After years of controversy, the Baylor Alumni Association reveals the truth behind the ongoing alumni relations fight at Baylor
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2013, dawned bright and clear on the Baylor campus. As the chimes in Pat Neff Hall struck the half hour, several students walked their dogs along Fountain Mall while a number of Baylor staff members bustled toward Waco Hall. Clearly, something important was happening on campus that day, as workers laid out food, posted signs, and swept the sidewalks in front of the Judge Baylor statue.
Later that afternoon, thousands of Baylor supporters would throng to Floyd Casey Sta- dium when the Bears took on the University of Buffalo. But before the Bears would finish a 70-13 rout of the Bulls, the Baylor family had another contest to wage—one that was more than a decade in the making.
Nearly twenty years to the day after the Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) and Baylor University signed an agreement (page 30) that granted the association a long-term license to use the names “Baylor Alumni Association” and “The Baylor Line,” BAA members would vote on a new proposal that would negate the long-term license and another agreement (page 37) signed in 1994 that gave the BAA official status with Baylor and the right to indefinitely occupy the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center. The termination of these agreements and dissolutions of the BAA’s charter would be exchanged for a newly licensed “Baylor Line Corporation,” to publish the association’s magazine, and a non-voting seat on the Baylor Board of Regents.
During the preceding summer, both the university and the BAA had publicized the September vote on what was called the “Transition Agreement,” but the proposed compromise was not without its share of controversy. Some people claimed it was nothing more than the BAA capitulating to a veiled takeover from the university. Others said that the alumni organization needed to stop complaining and become part of the positive forward movement Baylor had been enjoying in recent years by dissolving and merging with the university.
Even the process of the vote was not without its problems. Because the BAA’s bylaws called for in-person voting on significant organizational changes, only those association members who made the trip to Waco would have the opportunity to have their voices heard. And the vote had to pass by a two-thirds majority of those present, rather than a simple majority.
While members of the Baylor Line student organization jubilantly ran onto the field at Floyd Casey, an independent accounting firm was counting the votes that would determine the future of the “other” Baylor Line and the 155-year-old organization that published it, the Baylor Alumni Association.
Given the ongoing consequences of what some observers have dubbed “Baylor’s civil war” and of the turmoil surrounding Baylor’s leadership over the last two decades, the BAA’s leaders now believe the time has come to provide a forthright account of this recent history, connecting the dots between seemingly isolated actions from the Sloan era to the present and examining the issues and people behind them. Bringing such topics out into the light of day is a critical step, they say, to understanding the full context of current circumstances.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said George Cowden III, current president of the BAA. “At this crucial time in the history of Baylor’s alumni relations and in its administration and governance, the BAA is exercising the right that Baylor gave us in the 1993 License Agreement to take positions that ‘may be contrary to the administration of the University or the Board of Regents’ in telling this story as an independent voice. We hope that a candid presentation of the facts as we know them will form the basis for a new beginning, ultimately leading to resolution, reconciliation, and the well-being of Baylor University.”
This is the real story.
Dissension in the ranks
In the spring of 1995, the Baylor Board of Regents announced its selection of Dr. Robert Sloan ’70 as Baylor’s twelfth president. During the weeks following Sloan’s first day, the alumni association served as a sponsor of a statewide tour to introduce Sloan to media and alumni in cities ranging from El Paso and Amarillo to Corpus Christi and Texarkana. Then-BAA executive vice president Ray Burchette ’57 accompanied Sloan on these trips that crisscrossed the state, allowing him to establish a connection with the new president that would extend the close interaction between the association and Sloan’s predecessors in office.
This amicable relationship continued through Baylor’s staging of the much-publicized first on-campus dance, held on April 18, 1996, and the renovation and expansion of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center, which was completed in June 1998 at a total cost to the association of $2.5 million and for which Sloan provided an endorsement in fundraising materials. Although the university helped support the fundraising effort, 100 percent of the construction cost were paid from BAA donations.
But signs of strain also began appearing between the Sloan administration and the BAA in the late 1990s. According to Burchette and others at the alumni association, Sloan developed a resentment toward the BAA concerning the editorial content in the Baylor Line, the BAA’s independent alumni magazine that had been published since 1946. One of Sloan’s first negative assessments of the magazine’s performance as an alumni communications vehicle was his stated displeasure over the coverage of the university’s contemplated sale of Baylor Health Care System (BHCS) in early 1997 spring and summer issues, the Baylor Line reported on the relationship between Baylor and BHCS, and the university’s eventual signing of an agreement with BHCS granting the system’s trustees control over its own future and providing for a reported $51 million contribution to Baylor University’s health-related programs. Various other Baylor Line stories, including articles concerning eating disorder treatment at Baylor and a drug raid on campus, irritated Sloan. The Line, although obviously biased toward Baylor, had a long-standing tradition of balanced reporting and telling a comprehensive story, even if things weren’t always pleasant.
When Diane Dillard ’76, JD ’79, served as president of the association’s board in 1999, she also encouraged criticism of the organization from Sloan. Dillard, the daughter of former association executive director Jack Dillard, told the Line that a tone of hostility and mistrust was established even before she took office. As president-elect, she attended a meeting with Sloan that included other association officials. “President Sloan was angry with the association and furious with the Baylor Line over the magazine’s stories on the medical center. At the meeting, he quite clearly threatened our very existence,” she said. “He told us he thought that the alumni association should be part of the university’s development office, where the association and the Baylor Line could be controlled by the president. He made no attempt to hide his deep conviction that the Baylor Line articles were attacks on him personally and part of a concerted effort to undermine his presidency.”
A few years later, the issues eventually surfaced as the university entered a transition period, creating an ideal time for the administration to effect major changes in alumni relations at Baylor. In March 2002, Dr. Randy Lofgren ’63, who the previous year had succeeded Burchette as the BAA’s executive vice president after serving in Baylor’s Office of Development since 1988, delivered to Sloan a nine-page proposal for Baylor to contract with the alumni association as its “vendor of choice” for a wide range of services directly linked to Imperative IX of Baylor 2012, the ambitious ten-year vision that had been adopted by Baylor’s Board of Regents the previous fall. “Enhance involvement of the entire Baylor family,” read entirely structured around ten premises contained within that objective.
The association’s proposed annual contract to fund twelve programs totaled $850,000. Programs covered by the proposal included metropolitan-area volunteer networks and regional chapters. Homecoming, the Alumni-in-the-Making program aimed at fostering ties with current students, the Legacy program for children of alumni, the Baylor Line, Heritage Club for graduates from fifty years ago or more, the alumni awards programs, online alumni community-building activities, and the Between the Lines monthly e-mail newsletter that had been created in July 2001 and had a readership of forty thousand alumni at the time.
