Baylor Alumni Association has relocated to a new office in downtown Waco after Baylor University locked the organization out of an administrative office the group had been using since this summer.
Since July, the BAA had been working out of offices in the university’s Clifton Robinson administrative tower on University Parks Drive, a move that came after the university tore down the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center that had been the BAA’s headquarters since 1978.
But association staff members were locked out of the offices a day after a Dec. 8 deadline on which Baylor demanded that the BAA cease using the university’s name and trademarks, BAA Chief Operating Officer Chad Wooten said.
Baylor officials allowed the staff back into the tower the following week to retrieve work materials, but Wooten said the university did not advise BAA of the impending lockout.
The deadline was given after a failed Sept. 7 vote by the BAA’s members on a transition agreement to transfer alumni outreach activities to the university but allow the association to continue publishing its alumni magazine, The Baylor Line.
“I can’t say we were surprised,” BAA President George Cowden III said. “I guess I thought we might be able to continue to be able to be there, but that’s OK.”
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman would not comment on whether Baylor would take additional action against BAA, such as litigation to stop the group’s use of the Baylor name.
Baylor issued a letter May 31 notifying the BAA of its intentions to terminate existing licensing agreements with the association beginning Sept. 8 if the transition agreement was not approved.
“We’ve been very clear on our deadlines and the terms of our licensing agreement,” Fogleman said. “Nothing should come as a surprise.”
The BAA now is leasing space in the St. Charles Place office building at 600 Austin Ave. It is the first time the group has not had a presence on campus, as well as its first time renting an office, Wooten said.
“It’s a big deal, but we’ve had a lot of practice in dealing with things like this, so we’ve become pretty innovative over the years and pretty mobile as well,” Wooten said, alluding to past struggles with Baylor like losing its annual funding from the university and being cut off from the Baylor email system.
But despite the setback, Cowden said the BAA will continue operating as it has been — as the university’s alumni association — until members vote otherwise.
“The association as an independent corporation continues to exist, so that hasn’t changed and it probably will not change, as far as the existence of a separate company,” Cowden said. “Now what that company or corporation does and the direction it takes is ultimately up to its members.”
Cowden said a board of directors meeting is scheduled in January to begin forming a recommendation that members may be asked to vote on later in the year.
The BAA also plans to publish a February issue of The Baylor Line, though Wooten said it may rely more heavily on freelance writers since only two staff members remain after nine others took jobs at Baylor.
Fogleman would not say whether Baylor still would be open to further discussions with the BAA on its future direction. She said the university will move forward in implementing various alumni outreach programs, including initiatives the association spearheaded — like the class ring ceremony — under its Baylor Alumni Network.
“We remain hopeful regarding the ultimate resolution by the association to move forward in a positive way on behalf of Baylor and all of its alumni,” Fogleman said.
The BAA on Dec. 7 approved amending its bylaws to allow remote or online voting, instead of just voting in person, in an effort to gain more input from members across the country.
The group is considering different options for its future direction, including continuing to do business as the BAA; changing its name but forging ahead with alumni activities; or changing its mission and becoming a foundation that would possibly raise money for scholarships, according to Wooten.
“We’ve got business to take care of, and kind of our approach all along has been we’re going to focus on our business and do what we need to do and see what happens,” Wooten said.