If you value editorial freedom for an engaged, independent voice at Baylor University, please vote no on the transition agreement at 11 a.m. on Sept. 7 at Waco Hall. Send Baylor and the Baylor Alumni Association back to the bargaining table to reach an honorable compromise, not the utter capitulation and abandonment of editorial freedom that the transition agreement represents.
Under the so-called “transition agreement,” the 154-year-old Baylor Alumni Association would be permanently dissolved. The name Baylor Line would be transferred to a legal corporation that does not even yet exist — something that will be called the Baylor Line Corporation. Yet there is nothing in the transition agreement that defines who will control the Baylor Line Corporation or how it will be created or governed.
Who is to say that it will not be established and controlled by the very people who want to “unify” all communications under the Baylor board of regents’ direction? Can you imagine placing such faith in the “independence” of the Baylor Line Corporation when we don’t even know when, how or by whom it will be formed and controlled?
Even after this corporation comes into existence, the transition agreement already provides that the right to publish The Baylor Line magazine can be terminated by Baylor under circumstances that effectively deny editorial freedom and independence.
Currently The Baylor Line’s editorial independence is guaranteed by a 1993 license agreement with Baylor that affirms the BAA’s role as an “independent voice.” The 1993 license agreement, which is perpetual and can be terminated only for cause, specifically allows The Baylor Line to express views that “may be contrary to the administration of the University or its Board of Regents.” That is the essence of editorial independence.
Voting yes to the transition agreement would be a vote to void that contract. Left in its place would be a weak, watered-down contract allowing Baylor to terminate the right to publish The Baylor Line if Baylor determines that The Baylor Line fails to “advance university goals and objectives” or fails to provide “ongoing and consistent support for BU’s progress and vitality.” These vague, controlling requirements are the essence of editorial control.
The transition agreement would also require The Baylor Line to “permit the designated BU vice president to be heard on all matters relating to the [Baylor Line]” and “provide access to BU officials as BU deems appropriate.” This is the essence of operational control.
The Baylor Line Corporation’s sole permitted function would be to publish The Baylor Line and Between the Lines. It cannot engage in alumni outreach or any other activities. Therefore, whoever controls this entity will lose the connection and engagement with alumni and the campus that the BAA currently enjoys and that are foundational to the authority and trustworthiness of the BAA’s publications.
The BAA should compromise but not capitulate. The BAA has always been and remains willing to collaborate with Baylor and share alumni services. That has never been an actual subject of dispute. The BAA owes a solemn duty to the Baylor family not to abandon its mission, including its role as an independent voice amidst an otherwise unaccountable, self-perpetuating governance structure. In the agreements that give the BAA that right and that duty, you can hear the voices of wise leaders of Baylor’s past pleading with generations down the years to support Baylor but also to pay close attention, to be vigilant, and to speak up in defense of the Baylor we all love.
Now more than ever Baylor needs an engaged, active, independent alumni association. Please vote NO on the transition agreement Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. at Waco Hall.
Tom Nesbitt is a lawyer in Austin. He graduated from Baylor University in 1994 and the University of Texas School of Law in 1998. He is a life member and former director of the Baylor Alumni Association.