The proposal, delivered while the BAA was in the midst of sponsoring a series of alumni meetings across the nation designed to give Baylor administrators an opportunity to promote Baylor 2012, was the culmination of two years of crafting implementing a long-range plan for the association. During this time, the association had increased its staff to twenty-one employees and had drawn upon its quasi-endowment, which had stood at $5.5 million in June 2000, to expand its programs in preparation for the plan’s implementation. The association’s previous discussions with Baylor administrators concerning the long-range plan – particularly during two key meetings in 2000 and 2001 – had led association representatives to believe the decision-makers in Pat Neff Hall backed the direction of the BAA’s ambitions.
Following the university’s overtures of support for the plan, the association’s leadership was surprised and disappointed when, on April 12, 2002, the Sloan administration declined the association’s proposal for a full-scale, $850,000 contract for services. Baylor did commit, however, to providing $350,000 for the next fiscal year to support a more limited range of services.
But as Lofgren continued meeting with university administrators, the Sloan administration’s plans regarding alumni relations became much more evident. On June 12, 2002 – just two months after delivering the BAA’s plan – Lofgren first informed the association’s officers of his decision to resign as executive vice president in order to accept an offer by Baylor to become associate vice president for alumni services. In that capacity, he would be directing a new unit within Baylor’s university relations division to be called the Office of Alumni Services. In a press release sent by e-mail to Baylor employees – which described the alumni services office’s responsibilities as alumni networking, lifelong learning, and conferencing and career services for alumni – Sloan described the catalyst for the new office’s creation as being Baylor 2012. “The structural changes that led to Dr. Lofgren’s appointment to this new position support the community-building goals of the ten-year vision,” Sloan said.
On that same day, June 12, 2002, several other BAA employees resigned (along with Lofgren) to accept positions in the new Office of Alumni Services. The BAA board of directors and remaining staff members had no prior knowledge of the new department until Lofgren’s announcement in a staff meeting that morning. In the words of one former employee in attendance at the meeting, “it certainly felt like an ambush.”
These actions came as no surprise to Dr. Stan Madden, who helped craft university strategy as Sloan’s vice president for university relations prior to leaving that position in early 2003. “Robert asked me once what I would do if I wanted to get rid of the alumni association. And I said, ‘I would do a Microsoft,’” he told the Line. “What Microsoft has found is that any time they have a competent competitor who has found a market and if they can’t buy them, then Microsoft has enough money to do what the competitor does but just give it away until the competitor can’t afford to do it anymore, and then Microsoft can control the market. [With alumni relations] I wanted something where we would have a way of keeping people involved from birth to death, and I didn’t know if the alumni association, just because of the way it was set up, would ever be a part of that. But Robert literally wanted me to build another one just like it – put them out of business.”
The Microsoft idea, Madden adds, began as a joke. “Our original conversation about the Microsoft strategy was held regarding the NoZe Brotherhood. Robert really resented some of the material in the Rope about him. The hotter the environment got, the more he resented the NoZe satirizing the situation. I told him once that if he could not tolerate the NoZe, he could always organize a parallel. As nobody knew who they were, they could easily be replaced. That was where the discussion actually began. Later, when we were talking about the BAA, I said, ‘Microsoft them,’ alluding back to that earlier discussion. I was joking when I said that, but that’s exactly what happened.”
Public statements made by Sloan and other Baylor officials, however, were distinctly more polished. In the “Conversation with the President” column in the spring 2003 issue of the Line, Sloan discussed the changes he had made in Baylor’s approach to alumni relations. “We have had a very supportive relationship with the alumni association down the years, and I believe the alumni association continues to serve a very important function for the university. But from our point of view, it was a question of the alumni association – as primarily a dues-supported organization – being able to meet the needs of our total alumni base, which has grown tremendously in recent years,” he commented. “Having said that, I think it is very important to recognize and appreciate the vital function that the Baylor Alumni Association has served in the past and continues to serve now, particularly as a support to the university. Down through the years, one of the single greatest functions of the alumni association has been supporting the university in times of stress and conflict. It is important for alumni to have a voice and to be able to speak out, whether it is to be a friendly critic or to be an enthusiastic cheerleader. Both of those are legitimate functions. The alumni association’s independence is the foundation of its effectiveness. If you are not independent, then your praise does not sound credible and your critique can be shut down. But when you are independent, you can be both of those – with the strength and credibility. . . . Independence provides for a free voice, but it also necessitates the support of its own membership.”
Simultaneous with the creation of the Office of Alumni Services, the debut issue of Baylor Magazine, published by the university’s Office of Public Relations, was mailed to almost 100,000 alumni and university supporters during the first week of June 2002. The new general-interest magazine was to be published bi-monthly and sent to its readers at no cost. The publication’s staff members assured members of the Baylor Line staff that they would not cover alumni news or create a Class Notes section; they would, instead, focus on campus-related news and events.
On the back cover of Baylor Magazine’s inaugural issue, Sloan wrote, “Why a new magazine, and why now? Those are good questions. The vast majority of Baylor alumni receive no consistent, timely communication from the university. Those who are members of the Baylor Alumni Association – fewer than 25 percent of our graduates – receive the Baylor Line on a quarterly basis. The rest of our alumni receive one issue annually, the Homecoming [fall] edition. We believe there is too much happening at Baylor to neglect this important audience.”
However, Stan Madden told the Line that the motivation for creating Baylor Magazine was not solely based on a quantitative issue – the Baylor Line’s limited distribution at the time. Such a perceived deficiency, he noted, could have been corrected by developing a plan for the alumni association to expand the Baylor Line’s distribution to all alumni, as it had previously done. According to Madden, who now holds The Ben H. Williams Professorship in Marketing at Baylor, Sloan’s decision to create another general-interest alumni magazine was based on other factors. “Robert felt like there was a need for Baylor Magazine because he didn’t get to control what was in the Baylor Line,” he said. Madden said that Sloan remarked on the fact that unlike most universities, Baylor did not have a publication that reflected the administration’s agenda. “The Baylor Magazine was started to give the university administration a way to tell their side of what was happening,” Madden said. “While the Baylor Line represented the university regarding news in many cases, Robert felt his message was filtered through others with a different point of view.”
Significantly, the research that Baylor’s Office of External Relations had conducted by an outside research firm when the university was formulating plans for Baylor Magazine failed to reveal a perceived need among alumni for another general-interest alumni magazine. As presented in the February 2002 “Executive Summary” of that research, those who participated in focus-group discussions were simply said to have been “interested in getting more news about events, activities, and accomplishments at Baylor.” Several respondents were said to have been “very concerned that Baylor might spend an inordinate amount of money on a magazine that was redundant to the Baylor Line,” and one of the findings of the focus-group research concluded, “The concept of another Baylor magazine created a significant amount of confusion.”
