker
    March 27, 2006

    Ed, you do have a point here that I want to concede. It is certainly true that I took the worse possible inference from Leiter’s attack on Van Dyke. That is not necessarily the right thing to do. Frankly, I was so shocked by Leiter’s salvos against a law student, I was seeing red. It is possible to view his critique more favorably and in a more measured light and I admit it.

  22. #22 Ed Brayton
    March 27, 2006

    Well that’s quite a change of heart in 45 minutes. Less than an hour ago, you were still claiming that Leiter was trying to “punish” and “destroy” Van Dyke. I guess you were still seeing red. Still, it’s good to see you admit that.

  23. #23 Hunter Baker
    March 27, 2006

    I was only partially wrong, Ed. My original article probably misinterpreted what Leiter meant by “serious pedagogical consequences” to follow from Van Dyke’s book review. I thought he meant to Van Dyke’s teaching career, but I now think he meant bad stuff could be taught in a classroom because of reliance on Harvard Law Review.

    However, you should recall that Leiter later warned Van Dyke that his chances of getting a job in private practice would be threatened if he persisted in arguing the ID issue.

  24. #24 blogista
    March 27, 2006

    Hunter B:

    “If you don’t see persecution in what’s happening to Frank Beckwith right now, then you’re blind.”

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. :-)

    If the administration of a Baptist college spits out a competent professor over an intra-Baptist political fight, I don’t see how you count that as “persecution”. If you’re using it in a limited trivial sense, OK, a little hyperbole in your characterization of the administration’s tactics. Fair enough.

    However, the general paranoia, or perhaps just an oft repeated canard, amongst conservative Christians that they are being “persecuted” by society like in the time of the Roman overlords in the Church’s early days, is a laughably out of place in Beckwith’s situation. It’s wrong, for starters, being that nearly 95% of the U.S. population is Christian, but particularly it bears no relation to your professor’s struggle with nearly like-minded Christians.

    And to take it a step further, when you mention uber-Darwinists regarding criticism of your own questionable behavior, you reveal your own affinity towards seeing anti-conservative “persecution” where there really isn’t any.

    Maybe you should resume using a pseudonym.

  25. #25 Krauze
    March 28, 2006

    Looks like the first conspiracy theorist was ID critic PZ Myers.

  26. #26 Nick (Matzke)
    March 28, 2006

    PZ proved prescient. From the DI Media/Judge/Libruls-at-Baylor Complaints Division:

    Scandal Brewing at Baylor University? Denial of Tenure to Francis Beckwith Raises Serious Questions about Fairness and Academic Freedom

    [...]

    But Beckwith has a problem: His views are out of sync with the left-wing ideologues who control much of American academia. He dares to question the morality of abortion, and (gasp!) he even defends the constitutionality of teaching about intelligent design.

    [...]

    Darwinists and other ideologues in academia are obviously afraid of scholars like Beckwith. Unable to answer their arguments, they want to silence their right to speak. Such ideologues know they can’t win in the freemarketplace of ideas, so they try to hold on to their current monopoly power in academia at all costs.

    Here follows some idle speculation:

    I have not followed Beckwith’s work in depth except for his stuff in law review articles dealing with ID and other church/state issues, but I can say that serious lawyers and law professors say that Beckwith is neither, and that his law review work exhibits pretty basic mistakes about constitutional law in the church/state separation area. E.g. Beckwith’s argument that the purpose prong of the Lemon test violates the constitutional restriction on religious tests for elected office is simply laughable.

    Beckwith doesn’t have a law degree, he has a philosophy PhD and a “Master of Juridical Studies” (lawyers shrug when they hear this). If I understand correctly, law review journals tend to be run by law students and are not peer-reviewed in the way that science, philosophy, history, etc., journals are. Since most of his publications seem to be law review articles, or books basically republishing his law review articles, this might have been an issue for the tenure committee. But I don’t know for sure, perhaps everyone in his department produces primarily law review articles.

    The above, plus the well-known debate about whether or not Beckwith was a hire that fit the philosophy of the Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies in the first place, may have tipped the vote. University departments do need some common vision and compatible faculty — they occasionally disintegrate if intradepartmental wars get too heated. If a tenure committee feels like they might be signing up for 25 years of intradepartmental strife, they might give it a pass.

    My 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

  27. #27 Nick (Matzke)
    March 28, 2006

    PS: Beckwith is an evangelical, not a Roman Catholic.

