One of the Baylor Alumni Association’s most critical roles in its long history has been to provide alumni with the opportunity to assert an independent voice on university matters. The proposed Transition Agreement between Baylor University and the BAA likely won’t yield the alumni program that we might have dreamed up if starting from scratch; nevertheless, the agreement — if approved — should not only resolve our long-running turf battles and unify several appropriate operations but retain an independent alumni voice in several ways:
n First, under the agreement, alumni would create the Baylor Line Corp., a nonprofit organization governed by an independent board with full editorial control. Under the agreement, The Baylor Line magazine would continue its practice of providing the university an advance copy, but the university does not today — and would not under the agreement — have authority to change any content.
n Second, our current license agreement gives the university sole authority to determine whether any services, including The Line, are “unacceptable” or “not reasonable” — thus providing a reason to terminate the agreement. The Transition Agreement, however, would govern such disputes not by how the university alone might define The Line’s quality but by the independent Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s academic freedom principles. These espouse “an abiding respect for diverse viewpoints and a firm commitment to the open exchange of ideas.” The agreement would “allow for criticism as well as affirmation” of the university, and disputes would be subject to mediation and arbitration.
n Third, the Transition Agreement would put the association’s independent voice on surer legal footing. The current license agreement does not have an end date, which you would think might be a good thing for the association. However, since the agreement was signed in 1993, Texas courts have generally taken a different view, ruling that license agreements without end dates allow licensors to unilaterally terminate for any reason — not just those the agreement spells out. The proposed Transition Agreement has a 10-year term that automatically renews for five-year periods — which the courts are more likely to find would not allow the university to terminate for reasons except those listed in the agreement.
n Fourth, not surprisingly given the passion and devotion of Baylor alumni, mere proposal of the Transition Agreement has caused many to actively discuss (particularly on social media) the agreement and the relationship of the university and association. The Baylor Alumni Association is posting the latest information and hosting robust discussions online. Clearly, alumni do have independent voices, and the new Line Corp. will give them a viable forum for civil discussion.
I hope you will join me Sept. 7 in voting for the Transition Agreement so that we can move forward in creating a strengthened alumni program and retaining our critical independent voice.
John Howard, ’85, is a BAA life member, director and executive committee member. The senior manager for global public policy at Dell, he is an attorney and previously worked for George W. Bush.