In the wake of Baylor’s creation of the Office of Alumni Services and the launch of Baylor Magazine in June 2002, the relationship between the BAA and Baylor entered a period of great uncertainty and tension. That fall, as the Office of Alumni Services began implementing networking programs that had been outlined in the association’s long-term plan, members of a negotiation team created by association leaders set to work. During their second meeting with Baylor officials – on October 21,2002, the Monday before Homecoming – Sloan made two proposals: that the alumni association merge with Baylor or, should the group with to remain independent, that it give the name “Baylor Alumni Association” to Baylor’s Office of Alumni Services and, perhaps, continue to function under the name “Baylor Line Society,” to reflect the name of the group’s magazine and primary remaining program.
“We were shocked and amazed – we were stunned, I don’t know what other word I can use – to hear the president of the university that we have all worked so hard for, to basically ask us to give up our identity,” negotiating team member Joey Seeber ’86, JD ’90, said. “I remember walking out of that meeting and looking at the others and saying, ‘Was I dreaming? Did that really just happen?’ Because it was such a 180-degree turn from where we had been not that long ago.”
On November 1, 2002, then-BAA president Pruitt Ashworth ’70, JD ’80, wrote to Sloan to convey the executive committee’s decision regarding his proposal. “We believe that the proposal would destroy the Baylor Alumni Association,” he wrote. “Therefore, we respectfully decline your suggestion that the Baylor Alumni Association give up its name.” In a letter of response, Sloan said he recognized the association’s need to retain its name and confirmed that the university would maintain its commitment to provide $350,000 to the BAA for fiscal year 2002-03, but he added that the university expected the association to function with “full financial independence during the next budget cycle” for fiscal year 2003-04.
When the BAA’s Board of Directors met on February 1, 2003, the organization had reached the low point of its recent operations. The association’s staff of twenty-one had declined to four full-time employees, who constituted the Baylor Line’s staff, and two part-time employees. And as a result of quasi-endowment resources being drawn upon to fund the long-range plan, the association’s quasi-endowment had dropped from $5.5 million in June 2000 to $2.8 million.
Meanwhile, university officials continued to defend their actions and to negatively portray the association’s independent status. “The model of the membership-driven alumni association was appropriate in the ‘40s and ‘50s, but it hasn’t been for a long time now,” a Baylor vice president said in an article printed in the January/February 2003 issue of Baylor Magazine. Echoing that comment, Lofgren was quoted later in the same article as saying, “Most knowledgeable leaders in the institutional advancement profession say it’s not a matter of if free-standing alumni associations of private universities will cease to be, it’s when.”
The association and the university did eventually sign, on May 10, 2003, a “Memorandum of Intention and Understanding” that guaranteed the continuation of the association’s access to the alumni database, the use of the Baylor Alumni Association name, and office space in the alumni center, which the association had previously agreed to share with the Office of Alumni Services.
Crisis in leadership
In the following months, the Baylor Alumni Association’s troubled relationship with the Sloan administration became part of the more general and increasingly public debate about the effectiveness of Sloan’s leadership as president. Eventually, the association’s board members and staff elected to put the organization’s independence into action to develop a constructive, mediating solution – the staging of an event to be called “A Baylor Family Dialogue,” to which groups on both sides of the issues would be invited. On July 18, 2003, more than twelve hundred people assembled in the Ferrell Center, with another four hundred watching live through the university’s website, as two opposing panels discussed questions in four categories that had become the major areas of debate about Baylor’s direction: finances, academics, leadership, and institutional values.
The debate between the two groups was vigorous and, at times, marked by strong emotion. As writer Michael Hall described it in a feature story on Sloan in the October 2003 issue of Texas Monthly, “The eight panelists . . . talked about tuition and debt, the faculty’s lack of trust, and the job-candidate questions. Sloan was defended – for his boldness, for not being a fundamentalist – and he was attacked – for being vengeful and divisive. He promised to work hard on his leadership skills. ‘There have been many missteps along the way,’ he said. ‘There will be many more tomorrow. But I have a single ambition for Baylor: that we be a university that takes seriously the confession, Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The fault lines that served to divide large numbers of alumni, faculty, students, and other constituent groups stemmed from several management and leadership issues, which sometimes converged. Many concerned financial matters. After the university experienced lower-than-projected freshman enrollment in the fall of 2002, coupled with the debt service for $247 million in bonds that Baylor issued to finance a Baylor 2012-based construction campaign, the university was forced to enact cost-cutting measures. Such belt-tightening would be continued in the form of reductions in operating and capital budgets and a faculty and staff hiring freeze during the 2003-04 academic year after another round of lower-than-expected enrollment numbers.
Other issues creating a for-or-against divide around Sloan’s leadership included perceived challenges to academic freedom and shared governance, a new emphasis upon faculty scholarship and research, and concerns about the administration’s approach to integrating faith and learning. A “Work Environment and Work/Life Survey” conducted by the Baylor administration in the spring of 2003 revealed that morale on campus was low. Among its other findings, the survey found that a majority of Baylor’s faculty did not feel respected by Baylor’s senior administration and that less than one-third of tenured professors had confidence in the university’s direction under Sloan’s leadership.
Baylor’s Board of Regents eventually took sides as well. On September 8, 2003, a few days prior to a scheduled board meeting, five regents issued a public letter calling for the full board to vote on a motion to remove Sloan from his position as president. Then the Faculty Senate, the group elected by Baylor’s faculty to represent its collective interests, passed the first of what would be two votes of no-confidence in Robert Sloan during the 2003-04 academic year. After its 26-6 vote of no-confidence on September 9, the group stated, “Dr. Sloan’s presidency has produced a chilling work environment, a climate characterized by distrust, anxiety, intimidation, favoritism, as well as profound concerns about the sanctity of academic freedom and professional standards.” Two days later, the editorial board of the Lariat, the student newspaper, published an editorial titled “President’s Leadership Wrong for BU” in seconding the Faculty Senate’s action. As was the case with the BHCS merger in early 1997, the Baylor Line covered this topic to the consternation of both President Sloan and his supporters.
It was against this backdrop that two new alumni groups formed, quickly becoming the public faces of the debate and producing some of the most prominent voices in the battle over Baylor’s president. On August 30, 2003, the date of Baylor’s football season opener against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, front-page news in the Waco Tribune-Herald concerned the bitter dispute over Sloan’s leadership, not the hopes for the revival of the moribund football program under new coach Guy Morris. That day’s paper was, in effect, an announcement that an era of open hostility and strong-arm politics between rivals had dawned at Baylor, the consequences of which still impair the health of alumni relations at Baylor today. According to the story, one of the groups dubbed itself the Friends of Baylor and declared that its members were dedicated to combating the “public outcry against our university leadership,” in the words of one of its founders.