  28. #28 Ed Brayton
    March 28, 2006

    Nick wrote:

    PS: Beckwith is an evangelical, not a Roman Catholic.

    Yeah, I know that. For some reason, I had him reversed in my head with Stephen Dillard (Feddie) of Southern Appeal. Feddie wrote to correct me on that, as did Beckwith himself late last night.

  29. #29 Hunter Baker
    March 28, 2006

    Fine. Persecution is too strong a word. Discrimination is better. Prejudicial treatment. Unfair denial of tenure. Betrayal of stated institutional values.

  30. #30 Ed Brayton
    March 28, 2006

    Krauze-

    Please note that I didn’t say that ID had nothing to do with what happened; I said that it’s false to blame it on us evil “Darwinists” (which I know you didn’t do, so it’s not aimed at you) because this is a just a battle within the church primarily about theology. In point of fact, most of the discussion I’ve had with folks on my side of the ID fence in the last couple days has been pretty supportive of Beckwith. Sure, there are a few who will say that advocacy of ID, or even of the constitutionality of teaching ID, is grounds enough to deny tenure, but even as anti-ID as I am I think that is an absurd and dangerous position. As I noted above, that would rule out some eminent legal scholars who, while I think they’re wrong on that issue, certainly deserve to be taken seriously in academia.

  31. #31 R. Dean Davenport
    March 28, 2006

    I am a doctoral student at the Dawson Institute. Ed Brayton is incorrect on a number of counts here. 1) Frank is not a Roman Catholic. 2) Davis was not his strongest supporter. 3) Baylor is not controlled by the Baptist church.

    Nevertheless, Ed Brayton is correct that the controversy here has little to do with ID theory (or any other substantive intellectual disagreement for that matter). To argue that it does is merely an attempt to give some type of justification to a purely political decision. Baylor administrators have perfected their skills at providing plausible “intellectual justifications” for poor leadership decisions and developed this into an art form over the last decade. Nevertheless, the pettiness of the tenure committee here marks a new low even for Baylor–a rather remarkable accomplishment given all of the other impressive lows in recent memory. But never underestimate Baylor’s pettiness. In many ways, it is Baylor’s commitment to continuing this tradition of pettiness that is the last and truest remnant of Baylor’s “Baptist heritage.” Viva la tradicion!

  32. #32 Ed Brayton
    March 28, 2006

    In response to R. Dean Davenport’s list of mistakes:

    1. I know that now, it’s been corrected several times, including by Frank himself. I had him mixed up with Stephen Dillard, with whom he blogged for quite some time.

    2. What I said about Davis being a strong supporter of Frank came straight from Frank himself; I have no reason to think that he lied. He credited Davis with having prevented the Dawson family from ousting him from the Institute a while back.

    3. It depends entirely on what you mean by “controlled”. Baylor is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. 25% of the Board of Regents is chosen by the Baptist General Convention, the other 75% by election. But those elected, naturally, are generally those with close ties to that Baptist tradition as well. There’s no doubt that there has been a battle for control of that board for many years, a battle between more fundamentalist elements and more theologically (and politically) liberal elements.

    As for the rest of what you said, agreeing with me, I would only note that virtually the same thing could be said of any university in the country, especially from the standpoint of someone whose views aren’t dominant there. The pettiness and backstabbing and ass-covering and political battles and retributions and so forth are not unique to Baylor.

  33. #33 R. Dean Davenport
    March 28, 2006

    Ed, I only read your original post. I didn’t bother reading all the other digressive comments before posting my reply. Maybe I should have. My apologies. And I agree with your last paragraph. Two good books on this subject:

    Profscam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education
    by Charles J. Sykes

    Killing the Spirit
    by Page Smith

    Smith studied under Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, the Harvard social philosopher.

  34. #34 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    March 28, 2006

    Discrimination is better. Prejudicial treatment. Unfair denial of tenure. Betrayal of stated institutional values.

    Some of these things are not like the others …

    Hunter, the point here is that nobody’s contesting those last two.

    The point here is that calling it “discrimination” or “persecution” or even “prejudicial treatment” in the context you’re doing gives a very false impression – it gives the impression that the “discrimination” is coming from groups who, quite frankly, don’t care.

    People who support evolution, by and large, don’t care one way or another if a person who supports ID gets tenure at a private religious school.

  35. #35 Eric Rasmusen
    March 29, 2006

    I wish someone would give more detail on Prof. Beckwith’s publication record–not just number of pages, but academic quality. How does it compare with other faculty at Baylor who have been granted tenure in recent years?