Baylor University Provost and Executive Vice President Edwin Trevathan resigned from his position this week after holding the post for less than eight months. He will remain at Baylor as a neuroscience professor.
Trevathan was previously a professor of epidemiology and dean of the College of Public Health and Social Justice at St. Louis University in Missouri.
“After prayerful consideration and consultation with my family, we have decided that the position of executive vice president and provost at Baylor University is not a good fit for us,” Trevathan said in a statement. “I have, therefore, decided to step aside from my role as EVP and provost.”
Todd Still, dean of Truett Seminary, will serve as interim provost, and a search for a permanent replacement is in the planning stages, university spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said.
Trevathan’s resignation comes amid faculty disagreement over the possible implementation of a chief diversity officer at the school. President and Chancellor Ken Starr put the idea forward in the fall and created the Chief Diversity Officer Implementation Planning Group to study diversity at the school and ultimately create the position. Faculty were informed of the move in a letter from Starr in November.
Documents obtained by the Tribune-Herald show faculty disagreement over the necessity of the position, with some claiming it could be a slippery slope causing the school to move away from its Christian identity. It was not immediately known whether Trevathan’s decision to resign was connected in any way to the ongoing debate among Baylor constituents about the chief diversity officer position. Trevathan was unable to be reached this week, and several others declined comment on his resignation and the circumstances surrounding it.
Elizabeth Corey, Baylor Honors Program director, wrote about the complicated nature of diversity for Christian schools in an Oct. 28 blog post, “Diversity in the Christian University.”
“Even while we embrace aspects of diversity, Christian schools must be bold enough to say that we prioritize a certain kind of particularity of difference from our many secular competitors,” Corey wrote.
She wrote that “Christian schools should think long and hard . . . before they sign their souls over to the secular rule of diversity officers.”
Lynne Hinojosa, an associate professor of literature in the honors program, wrote an opposing viewpoint in an internal Baylor letter obtained by the Tribune-Herald titled “Some Truths and Untruths in the Arguments against Diversity Initiatives at Baylor.”
“Christians currently opposed to a CDO fail to articulate now a Christian theological account of diversity,” Hinojosa wrote.
She also said some minority students have said they “graduate ‘despite the university’ instead of ‘because of the university.’ ”
“Let us conscientiously set out to institute new practices that rectify these imbalances. A CDO ideally helps us do this,” Hinojosa wrote. “Baylor may not be full of overt individual racists and sexists, but it is a structurally racist institution.”
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said there is always active conversation around campus on a variety of issues, and Baylor looks forward to those discussions continuing.
“As the now-unfolding (and lively) conversation on our own campus overwhelmingly demonstrates, we need to redouble our efforts to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of both our faculty and staff,” Starr said in a Nov. 11 letter explaining the group to faculty and staff.
He noted that 13 percent of full-time faculty identify as persons of color.
In a Dec. 10 follow-up letter, Starr said the CDO group submitted a final report. Fogleman said that report may become available this spring semester.
“We are grateful for (Trevathan’s) dedicated service to Baylor University and the manner in which he has helped position us for future success,” Starr said in a statement.