The other group styled itself the Committee to Restore Integrity to Baylor (CRIB). The group’s name doubled as a general mission statement, but leaders clarified that installing new leadership in Pat Neff Hall was the most important part of this allegedly needed restoration. Both organizations ran large ads inside the paper that same day.
Several members of the “loyal opposition” at the Baylor Family Dialogue formed CRIB, but it was Bill Carden ’59, MA ’61, a former assistant to Baylor President Abner McCall and a past president of the alumni association, who soon became the group’s president when the group became a nonprofit corporation on October 10, 2003. “I would say that CRIB’s overall purpose was to call attention to the kind of violation that we believed was going on concerning Baylor’s historic mission of providing a reasonably priced education, primarily for the people of Texas, in the traditional, historic Baptist framework with a world mission in mind to prepare students to compete and live within the contemporary world,” Carden told the Line. “I think it’s fair to say that 100 percent of the people in CRIB saw the need for a leadership change at the top.”
Friends of Baylor (FOB), in turn, was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation with the state on September 24, 2003, with Neal T. “Buddy” Jones ’73, JD ’75, listed as the registered agent and incorporator and Clifton Robinson ’63 and Dary Stone ’77, JD ’77, listed as fellow directors. As stated in its Articles of Incorporation, the group’s purpose was “to promote, encourage, and foster the purposes of Baylor University.” But a press release issued by Friends of Baylor on September 9 suggested a more specific mission. “Friends of Baylor, an organization founded less than two weeks ago, has recruited a heavy hitting committee of Baylor alumni and supporters from across Texas who support Baylor President Robert Sloan and stand ready to defend him and the university against fractious forces,” the press release read, followed by a series of statements. One came from Stone: “While a small number of people are garnering headlines by trying to undermine Baylor and its leadership during this challenging time, the truth is that [the regent chair] and President Sloan enjoy very strong support from the vast majority of students, faculty, and alumni. An overwhelming number of Baylor faculty members have rallied in support of President Sloan.” Another statement came from Jones. “Unfortunately, a few members of the Baylor Board of Regents and Faculty Senate have their own agendas, which they have chosen to pursue at the expense of Baylor University and its students,” he said. “No longer will we sit back and be the silent majority.”
Like the group’s other steering committee members, FOB’s triumvirate of leaders had longstanding ties to Baylor. Robin-son, chair and CEO of the Waco-based National Lloyds Insurance Company at the time, served as FOB’s president at its outset and had been a generous donor to Baylor. Stone, listed as a one of FOB’s founders in the press release, had been an attorney and a political advisor to former Texas governor Bill Clements as well as a member of the BAA’s Board of Directors. Jones, identified as a co-chair of FOB, had an extensive background in Texas politics and later founded a successful lobbying firm in Austin. He had been president of the BAA in 1998 and served as co-chair of The Alumni Campaign, which raised funds for the $2.5-million renovation and expansion of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center in 1998.
On September 10, FOB moved into a new stage of organizing alumni by recruiting members through the first of several mass-distribution e-mails. “Friends of Baylor Rallies Alumni Around President Sloan,” the e-mail began. Among the other statements repeated from the group’s September 9 press release was one by Robinson: “In less than one week, we have raised more than $300,000 to help educate the public about Baylor’s rich 150-year history, the great promise this university holds, and what our university can accomplish under the leadership of President Sloan.”
One Dallas-area Baylor grad received this e-mail from Friends of Baylor and, two days later, forwarded it to Buddy Jones asking him how Friends of Baylor obtained his e-mail address. In reply, Jones said, “from the Baylor Alumni Association.”
After the e-mail exchange was forwarded to the Baylor Alumni Association, the organization contacted Jones on September 15 and requested clarification. “By the ‘Baylor Alumni Association,’ do you mean to say that FOB was supplied a recent, electronic database of alumni’s e-mail addresses?” read the BAA’s e-mail. “Or do you mean to say that FOB used the alumni association’s 2002 directory (available as a CD and book) and, on your own, compiled a database of alumni e-mail addresses from that resource? In either event, to tell people that the e-mail addresses you are using came from the Baylor Alumni Association makes it sound like we are sponsoring or assisting FOB, which is not the case.”
Jones’s response arrived a few hours later: “I know you are not helping us. I’d be pleased to put it on a T shirt and wear it if it would clear it up for you of for the idiot who is complaining. The Alumni Association has a book which has the names and addresses and e-mails of all of its members in it. At my expense I had each put into a data base and mailed to all of the folks listed in the book. It was hard because there was an additional character in most of them but it’s amazing what one can accomplish by throwing enough money at a problem. Let me know if I need to send an e-mail to all 47,000 in our data base clarifying you are not helping Friends of Baylor and I will be pleased to do so. I am not sure it would help you politically but I will do it if it is necessary. Or I can just keep responding to brain dead folks like the guy who wrote me and clearing it up one at a time.”
The alumni association forwarded Jones’s response to the concerned alum later that day, noting that “the Baylor Alumni Association is an independent, member-supported organization that isn’t connected with the Friends of Baylor or its opponent group, the Committee to Restore Integrity to Baylor. We hope to remain a place where alumni of differing opinions are welcomed and respected.”
On September 18, Fred Norton Jr. ’80, JD ’83, the Baylor Alumni Association’s president at the time, sent an e-mail to Jones with the subject line, “Notice of Violation of Copyright Protection.” The text of the message read, “Do you realize that you have violated the copyright held by the Baylor Alumni Association by reproducing the Baylor Alumni Directory for your personal purposes? Please consider this your formal notice to stop, cease and desist contacting anyone by the e-mail addresses you have . . . copied. Those addresses continue to be the protected property of the Baylor Alumni Association.”
In response, FOB defended the legality of its actions, leading BAA officials to believe that FOB continued to use the database of e-mail addresses for the regular communications it sent out. The episode, Norton told the Line, was illuminating. “From my perspective, Friends of Baylor began its campaign by copying protected information from the Baylor Alumni Association’s alumni directory to create its own e-mail database. It then presented itself to alumni as a positive, grassroots movement when, in fact, its operations were bankrolled by a relatively small group of affluent individuals and its attitude toward regular alumni who questioned their actions included the arrogance of calling them ‘brain dead folks.’”
