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Judge sends Baylor Alumni Association case to mediation

After several hours of testimony in federal court in Waco, the judge told all parties—a single member of the Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) who sued the BAA, its officers, and Baylor University—to choose a mediator and set a meeting date before the end of the day.

“I believe this matter is one that cries out for mediation,” said U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith ’64, JD ’66, who issued a temporary restraining order on July 2 to halt removal of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center, home to the BAA for more than three decades. The hearing was to determine whether that order would become a preliminary injunction.

Smith said the July 10 hearing would remain in recess while mediation took place, and he urged the participants to come to resolve the issue before the end of the month.

The suit against the BAA, current president Collin Cox ’97, immediate past president Elizabeth Coker ’89, JD ’92, and Baylor University was filed Monday, July 1, by Kurt Dorr ’84, a member of the seventeen-thousand-member association and a resident of Illinois. The plaintiff, Dorr, did not attend the hearing.

The lawsuit seeks in the immediate term to prohibit Baylor University from removing the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center, an action the university, after consulting with its architectural team, requested in connection with the construction of the new on-campus Baylor Stadium.

In an opening statement for the plaintiff, attorney Adam Feinberg of Washington, D.C., said that his client was interested in resolving two issues. The first is whether the Transition Agreement—signed by BAA representatives May 31 and scheduled for a member vote on September 7—and the Agreement to Vacate the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center—also signed on May 31, and effective July 3—are part of one agreement or are separate agreements. The second issue is whether it is necessary to tear down the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center.

Andy McSwain ’82, JD ’84, a Waco attorney representing Baylor University, argued that Dorr did not have legal standing to bring the suit before calling witnesses to explain why, as an architectural and construction matter, Baylor needs to tear down the building.

J. D. Pauerstein, JD ’84—lead attorney for the BAA, Cox, and Coker—also said the plaintiff didn’t have the right to sue and that BAA directors, in signing the Agreement to Vacate the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center, were adhering to an existing legal contract.

The court heard from witnesses including former BAA board members; an independent construction manager called as an expert witness; the architect who designed Baylor’s new stadium; Baylor’s associate vice president for facility, planning, and construction; and BAA board president Cox.

After the hearing, the parties agreed to mediate in Waco on July 22, with Pauerstein and Cox representing the BAA. The objective of the mediation, Cox said, is to resolve all issues raised in the lawsuit. After the mediation, the parties will report back to the judge.

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