Baylor/BAA Transition: Those who say Yes

Vote YesBy Linda Wilkins
City Editor

After the announcement of the Transition Agreement over the summer, various people have expressed their approval or concerns. While this matter is complicated, these opinions can be sorted into those that support a ‘yes’ vote on Sept. 7 and those that don’t.

Baylor’s administration and the Baylor Alumni Association’s leadership support the Transition Agreement.

Baylor President Ken Starr said the purpose of the agreement is to move the university forward.

“The core of the agreement is to create a single, unified comprehensive alumni outreach effort and to preserve the independent voice of The Baylor Line,” Starr said.

John Barry, a Baylor vice president and the Chief Marketing Officer, said the Transition Agreement has the potential to increase alumni relations.

“The current alumni association has served as a local community for alumni,” Barry said. He said the Baylor Alumni Network, which is housed under Baylor, reaches more alumni and is more inclusive than the BAA.”

Baylor alumni must pay to join the BAA, which is an independent organization, but are automatically added to the Baylor Alumni Network.

The BAA currently has 17,000 members. From 1990-2013, 69,000 students graduated from Baylor and 3,400 graduates joined the BAA. Barry said 65,000 alumni would be left out of an alumni organization without the Baylor Alumni Network.

“We’ve got to serve all our alumni,” Barry said.

Barry said another way the BAA is exclusive is in its own bylaws. The bylaws mandate that members of the BAA must be present in order to vote. He said because Baylor’s alumni and the BAA’s membership is worldwide, it’s difficult for them to return to Waco to vote on BAA affairs.

“It’s unreasonable to think they will come back,” Barry said.

Two provisions in the Transition Agreement are the additions of the Baylor Alumni Advisory Board and the addition of an alumni regent to the Baylor Board of Regents.

Collin Cox, the president of the BAA and a ’97 Baylor alumnus, said the advisory board will reflect alumni as a whole.

“It will be a new group and it will grow over time,” Cox said.

The alumni regent would be a non-voting member selected by the board of regents.

“It is a very positive element,” Cox said.

The future of The Baylor Line was a concern for many people.

“The Baylor Line is a magazine we are proud of and that creates a place for viewpoints to be heard,” Cox said. “It will continue to be absolutely independent.” Cox said he believes the magazine will have more editorial protection with the new agreement.

Some people have voiced concerns that having an independent alumni voice is necessary to act as a watchdog for the university.

In response, Starr said, “My view is that the watchdog of the university is first and foremost the [faculty] senate and then the student body. They are here, they are invested and they know.”

In regards to the termination notice issued on May 31, Starr said it was part of the negotiations that occurred during the past year.

“This is all a package – this was all worked out over the course of 10-month period negotiations that culminated in late May,” Starr said. “The termination notice has been on the website, so it’s not just available to the leadership of the alumni association.”

Dr. Todd Still, the Faculty Senate chair and faculty regent, said he fears the potential of a no vote.

“My fear is if there is a no vote, this would likely result in further fracturing of Baylor family and perhaps litigation would ensue,” Still said.

Cox and Still both said it is possible and likely that litigation between Baylor and the BAA would ensue if the vote is no.

Tommye Lou Davis, vice president for constituent engagement, said litigation would cost both sides a lot of money.

“It will be especially damaging to the Baylor brand,” she said. She said this is a family matter, so damaging the brand name would not be good.

“A no vote does not restore the status quo,” Starr said. “A no vote ushers in a very unfortunate period, but the university feels the call to move forward. We must move forward with our unified, comprehensive alumni outreach effort.”

Starr said students should be aware of what occurs with the Transition Agreement.

“Every student now is a future alumna or alumnus,” Starr said. “We will have stability going forward as a unified voice.”