From the fall of 2003 through the fall of 2004, FOB and CRIB waged a vigorous campaign to sway public opinion through advertising and public relations efforts, but the faculty ultimately prevailed on Sloan’s future at Baylor. ON May 3, 2004, Baylor’s Faculty Senate passed its second vote of no-confidence in Sloan. In a faculty-wide referendum conducted over three days at the end of the fall 2004 semester, 59 percent of Baylor’s faculty members answered a single question: “Do you want Robert B. Sloan to remain as president of Baylor University?” By a margin of 85 percent to 14 percent, the answer was no. Dr. Jim Patton, a psychology professor and then-chair of the Faculty Senate, said the group sponsored the referendum in response to accusations that dissent among faculty members was limited to a vocal minority. “Whatever this segment is, it is clearly not a minority,” he told the Line at the time.
Many in the Baylor community assumed that when Sloan left the president’s office on May 31, 2005, the two prominent external alumni organizations – the Committee to Restore Integrity to Baylor and the Friends of Baylor – would likewise disappear from the stage. Alumni who had not chosen sides in the conflict told the Line that they had concluded these two rival organizations – by contending against each other through op-ed columns in newspapers, letters to the editor, and quotes in newspaper coverage of the leadership difficulties at Baylor – had become part of the problem, not the solution. The battle was over. Baylor needed a fresh start. What had been a house divided needed to choose reconciliation over divisive labels, fellowship over fisticuffs.
CRIB, in fact, quickly faded from view. The group discontinued its meetings and official activities after Sloan announced in January 2005 that he would step down as president. In contrast, FOB continued operating until the late 2000s. A former FOB steering committee member told the Line in 2009 that he believed FOB eventually discontinued its operations because Baylor’s Board of Regents became positioned to guide the university’s communications, through such publications as the online newsletter Baylor Proud, in a way that matched FOB’s former priorities.
On the Baylor campus, many alumni hoped the change in Baylor’s leadership would lead to a rapprochement between the Baylor Alumni Association and the Baylor administration. But during the interim presidency of Bill Underwood in 2005, the vacuum of power left by Sloan filled quietly and quickly. Some of the major players in the combat within the Baylor family had become members of Baylor’s Board of Regents. Buddy Jones and Dary Stone, two of Friends of Baylor’s three original directors, were among the last two groups of regents elected before Sloan vacated the president’s office. Jones began serving as a regent on June 1, 2004, following in the footsteps of his father, Neal T. Jones Sr., who rotated off the board a day earlier after many years of service. In addition to being FOB’s incorporator in 2003, Jones continued to serve as a director of FOB in 2004, as listed on the organization’s tax return for that year. Stone was elected as a regent on April 29, 2005, and he was joined in that year’s group of three new regents by Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham and a prominent evangelist from North Carolina who was also, at the time, a member of FOB’s Steering Committee. While Jones was no longer being listed as a co-chair of FOB on the group’s website in 2005, Stone maintained his status as a co-chair and director of FOB while simultaneously serving as a Baylor regent.
Bill Underwood understood his role as interim president, which was to remove the remaining sources of faculty and alumni controversy over Sloan’s policies toward increased re-ligiosity and to enhance uniformity among the Baylor faculty. Provost David Lyle Jeffery had fervently advanced Sloan’s agenda, and on Underwood’s first day in office, Jeffery was terminated as provost. In Buddy Jones’ new role as regent, he solidified his presence in a letter to Underwood on June 28, 2005, just a few weeks after Underwood took office. Jones ac-knowledged Underwood’s “bold actions,” and made clear the direction Underwood should take regarding the BAA. Jones wrote, “you are hereby respectfully instructed to take no ac-tion relating or pertaining to the Baylor Alumni Association, its structure, role or function in your interim capacity pending the completion of the (regent) Committee’s charge….”
Underwood left after serving seven months, and Dr. John Lilley’s tenure as Baylor’s thirteenth president began on January 2, 2006. Under Lilley, the Baylor administration sought to modify the function of the university-operated Baylor Network (which began as an extension of Robert Sloan’s Office of Alumni Services) and Baylor Magazine so that they would complement, rather than compete against, the programs of the BAA and its magazine, the Baylor Line. The goal, university and alumni association leaders said, was to create a more efficiently functioning alumni relations program and to reduce confusion and division among alumni.
“Our intent is to utilize Baylor Magazine and the Baylor Network more directly and deliberately to support Baylor 2012’s philanthropic goals,” Lilley told the Line in 2007. “We have moved the Baylor Network from the Division of Marketing and Communications into the Division of University Development to enable it to become more explicitly a part of our fundraising efforts.”
Lilley described the Baylor Line as being “exemplary as an alumni friend-raising publication” and expected its continued success in that role. “We are adjusting the editorial character of Baylor Magazine to make it a more development-oriented magazine,” he said. “Baylor Magazine needs to inspire those who are in a position to help us financially through their private giving.”
Although Lilley’s administration intially envisoned a complementary relationship between Baylor’s internally managed alumni efforts and the BAA, Baylor regents took a decisively different approach. As mentioned in Buddy Jones’ letter to Underwood, another legacy of the Sloan administration was a regent committee created by then-regent chair Will Davis ’54 in October 2004. Davis told the Line that he charged the group, named the Special Committee on Alumni Relations, to consult with and advise Sloan on any issues concerning the BAA in order to improve the communication between the administration and the alumni association. He added that the three regents he appointed to the committee—Buddy Jones, chair; Randy Ferguson ’71; and John Reimers ’72, DDS ’75—were selected because they had extensive experience with the BAA.
The committee maintained a quiet existence for more than two years, never meeting with association officials during the time of Baylor’s leadership transition following Sloan’s departure. Then during the BAA’s annual meeting at Home-coming in 2006, President Lilley told the group that during a regents meeting held earlier that day the Special Committee on Alumni Relations had given Lilley a list of its concerns regarding the relationship between Baylor and the alumni association, which Lilley would investigate on his own and present his findings to the regents at their next meeting in February 2007.
As the February regents meeting approached, a more detailed account of the initiatives allegedly undertaken by the Jones-chaired committee came to light through extensive coverage in the Waco Tribune-Herald. In a front-page story on February 1, 2007, the paper reported that some of the questions the committee sent to Lilley questioned the alumni association’s commitment to Baylor 2012, challenged “the association’s right to maintain editorial control of the Baylor Line,” and asked what relationship the alumni association had with members of CRIB. “I know it’s not the entire Board of Regents, because I haven’t been asked to participate,” regent Will Davis told the paper, referring to the questionnaire’s origin.
