At 11 a.m. next Saturday Baylor Alumni Association members will gather in Waco Hall to vote on a transition agreement between the BAA and Baylor University. If approved, this potentially historic document will create a truly unified, comprehensive alumni engagement program for our university. Once unified, the program’s reach will be global. Its strength will be unparalleled in Baylor’s long history.
As we contemplate the opportunities reflected in this transition agreement, we must acknowledge that this vote has been preceded by an unfortunate period of dissonance and discord. Passionate people have acted out of strong emotion. Hurtful things have been said. For some in the Baylor family, the wounds have yet to heal.
While acknowledging a divisive past, we find hope in the promise of a new day — and the opportunity to move forward together. We should strive to put the past behind us and embrace a future rich in potential for healing and unity. As centuries of history have taught us, being unified doesn’t mean everyone will agree on every issue. But this spirit of unity conveys a commitment to a shared sense of purpose and a context of amity and respect. The creation of such unity is at the heart of the transition agreement forged by the leadership of the BAA and Baylor.
As BAA members consider their vote, it is important they understand only two possible paths forward exist:
First: A vote of “yes” unifies the Baylor alumni community. Voting “yes” will provide alumni around the world with opportunities to engage in a robust alumni program supported by a full complement of university resources. At the same time, it will sustain The Baylor Line as an independently operated magazine through creation of the Baylor Line Corp. This will preserve the independent voice of alumni. It also ensures a bright future for BAA staff who will have the opportunity to join the staff of a university the Chronicle of Higher Education has named “a great college to work for.” Finally, it creates a Baylor Alumni Advisory Board and provides for a non-voting alumni regent to the university’s governance structure, joining faculty and student regents who occupy similar positions.
Second: A vote of “no” emphatically does not maintain the status quo (as I have heard some suggest). A “no” vote will result in enforcement of the university’s previously provided notice of termination. At that point, the BAA will no longer enjoy legal right to use the “Baylor” name. As a result, the BAA will face a very uncertain future. So will its flagship publication, The Baylor Line. Long-serving BAA staff will have no guarantee of university employment. Nor will there be any provision for a designated alumni position on the Baylor University Board of Regents.
In the book of Zechariah in the Old Testament, we are taught that the good shepherd uses two staffs as he cares for the flock. One is given the name “Favor,” the other “Union.” In recent years, we have seen abundant evidence of the staff of the Lord’s favor upon Baylor University. Our fervent prayer is that Saturday we might once again behold the second staff — the staff called “Union” so important to Baylor.
Please vote “yes” this Saturday.
Baylor University President Ken Starr is a former federal judge and solicitor general of the United States. He is on the Baylor Law School faculty.