The dedication of staff and directors of the Baylor Alumni Association is evident in the past seven years of its financial stability. In order to maintain a balanced budget, the BAA has made substantial sacrifices in recent years. Cancellation of university funding in fiscal year 2008 eventually led to elimination of retirement benefits for staff, while at the same time more than doubling health insurance deductibles and co-pays. Total cuts to programs and communication budgets exceeded $95,000.
Despite these challenges, current financial stability is not in question. However, should the transition agreement forged between Baylor University regents and the BAA executive committee fail, the BAA will most certainly face an uncertain financial future — and very possibly a costly one.
Should the transition agreement fail when BAA members meeting on Sept. 7 vote on it, lengthy and costly litigation may be required, regardless of how it begins. The university has made clear its intent to vacate licenses, so the association will either lose the right to use the Baylor name or attempt — through litigation — to reinstate the agreements. Loss of the Baylor name has direct financial consequences. Most notable would be the loss of royalty income, which currently accounts for 12 percent of the BAA’s operating budget.
The plan for the BAA to simply continue to exist as currently structured is not practical. Unlike the university’s extensive database, the BAA’s mailing list is not able to reach all alumni, and the alumni association has no access to the list of new graduates. Without this capability, long-term sustainability becomes increasingly difficult as a membership-based organization, separate and apart from Baylor University. Co-existing will not be a viable option.
Failure of the transition agreement will be a fiduciary failure. Legal fees will have to be paid by quasi-endowment withdrawals. New, non-budgeted expenses — such as rent for offices and meeting space — would deplete operating costs. Staff layoffs would likely have to be considered. And while some people may continue to join or give to the association, losing the ability to use the Baylor name will result in a lack of recognition and affinity by younger alums or those not closely tied with the university. Without the “Baylor Line” name, there will be no significant means of reaching younger generations.
With an endowment that is restricted or semi-restricted, voting down the transition agreement with the strong likelihood we will later have to vote ourselves out of existence seems short-sighted and unproductive. But if the agreement is approved, pending donor approval, available funds will be transferred to the Baylor Line Corporation to continue what many have valued most about being an independent organization.
Voting “no” is betting on an uncertain future to retain current status, with current or greater restrictions. That seems to be an unwise financial proposition.
Meredith Pinson-Creasey graduated from Baylor in 1984 with a degree in journalism and serves as a BAA director. Her husband, David, and their two sons are also Baylor graduates. David’s family has attended Baylor since before 1900.