A week later, the Waco Tribune-Herald painted a more detailed picture of the questionnaire’s origins. Citing “sources close to the situation,” the paper reported on February 9 that Buddy Jones had attempted, during a regents meeting the previous July, to gain access to $500,000 in university funds for the Alumni Relations Committee to use in hiring outside legal counsel—circumventing the university’s Office of General Counsel—to investigate the Baylor Alumni Association. Jones’s efforts, the paper reported, had been unsuccessful. In two follow-up stories, published on February to and February 18, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that Baylor regents had been presented with Lilley’s report but had not taken action on it. “We got a great report on the alumni association, but there were some questions on that so we sent it back for additional information,” board chair Jim Turner ’69 told the paper. “(But) it was well-received and well-discussed.” In the February 18 story, Turner said that the regents were interested in solidifying the relationship between Baylor and the alumni association. For his part, Buddy Jones said that the alumni association “shouldn’t feel threatened.”
At the conclusion of its spring meeting, on May u, 2007, the Baylor Board of Regents made several announcements in a press release that would have far-reaching repercussions. First, the board announced that Harold Cunningham ’57 had been elected chair of the board. Second, the board reported that it had “discussed a variety of issues associated with clarifying the university’s relationship with the Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) and approved the following statement:
The Regents recognize the common interest of Baylor and the Baylor Alumni Association in promoting the best interests of Baylor University. Baylor and the BAA should publicly and jointly express their commitment to: achieving the goals of2012; the independence of the BAA; the maintenance of a harmonious relationship between Baylor and the BAA; the furtherance of the mission and historic Baptist heritage of Baylor University; and championing Baylor’s Christian environment with educational excellence.”
The next day, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported on Cunningham’s election as chair. After retiring from a forty-year career with Arthur Andersen, Cunningham had served under Baylor president Robert Sloan as vice president for finance and administration, acting director of operations, and vice president for special projects before retiring from the university in 2002. Noting that the move to not re-elect Turner “raised eyebrows among alumni association officials,” the newspaper story quoted BAA president-elect Bill Nesbitt ’67, JD ’70, as saying, “The ouster of one of Baylor’s favorite sons, Jim Turner, as regent chair by a slim majority of regents brings sadness to the alumni association.”
“I feel like I’ve got about a 5,00o pound weight off my shoulders,” Turner told the paper. “This last year has taken a toll on me.”
After initially being somewhat puzzled by the public statement released by the Board of Regents, it was only when BAA officials learned of the full extent of the regents’ discussion in their May 2007 meeting, which had not been made public, that the BAAs leaders became more concerned. According to regents who have shared information with the BAA, the board’s statement in the official press release was in fact only one of five joint recommendations brought to the full Board of Regents by the Alumni Relations Committee and the Baylor administration at the May meeting.
One key recommendation that was not approved by the full board, sources among the regents said, stated that the Baylor administration should consider “a resolution that a) Baylor officers may not execute any contract for a term in excess of 3 years without board approval and b) any contract with a term that exceeds 1 year, executed without board approval, must include a provision that permits termination without cause upon written notice.”
This last recommendation apparently was made in response to the agreements between Baylor and the BAA that date back to the 1990s and whose legal strength, BAA officials said, has proven to be a roadblock to those regents who would like to take negative actions against the BAA. The 1993 license agreement between Baylor and the BAA, signed by then-Baylor president Herbert H. Reynolds, was the foundation of the BAAs legal relationship with the university. According to Baylor administrators who served under Reynolds at the time, the agreement formalized what had been the understanding between the BAA and Baylor for decades. Leaders from both parties worked closely together to ensure that the agree-ment accurately reflected the nature of the long relationship between the parties with the intention that it would continue indefinitely. Those close to Reynolds say he knew the potential pitfalls of the self-perpetuating regent board he created when Baylor’s charter was changed in the early 1990s to mitigate an attack by Baptist fundamentalists. Reynolds felt strongly that an official, independent alumni voice was a key counterbalance to this new board structure, and he accordingly solidified the BAA’s long-term existence.
In the months following the May 2007 Board of Regents meeting, the Baylor administration began working through the directives that had originated from the regent alumni commit-tee. On July 17, 2007, Lilley officially notified the BAA that its contracted services partnership with Baylor would be terminated. In a “Special Report” in the fall 2007 issue of the Baylor Line, the BAA reported on the contract termination and in the report, George Cowden III ’76, JD ’78, BAA president for 2007, was quoted as saying, “All concerned alumni should know that the manner in which the Board of Regents has chosen to manage Baylor’s relationship with its own alumni association reflects an intention to coerce the BAA into a marginalized position.” Cowden went on to note that although BAA executive personnel had offered on several occasions to discuss any concerns and answer any questions regarding the relationship with the BAA, Baylor’s administration and regents never reciprocated.
In a meeting on October 6, 2007, with the BAA’s Board of Directors and Alumni Council, Lilley followed up on another of the recommendations made by regents, urging the BAA board to endorse “achieving the goals of Baylor 2012,” refer-ring to the university’s ten-year vision that had been established by Robert Sloan in 2002 and become controversial in subsequent years. Accompanied by members of his executive staff, Lilley told those at the meeting that endorsing Baylor 2012 would give the BAA more influence with the Baylor ad-ministration and the Board of Regents and that not endorsing it would give the BAA less influence.
When short-lived negotiations between Baylor and the BAA over a new comprehensive relationship agreement broke down in the late fall of 2007, the Baylor administration began pursuing the implementation of the rest of the regents’ recommendation items. On December 3, 2007, Baylor general counsel Charles Beckenhauer advised the BAA by letter that there were “some issues regarding the relationship between Baylor and the Alumni Association that Baylor must address as a matter of compliance.” These issues turned out to be major separations of operating efficiencies shared between the BAA and Baylor. By the end of the spring 2008 semester, BAA leaders made a proactive decision to separate the organization from Baylor’s benefit plans and payroll systems, and they secured an independent online content system. The BAA was now both operationally and financially independent, the contracted-services agreement between Baylor and the BAA having expired in April. In addition, the university implemented another of the regents’ recommendations and cut off the BAA’s long-standing access to donor information in Baylor’s database.
On July 24, 2008, at the conclusion of the Baylor Board of Regents summer retreat, the board issued a press release stating that the regents had “voted today to begin the search for a new university president,” replacing John Lilley, who had served two and a half years of a five-year contract as president.
In a telephone conference with reporters following Lilley’s dismissal, board chair Howard Batson, PhD ’95, pastor of First Baptist Church of Amarillo, said, “The reality is the board lost confidence in John’s ability to unite the various Baylor constituencies.”
The board appointed Harold Cunningham, a current regent and former board chair, as acting president. After he served for nearly a month in that post, on August 20 the board tapped Dr. David Garland, dean of the George W. Truett Theo-logical Seminary, to be interim president.
