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Editorial: Lilley's two cents are missing

Sept. 20, 2007

Being Baylor's president is not an easy job. Between managing a staff of professors and administrators and fundraising enough to finance Baylor 2012, President John Lilley has a lot on his plate.

But one of the most crucial roles a university president must play, especially during times of dispute, is to act as the face of the university. By virtue of his job description, Lilley is the voice of Baylor. Lately it seems he has laryngitis.

When Baylor was thrust into the national spotlight for shutting down distinguished professor Dr. Robert Marks' intelligent design Web site, representatives from media relations answered questions, not Lilley.

Of course, the public could hardly expect anything less, considering Lilley's absence from the initial meeting between Marks and a handful of Baylor administrators.

It's understandable that the president is a busy man and can't attend every single meeting with a faculty member, but certainly one with a distinguished professor and his legal counsel could merit his coveted attention.

This is not the first time Lilley has been missing in action for a crucial meeting. Let's not forget the controversy surrounding the book Baylor Beyond the Crossroads, now known as The Baylor Project -- it was another national stage for Baylor and another silent moment in Lilley's presidency.

Not only was Lilley notably absent from meetings with the book's editors, director of media relations Lori Fogleman said he was unable to comment at all because he had never seen any version of the book, even though manuscripts and galley copies are available.

There really is no excuse for this type of detachment from issues so close to the heart of Baylor.

Even former president Robert B. Sloan Jr. is easier to get ahold of than Lilley. When The Lariat called the office of the Houston Baptist University president, we were patched right through.

However, when trying to reach our own president, we run into a string of red tape that media relations proudly declares is "the same treatment we give the New York Times." This is nothing to brag about.

By making itself unavailable to the press, the Lilley administration has forfeited its voice in major conversations. Even though representatives from media relations eagerly give statements to newspapers across the country, nothing has the same effect as a word from the president.

While the weight of his speech may be the very thing that's causing Lilley to hold his tongue, few statements could be as damaging as this current silence.

Often, people refuse to speak out of guilt. By choosing silence, Lilley has unwittingly thrown himself under these suspicions, even though this may not be the case.

In an article by the Baptist Press, former Baylor professor William Dembski infers that Lilley is the culprit behind the changes to Marks' Web site due to his absence at the August meeting. If Lilley had only been there, Dembski couldn't make such an argument.

Now the Lilley administration is declining to meet with the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary following intelligent design issues in higher education.

By hiding out, it's beginning to look like Lilley's got something worth hiding.

Nothing would silence the conspiracy theorists like undeniable physical presence. Show up to meetings, make public statements, maybe even hit up the Bear Trail while you're at it.

As your student body, we'd like to hear from you once in a while.

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