By Ada Zhang
If The Baylor Line magazine is to continue with the word Baylor in its title, the Transition Agreement between the Baylor Alumni Association and Baylor Board of Regents must receive a ‘yes’ vote from at least two thirds of the BAA member present at the meeting on Sept. 7.
The Baylor Line magazine began in 1946, and since then, it has been published by the self-regulating Baylor Alumni Association.
The Line’s mission statement says the magazine’s purpose is “to examine, from a wide range of perspectives, Baylor’s history, culture, institutional practices, aspirations, and identity as a private, Baptist university and to enable alumni to maintain their emotional, intellectual, and social bonds with the university and each other.”
The Baylor Line website says it supports productive and stimulating discussion between alumni of different cultural backgrounds.
The website further states that the magazine aims to bring together alumni who care about their alma mater and who wish to stay connected with as well as contribute to the alumni community.
The Line’s purpose is not to recruit students, advertise or fundraise, although inadvertently that is what it often does, according to the website.
Collin Cox, BAA president, said editorial independence, support from university officials and financial funding are vital components in preserving a high-quality magazine. But Cox elevated editorial independence as the most important component out of the three.
“We think our readers appreciate a voice that is separate from the university and not managed by the university,” Cox said. “So when there are difficult issues, we can comment on things with multiple perspectives.”
Editorial independence is what distinguishes the Baylor Line from Baylor Magazine, Cox said, the latter of which began in 2002 as an official publication of the university.
The two publications appear similar, as they both speak about the culture at Baylor, but the content often differs. Baylor Magazine celebrates the positive aspects of the university while the Baylor Line oftentimes reports from a more critical, albeit less glamorous, standpoint.
“We do celebrate the good things about Baylor, but there are times when we want to read different perspectives,” Cox said.
John Barry, a Baylor vice president and the Chief Marketing Officer, said that should the BAA merge with the university, the Line’s editorial independence would continue.
“One of the things that’s been said is that somehow when we go forward, we will impose editorial control over The Line,” Barry said. “What they fail to mention — and what’s critical — is that because they have a license, we have quality control.”
Quality control is different from editorial control. Control of quality means control over trademark policies and has nothing to do with content.
Since 1993, the university has had the right to review every issue of The Line before publication for quality.
The 1993 licensing agreement between the university and the BAA says that if Baylor finds that the quality of any service or product being offered or sold in The Line under this license is not “reasonable and is unacceptable,” it must notify the BAA in writing and specify any changes it deems as necessary to obtain an acceptable and reasonable level of quality. The BAA agrees that in such an occurrence it will make the changes in a reasonable period of time and thereafter maintain an acceptable and reasonable level of quality.
Barry said the university will continue its right to review if the agreement passes.
“The check is not to sign off on content,” Barry said. “We’re not telling them ‘we don’t like this story.’ We don’t do any of that stuff. The notion of censorship is not true.”
The university reviews the magazine only to ensure there are no trademark problems or ads that are not licensed to use the Baylor name, Barry said.
The 1993 agreement further says that except for the BAA’s obligation to properly use the license marks and maintain an acceptable and reasonable level of quality, Baylor has no control over the BAA. For example, it is understood that the BAA is an independent ‘voice’ of Baylor alumni, and the positions taken by the BAA (editorial or otherwise) which may be contrary to Baylor administration or its Board of Regents will not be alleged by Baylor as insufficient quality and will not be grounds for Baylor’s termination of the license agreement.
On May 31, the university formally notified the BAA of the pending termination of the license to use the Baylor name.
The license will automatically be terminated if the agreement does not pass. If the agreement does pass, the university will disregard the termination and “create a new license of BU trademarks” for The Line.
A letter from Cox on the BAA website states should the agreement pass, “the Baylor Line magazine will be published by the Baylor Line Corporation’s independent board of directors.”
For students, this means the Baylor Line magazine will not be accepting any interns until the agreement is settled and plans for the magazine are more concrete.
Chad Wooten, interim executive vice president of the BAA, said the fate of The Line is uncertain as of right now.
“We’ve taken interns for years and we plan to take them in the future, but we don’t want to put students in a bad situation where they don’t get course credit for their work halfway through the semester,” Wooten said. “It’s not fair to the students.”
Wooten said internships could be available as early as Sept. 9, but no one can foresee the future and know for sure.
Even though the Line did not take any summer interns, the magazine was published regularly over summer. A special issue of the Baylor Line is now available online for the public to read.