Despite the leadership change, the BAA found itself confronted with more dispiriting actions by the Baylor administration. Baylor terminated the association’s access to the student call center on campus, which had previously contracted with the BAA to solicit alumni memberships. Later in the spring, Baylor’s lawyer asked to meet with BAA officials to “clean up” some lingering issues related to the BARs operational independence. That seemingly mundane gesture turned out to be another round of isolation imposed on the BANs operations. Taking a much more strict approach to the 1993 license agreement than before, Baylor forced the association to use only the names “Baylor Alumni Association” and “Baylor Line.” The association’s website that had been hosted at bayloralumni.com was moved to BaylorAlumniAssociation.com. Staff e-mail addresses that were “@baylor.edu” were deactivated by Baylor, and the BAA set up new e-mail accounts to match the new website. Baylor removed the extension to the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center from the university’s 1-800-BAYLOR-U telephone answering service. Around that same time, the BAA learned in June 2009—immediately after Friends of Baylor co-founder Dary Stone became chair of Baylor’s Board of Regents—that the link to the association’s website had been removed from every page on Baylor’s website. The university’s spokesperson, Lori Scott Fogleman, told the Waco Tribune-Herald that she did not know who at Baylor had decided to remove the links to the BAA. “It’s not a matter of who decided this or that,” she said. “What the university has been doing is systematically looking at every way that the university and the alumni association have been intertwined, and each time we find a way that doesn’t reflect independent status for the alumni association, we make adjustments that honor the alumni association’s request for independence.”
With a firm grip on the university’s governance, former Sloan supporters and Friends of Baylor founders set out on an even bolder plan to permanently disable the BAA through a merger proposal requesting the dissolution of the BAA’s char-ter. Signed by Dary Stone and David Garland, the proposal was presented by regent Bob Beauchamp and administrator John Barry at a BAA board of directors meeting in September 2009. In the days leading up to the meeting, then-BAA president David Lacy ’79 requested that BAA directors be given some time to review the proposal internally before hearing from Baylor representatives. But Beauchamp disregarded the request and attended the meeting anyway where, not surprisingly, tense exchanges between Beauchamp and BAA directors ruled the day. In contrast to the proposals from Baylor leaders in previous years, this one came to light alongside a flurry of marketing from university officials. In the days after the BAA board meeting, David Garland sent an e-mail to Baylor faculty and staff advocating the proposal. Baylor vice president for student life Kevin Jackson followed suit with an e-mail to students noting support for “an exciting proposal.” The same day, Baylor’s Baylor Proud e-mail newsletter, sent to all Baylor alumni, carried a lead story in support of the merger proposal. BAA officials responded with an e-mail to members asking for their feedback and informing members that directors had approved the establishment of a study committee to study the proposal. Surprised by the public relations onslaught from Baylor, in a guest column in the Waco paper Lacy asked, “Why is Baylor trying so hard to sell this proposal to the public before allowing our board time to consider its merits?”
In the month that followed, tensions grew high and stake-holders closely watched as an unsightly debate played out publicly. David Garland responded to student senators who asked questions about the proposal, telling them that the BAA had “given Baylor a black eye.” At the same time, many BAA supporters voiced their strong opposition to the proposal. By late October, almost one thousand alumni had sent e-mails and letters to the BAA regarding the merger proposal, with 88 percent expressing support for the BAA’s ongoing independence.
On October 27, 2009, Garland and Stone sent a letter to Lacy formally withdrawing the proposal, and two days later Garland sent an e-mail to all alumni announcing the withdrawal of the proposal and linking to the lead editorial in that day’s edition of the Waco-Tribune Herald (the newspaper that had been purchased by Friends of Baylor founder and future regent Clifton Robinson that same year). Titled “Scuttling Peace,” the paper’s editorial claimed Baylor’s proposal “granted provisions allowing association members to retain much of their independence but also offered them a clear voice inside Baylor, rather than continually barking from the outside” and declared that “the hope for this change has been dashed on the jagged rocks of defiance.”
A different approach
After the highly public campaign in support of the ineffective merger proposal, Baylor leaders took a quieter approach in late 2009, and over the next few years systematically began frustrating BAA efforts to serve alumni, while at the same time strengthening the university-controlled Baylor Alumni Network, whose duplicative services were consistent with the “Microsoft” strategy envisioned so many years earlier by Robert Sloan. Several instances of Baylor coaches and administrators denying interviews to the Baylor Line resulted in stories that lacked the perspective of Baylor leaders. BAA events were stymied by not having access to popular Baylor speakers, and were further marginalized by Baylor denying access to campus, most notably the removal of the BAA tail-gate from the Floyd Casey Stadium grounds and the expulsion of the BAA tent from the Ferrell Center parking lot during Commencement.
Baylor Magazine began publishing Class Notes in 2010, and “Baylor Alumni” and “Baylor Alumni Network” logos began appearing on university marketing materials that were confusingly similar to the long-standing BAA logo. In October of that year, Baylor began bestowing annual alumni awards resembling those long awarded by the BAA. Many alumni became confused, and either didn’t know the difference, or didn’t want to expend the energy to differentiate between the duplicative alumni efforts.
In December 2009, Baylor officials no longer allowed the BAA to address graduating seniors at Commencement to invite them into membership in the alumni association, and prohibited BAA staff members from offering discounted life memberships to graduating seniors at Bear Faire. Baylor officials said the university was focusing on the dues-free Baylor Alumni Network and soliciting paid memberships “runs counter to Baylor University’s goals.” In 2010, the BAA was no longer allowed to distribute Pigskin tickets to alumni as a benefit of membership, and eventually was cut off from receiving any alumni lists whatsoever from the university. These unilateral actions prohibited the BAA from providing a full range of services to its members, and alumni of all ages became unaware of the BAA’s existence because of a lack of exposure.
Baylor administrators even went so far as to refuse financial sponsorship offers from the BAA for alumni events, athletic event advertising, and the television broadcast of the Homecoming parade. At a meeting in August 2010, a Baylor administrator told BAA officials that such advertising at Baylor venues by the BAA would conflict with the mission and interests of the university, adding that the BAA was in direct competition with Baylor’s own internally managed alumni relations initiatives. Although previous agreements with Baylor emphasize that the BAA must actively recruit new members, the BAA became unable to effectively promote itself either in university-sponsored events and programs or through outside marketing agencies that have an affiliation with Baylor.
Destruction hits home
When Baylor’s sixteenth president, Judge Ken Starr, took office in June 2010, the perpetually optimistic Baylor Family once again hoped a new face could heal old wounds, but Starr proved to be a shrewd diplomat. Refined by years in Washington politics, the former special prosecutor mostly stayed out of the alumni fight. He hosted an initial meeting with BAA officials at the urging of prominent alumni, but after more meetings were scheduled to go over the issues in further detail, Starr cancelled. Coincidentally, he stepped into his new role as president and immediately had his own share of challenges. The Big 12 conference seemed to be unraveling, and much work was done in an effort to keep Baylor’s place on the national radar. Baylor narrowly missed being hit by the tornado of conference realignment, and miraculously the Big 12 survived. And what happened next seemed almost more miraculous to all the long-suffering, die-hard Baylor fans: the football team started winning.
