By Rae Jefferson
The Baylor Alumni Association has appointed a committee to solidify the association’s future in the wake of Baylor cutting ties with the group.
“A special committee of the board of directors will begin meeting immediately to chart a course for the future of the Association,” said BAA President George Cowden III in a statement released by the BAA. “We then hope to engage the Board of Regents in an open, transparent dialogue about constructive, mutually beneficial result for our members and the University.”
In an email to the Lariat, the BAA Executive Committee said the new committee will propose “amendments to the constitution and bylaws to reflect the continued support of Baylor University through the publication of the Baylor Line, existing endowment funds, and any other endowment funds that may be created by the Baylor Alumni Association in the future and other such support as the committee may deem appropriate.”
The new committee was the result of an executive session between the BAA Board of Directors that took place after an open forum meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Galloway Suite at Floyd Casey Stadium to discuss the direction of the association with members.
Non-board members were invited to approach a microphone and vocalize thoughts about the association’s future plans, such as continuing with alumni outreach or redirecting its mission to include scholarship funds for current students. Several members also discussed the association’s relationship to the university.
Members Gale Galloway and Phil Dorr were two of several members who said the association should focus on supporting current students through scholarship funds for the time being.
“Very often we forget what we’re here for, and that’s to educate the students,” Galloway said. “At the end of the day, Baylor Alumni Association should refocus its efforts in order to assist those students in the cost of their education.”
Member Caroll Webb said he thinks the association “gets carried away with independence” and should focus on mending its relationship with the university.
“My personal opinion is we do not need an independent voice,” Webb said. “’Us’ and ‘you’ ought to be ‘we’ for Baylor.”
Member Jim Price, a former BAA vice president, said he would like to see the Sept. 7 vote, which determined whether the association would remain independent from Baylor, revisited because remote voting had not yet been implemented by the association, possibly resulting in an unfair representation of member opinions.
“I’m wondering if, now that the bylaws have been changed, the board would consider a straw poll of everybody who could vote now,” Price said. “How would they have voted back in September?”
The September vote was restricted to members present in Waco on the day of the vote. The BAA bylaws were amended to allow voting via mail, internet or proxy services on Dec. 7.
Price said the BAA could use the data from a straw poll, or a survey conducted to get an idea of general opinions, to determine whether a revote should occur.
“I hope something like that could be visited and talked about, and put into effect,” Price said.
The Sept. 7 decision, if passed, would have dissolved the BAA into Baylor, and would have allowed the association to continue to use the “Baylor” name in the title of its official publication the Baylor Line.
The resulting no-vote, which led to the termination of the BAA’s licensing rights to the “Baylor” name, raised concerns among members about the future of the BAA’s publication of the Baylor Line.
In the statement released by the BAA, Cowden said the association “will continue to publish the Baylor Line magazine,” although it is not clear whether the association will change the name of the magazine to avoid infringing on copyright laws.
Member Kent Reynolds said he disagrees with the need for a revote. The agreement proposed by the vote, which required the BAA to be dissolved into the university in order to maintain Baylor’s licensing rights, was “a bad agreement,” Reynolds said.
“It was probably the worst compromise I have seen in my 40 years of business,” he said. “It was bad because it required the BAA to void all of its existing agreements with Baylor. In my opinion, it never should’ve been voted on the first time, much less be brought up for a second vote.”
Although the Sept. 7 vote did not pass the first time around, a straw poll could give board members an idea of whether or not members would like to conduct a second vote, or revote, on the decision. Price said this could open the door to discussions between BAA board members and Baylor regents about reuniting under the conditions of the originally rejected agreement.
In order for the agreement to have been passed during the first vote, a two-thirds majority, or 1,000 yes-votes, would have been needed.
Of the 1,499 votes cast, 830 were yes-votes. There were 668 no-votes. One vote was discounted for being in favor of both yes and no.
Reynolds said the ongoing tension between the association and the university is unnecessary and he hopes to see it worked out in the future.
“To this day, there is no reason the BAA and Baylor could not sit down and try to find a place for the BAA,” Reynolds said. “A lot of us loyal and longstanding alumni want to relate to Baylor through the BAA, and it’s a shame that Baylor will not allow those folks who want to relate to Baylor that way to do that.”
Reynolds said if the university cannot find a place for the BAA in the university’s community, he wishes to see the association move forward with its own plans.
“I would prefer to see the BAA sit down and define its own role, whatever that is, going forward,” Reynolds said.