The Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) held an all-member conference call on Friday, August 23, at noon, and board president Collin Cox ’97 answered almost twenty questions about the proposed Transition Agreement between the BAA and Baylor.
Members asked about voter eligibility for the September 7 member meeting at 11 a.m. in Waco Hall, and Cox said that a board committee is working on final details. “It will be a very formal meeting, and we will make sure the only people voting are the people that are on the rolls of the Baylor Alumni Association,” he said.
Cox said that, in accordance with Texas law, the BAA board will set a date when membership is “frozen,” and people will not be able to walk up and purchase a membership on September 7. BAA memberships are by household, Cox said, so spouses who are on the membership roll will be able to vote. And members do not have to be alumni. “Our bylaws say that essentially anyone who has a care for the welfare of Baylor University can become a member of the Baylor Alumni Association,” Cox said. “If you’re on the rolls as of a certain date, you’ll be allowed to vote.”
BAA chief operating officer Chad Wooten ’03 said that a photo ID will be required to validate memberships and that the “yes” or “no” vote on the Transition Agreement will be by secret, paper ballot with an independent auditing firm to count the vote.
Members also asked about the future Baylor Line magazine and how it would function under the proposed Baylor Line Corporation (BLC). Cox said that the independent nonprofit corporation, the BLC, would have editorial freedom.
“The Transition Agreement says we will send a copy of the Baylor Line under the new agreement to Baylor before it’s published,” Cox said. “We do that now under the current agreement for the Baylor Line. It’s not for editorial control. Baylor is allowed to comment on the Baylor Line in case there are factual mistakes or things that raise their attention. Baylor University does not now and will not under the [new] Line agreement have editorial control over any text that goes into the Baylor Line. And that’s absolutely critical.”
Cox said BAA and university representatives are currently ironing out the details of the BLC license agreement, and he hopes it will be ready to present to the BAA’s board next week. Whenever it is ready, he said, it will be posted online at BaylorAlumniAssociation.com/TransitionAgreement.
At the beginning of the meeting, BAA board secretary Kyle Gilley ’94, who was part of the BAA team that negotiated the Transition Agreement with university representatives, gave a summary of the negotiations. He said that last fall, the BAA originally proposed that the association remain an independent organization but begin to allow the university to name 20 percent of its board members. The BAA representatives proposed that the association have responsibility for all alumni activities. “We also proposed that the Baylor Alumni Association would secure one voting member of the Board of Regents and that the university and the BAA would have one set of alumni awards that would be processed through the BAA,” Gilley said. He said dedicated space in the Baylor Line was offered as free advertising for the university.
“The university’s proposal that was shared in the month of September  was essentially that the Baylor Alumni Association would merge into the university, that we would terminate all of our existing agreements, and that then the university would form an advisory board that would be selected by university graduates moving forward,” he said. “So you can see . . . both sides were as far apart as you could be.”
He said the intervening months followed the “normal process of negotiation between parties” until the Transition Agreement emerged in late May.
Also early in the meeting, BAA board president-elect Silas Ragsdale ’75 updated members about the financial status of the BAA. He said that, while the BAA has balanced its budget for six years, it has done so only because of cost cuts—including cuts to member and employee benefits—and because of generous donations by benefactors. Actions by the university, such as disallowing the BAA to use the full database, have been a “major hit” to the BAA’s ability to recruit and retain members, Ragsdale said.
“As a result, currently we have a very aging membership,” Ragsdale said. “And it’s just become where growth is impossible, and just sustainability is difficult if not impossible.”
The meeting lasted one hour, and Cox ended by saying, “Please keep your questions coming. This is an important conversation, a complex conversation. . . . We have seventeen thousand members, and we have just as many opinions on some issues. There’s one matter on which we’re united—we all love Baylor University; we all want the best for Baylor University.”
Cox said another all-member conference call will be held during the week before the September 7 vote. Members may continue to send questions to [email protected].