The Baylor Alumni Association has just less than 90 days to stop using Baylor University licensed marks as a result of the group’s rejection of an agreement that would dissolve the organization and turn its outreach activities over to the university.
In a letter emailed Tuesday afternoon to alumni, faculty and staff, Baylor President Ken Starr said the university’s vow to terminate existing licensing contracts with BAA if the agreement did not pass went into effect Sunday.
Those agreements allow BAA to serve as the university’s official alumni organization and use the Baylor name for its programming and events, as well as The Baylor Line, its 66-year-old alumni magazine.
Starr’s letter does not specifically state, but implies, that Baylor could take action if the alumni association continues using the Baylor name after the grace period, which ends 90 days from the Sept. 8 date of the contract terminations.
The letter followed a Board of Regents conference call Monday evening to determine Baylor’s response to the vote outcome. Board Chairman Richard Willis didn’t respond to requests for comment, but asked Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman to tell the Tribune-Herald that he was unavailable.
“Now, with our focus on energetically serving Baylor alumni around the world, the university will go forward in building a comprehensive — and unified — alumni engagement program equipped to serve a broad range of alumni needs and interests,” Starr said in the letter.
Si Ragsdale, president-elect of BAA, said he had hoped Baylor would not move forward with terminating the existing licensing agreements, but that Starr’s announcement was not unexpected. Baylor first gave notice of its intentions in a May 31 letter to the alumni association.
BAA’s board of directors will hold a conference call this weekend, Ragsdale said.
“We know now what Baylor has decided . . . basically with the plans that they had in the first place,” he said. “Now what we need to do is determine what our next steps are going to be, and at this point in time we just don’t know what those are.”
He said he fears Baylor officials won’t be open to a new compromise that would not jeopardize the alumni association’s ability to operate.
“Since (the agreement) was rejected, they’re going to move on without it,” he said. “To me, that was pretty clear all along.”
Ragsdale said he thinks the university will initiate litigation against BAA if the organization attempts to continue using the Baylor name after the 90-day period. Fogleman said she could not speculate on what Baylor’s response would be at that point.
“That’s what they’ve said, so I take them at their word,” Ragsdale said.
The transition agreement received the majority of support from the 1,499 BAA members who voted on the document in person Saturday at Waco Hall. But it failed to garner support from two-thirds of the voters, as required in BAA’s bylaws.
About 55 percent of the voters, 831, were in favor of the agreement, compared to 668 who were against it.
Besides dissolving BAA, the agreement would have created an alumni advisory board that initially would have been made of current BAA leaders; created a nonvoting alumni seat on Baylor’s Board of Regents to be filled by one of four candidates nominated by the advisory board; and licensed a new Baylor Line Corp. to continue publishing The Baylor Line.
Starr’s letter said Baylor still will implement various parts of the agreement on its own, such as starting the alumni advisory board and continuing several events BAA spearheaded, such as The Heritage Club alumni recognition program and Baylor’s official class ring program.
It was not clear Tuesday evening whether Baylor still intends to create the nonvoting alumni Regent position.
Starr wrote that the university also will offer jobs to current BAA staff “who are eligible and interested in university employment,” another provision that was in the transition agreement. A source Tuesday said BAA staff still were working out of offices in Baylor’s Clifton Robinson administrative towers.
The university allowed BAA staff to move there in June as it prepared to tear down the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center, BAA’s home on campus since 1978.
After legal proceedings this summer in which a Chicago-area alum obtained a temporary restraining order to delay the demolition, the university tore the building down in July to make room for a grassy plaza leading to a pedestrian bridge that will connect the campus to the new Baylor Stadium under construction on the opposite bank of the Brazos River.
Ragsdale said he was glad to see Baylor commit to hiring BAA staff members despite the vote against the agreement, a concern BAA leaders repeatedly raised when urging members to support it.
The agreement had been pitched by Baylor and BAA leaders as an amicable resolution to more than a decade of contention between the two organizations. But opponents argued it stripped BAA of its role as an independent voice on Baylor happenings.
Baylor in 2007 stopped providing funding to BAA, then in 2009 ceased giving the organization access to new graduates’ contact information and banned it from participating in commencement exercises.
Baylor also has operated its own Baylor Alumni Network since 2002 that has hosted alumni events across the country, which BAA members said drew away potential new members and young alumni.