Art Briles methodically and masterfully turned the Baylor football program around in record time, culminating in a Heisman trophy for Robert Griffin III in 2011 and a Big 12 conference championship in 2013. As the program gained momentum, so did the dream of bringing football back to campus. Propelled by significant gifts from Baylor alums Drayton McLane ’58, Walter Umphrey ’59, JD ’65, and John Eddie Williams ’76, JD ’78, Baylor officially moved forward with construction of a new on-campus football stadium after an August 7, 2012, vote by the Waco City Council approving infrastructure funding for the project.
As renderings of the new stadium began to surface in late 2011, one building was notably absent from the drawings: the home of the Baylor Alumni Association, the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center. In two separate articles, the Baylor Lariat reported on the missing alumni center, but Baylor officials wouldn’t commit to a firm answer. Baylor spokesperson Lori Scott Fogleman noted that the architects had drafted several different designs for the stadium and the university was “a long way from making any kind of decisions.” In July 2012, the Baylor administration presented a proposal to the board of Waco’s Tax Increment Financing Zone to receive $35 million in public funds for the project. According to a story in the Waco Tribune-Herald, a breakdown of costs submitted to the TIF included $12.9 million for “demo (of) alumni center” and constructing a bridge across the Brazos River. When asked by a TIF board member whether or not Baylor officials had informed the BAA about the proposal to demolish its alumni center, Baylor vice president of finance and administration Regan Ramsower stressed that no decision had been made on whether the alumni center would have to be torn down. “We have to have our solutions by the fall of 2014, and how you connect the stadium to campus is a late-2013 conversation, even an early-2o14 conversation,” Ramsower said. As it turns out, the conversation was had and the decision was made well before then. After a brief stay by United States District Judge Walter Smith Jr. ’64, JD ’66, the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center was razed in July 2013.
The demolition of the alumni center was part of a bigger agreement that had been reached after several months of negotiations between small groups of Baylor regents and BAA directors, culminating in the September 7, 2013, vote at Waco Hall. The open dialogue between the two groups that began in late 2012 was a welcome change, but as regents insisted that the conversations remain confidential, suspicions ran high among many BAA board members who had seen first-hand Baylor leaders’ tactics in the past. The BAA executive committee met several times during the last week of May 2013 as details of the deal were hurriedly being hammered out. Baylor officials insisted that if the deal was not complete by the end of the month, there would be no further discussions. As a part of the Transition Agreement’s structure, the deal included a one-sided termination of the 1993 license agreement, the formal dissolution of the charter, and the permanent termination of the use of the Baylor Alumni Association name. The Transition Agreement and the Agreement to Vacate the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center were signed by leaders of BAA’s board and the Board of Regents on May 31, 2013. Coincidentally or not, that same day was Buddy Jones’ last official day serving a nine-year term on Baylor’s Board of Regents.
Unlike past arrangements between the two groups, the Transition Agreement called for a vote of all the members; specifics included approving dissolution of the BAA’s charter and termination of the 1993 license agreement in exchange for a new license agreement to publish the Baylor Line, along with the formation of a Baylor Alumni Advisory Board and a nonvoting seat on the Board of Regents. With the construction of the new football stadium, Baylor leaders finally acknowledged for the first time the intended destruction of the alumni center, and couched it as part of the bigger agreement. BAA staff members relocated to offices in the Clifton Robinson Tower on Baylor’s campus, consistent with provisions in the Agreement to Vacate the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center. That agreement also provided that BAA staff would remain in the temporary offices “for an indefinite term free of charge until the Association is housed elsewhere, unless agreed otherwise.”
Similar to the approach used with the 2009 proposal from Dary Stone and David Garland, Baylor launched a full-scale advertising and marketing campaign to “Vote Yes” just days after the agreement was signed. This puzzled some BAA members, who again asked questions like, “Why is Baylor trying so hard to sell this proposal before we can evaluate it ourselves?”
Over the summer of 2013, the debate once again played out publicly, with a flurry of news stories and op-ed columns appearing in the media leading up to the September 7 member vote. Baylor leaders garnered endorsements from many campus groups, including Student Government and the Faculty Senate, but what happened among the BAA membership, and especially its board of directors, was more important: an internal fracture formed. Long-standing members of the BAA—lifelong friends and casual acquaintances alike—began choosing sides. Supporters argued that it was a fair agreement reached after months of good-faith negotiations, and that it was time for a change. Those who opposed the agreement staunchly disagreed with the ten-year term of the agreement (compared to the indefinite term of the 1993 license agreement) and generally viewed the deal as just another veiled take-over, like so many others in the past. The fracture became so great that one BAA life member, Kurt Dorr ’84, filed a lawsuit against the BAA leadership and the university to void the agreement and delay the destruction of the alumni center. The lawsuit bought the alumni center a few more weeks, but the case was eventually dismissed, and the September 7 vote did not attain the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The BAA bylaws required a 66 percent “super-majority” for approval, but the Transition Agreement only garnered support from 55 percent of the voting members present at Waco Hall that day.
What lies ahead
After the failed September 7 vote, the BAA saw almost half of its board members resign and most of its staff leave to take more secure jobs offered by the university. Although the board of directors has since been rebuilt and the BAA con-tinues to oversee its $5.5 million endowment, Baylor leaders continue to prod the organization to come up with a new plan to reorganize and stop using the licensed Baylor marks. And the last action taken against the BAA by Baylor administra-tors could arguably be considered the most brazen as well: After business hours on December 8, 2013, Baylor personnel changed the locks on the door to the two remaining BAA offices in the Clifton Robinson Tower. Only when BAA staff reported to work the next morning and their keys didn’t work did they realize that they were intentionally locked out.
So the question remains: What is the real story? It’s a question that so many in the Baylor family have asked as contention and hostility somehow became commonplace between the university and its official alumni organization for more than a decade.
As with many family arguments, the origins of the conflict seem to have gotten lost in the past, while resentment and distrust have only grown over the years. Rather than simply opening old wounds, BAA officials hope that this narrative will shed light on the issues and circumstances that triggered and prolonged the struggle, so that a new dialogue may begin—not about Baylor’s sometimes-dark past—but about its bright future instead.
Equipped with its official, independent voice, the Baylor Alumni Association remains committed to supporting Baylor, publicizing its successes, and, yes, posing the critical questions that need to be asked at times. It’s a role the BAA has proudly performed for more than t50 years, and hopes to continue “as long as stars shall shine.”