This article was published in the Fall 2009 issue of The Baylor Line.
Regents ask alumni to dissolve their charter
ON SATURDAY, September 19, the Baylor Board of Regents and Baylor Interim President David Garland submitted a proposal to the Board of Directors of the Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) during its regularly scheduled board meeting.
This proposal requested that the BAA dissolve its charter and turn over all of its assets, personnel, and operations to the university as well as editorial control of the BAAs alumni publications. In return, Baylor would absorb the BAA as a department of the university, and the BAA’s governing board would be reconstituted as a board of advisors.
The planned agenda for the BAAs board meeting was to observe and celebrate the BAA’s 150th anniversary of supporting Baylor and serving alumni and to hear a report concerning the alumni association’s new five-year plan, “United for Baylor,” which is designed to increase scholarship giving to children of alumni and to encourage alumni to raise money for Baylor. (See “What We Will Achieve,” page 58.)
The university’s Board of Regents and administration, however, demanded an audience with the BAA board during this celebration and regular business meeting to present their proposal for the BAA to terminate its existence as a self-governing organization. Numerous responses and requests from the BAA to regents and Garland to defer this discussion until the next BAA board meeting were rejected.
During the past three years, the Board of Regents has rejected the BAA’s continued requests for an official audience with regents to address any concerns and to discuss mutual efforts focusing on restoring unity and moving Baylor forward.
In addition to requesting the dissolution of the BAA’s charter, the proposal characterized the BAA’s historic role as a trusted communicator with alumni as being a “watchdog” Being a trusted communicator is only one of numerous roles played by the Baylor Alumni Association, which comprises 19,000 of the school’s strongest cheer-leaders and dedicated fans.
The BAA’s governing board will strongly consider the merits of the proposal received from the Board of Regents and interim administration. The BAA has always given any request from the Baylor administration full consideration in keeping with the responsibilities with which it is entrusted. Through the formation of a study committee composed of alumni and faculty, the BAA will thoroughly study the proposal.
The request for the BAA to dissolve raises questions with many alumni, considering that only two years ago both the BAA and the Baylor Board of Regents agreed upon and expressed their commitment to the independence of the BAA, strategic plans that support the mission of the uni-vers4 and a harmonious relationship. A survey of BAA members and non-member alumni during this same time period found that 83 percent of respondents believe the BAAs independence enables it to be a strong partner with the university while providing alumni with their own voice.
The same survey revealed that 96 per-cent of those polled believe the BAA should serve as an organization that responsibly and candidly represents the collective interests and values of Baylor alumni and pro-vides a forum for the Baylor family to address issues concerning the well-being of the university. As we would with anyone else, we certainly believe that a group of twenty-one individuals on the Board of Regents and the interim president are entitled to their opinion. This opinion requires us to study and consider the many ways that this proposal will affect our organization and Baylor.
The regents’ urgent demand to present this proposal at this particular time raises a number of questions. Why has the current Board of Regents, under new leadership since June, taken this 180-degree turn away from its historic support of the BAA’s independence? And why now? We are not sure what the answers to these questions are, but we believe we must respond fully and faith-fully to the proposal, as any good fiduciary would, in a way that is best for Baylor. That will be our guiding light as we consider the proposal.
The BAA’s membership of more than 19,000 continues to represent the strongest, most actively engaged members of Baylor’s alumni base. The association’s own membership base has never been stronger and ranks among the typical membership percentages of its Big 12 counterparts.
As a financially self-sufficient group, the BAA provides $1.8 million in programs and services that engage alumni and encourage them to support the university. Under the terms of the proposal, this is roughly $1.8 million that the university would begin funding with its own funds to provide the same services. This past fiscal year, the BAA engaged more than 24,000 participants in its programs and had nearly 1.5 million communication contacts with alumni and friends.
In addition, BAA members’ financial support of Baylor remains a critical component of the university’s health. Members of the BAA constitute more than half of all alumni donors to the university, directly contributing $14.2 million to Baylor during a recent fiscal year. The alumni association’s operations have never been stronger, running a balanced budget and maintaining its history of receiving unqualified audits. This success has come alongside the efforts of Baylor regents and administrators over the past year to change and sever the functional and service-oriented connections between Baylor and the BAA in a manner that departs from the historic partnership between the two organizations.
All of the above stated successes are germane to the mission and purpose of the BAA, and the facts show that the BAA and alumni are performing well. All of this must be considered when we study this proposal, as well as whether or not this proposal allows the BAA to expand its services in a way that is best for Baylor.
Baylor University is unique as an institution of higher education, maintaining a delicate balance between learning and faith while being governed by a self-perpetuating board of twenty-one individuals who have limited checks and balances to their authority as far as determining the future course of Baylor. Because of that special status, and for hundreds of other reasons, many alumni and the strongest supporters of Baylor have believed that the university is best served
by an association that is self-governed and endowed with an independent voice—an association whose uniqueness in the world of private higher education matches the uniqueness of the institution it serves.
We must carefully study whether or not this mission holds true today as we con-sider this new proposal.
David Lacy ‘79
BAA president for 2009
Jeff Kilgore ’90, MSEd ‘92
BAA executive vice president and CEO