The Baylor Alumni Association has provided fellowship for Baylor University alumni since 1859 so that alumni might more effectively serve Baylor University. Presidents Abner McCall and Herb Reynolds staunchly supported the mission of the BAA. The BAA is most effective precisely because it is independent from Baylor and has well-earned, credible brands.
And yet Baylor President Ken Starr, spurred by dominant regent leaders, now seeks to destroy the BAA just as he wastefully demolished the BAA’s Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center this summer. He even made overt threats in a Sunday column published in the Tribune-Herald.
I am saddened by the pattern of bullying behavior — first toward the Baylor faculty, then toward the BAA, beginning with the Robert Sloan administration and continuing through the years. While Sloan received two principled no-confidence faculty senate votes, he initiated work on a methodical plan to destroy the BAA and take its properties, programs and staff.
Yet members of the BAA have:
Provided forums, voices, perspectives and credible reporting to alumni on issues for healthy discussion including, for example, alleged dysfunctional behaviors and alleged abuses of power in the Baylor family.
Defended Baylor from very real threats of a fundamentalist takeover.
Questioned issues of the huge debt burden, now in excess of $600 million, that Baylor regents have caused Baylor to borrow, all while raising tuition and fees on the backs of students, many with federal student loans.
Supported Baylor programs and sports activities, even as Baylor officials have directed employees and coaches to shun BAA initiatives and closed facilities to BAA functions.
Bridling the voice of The Baylor Line, the BAA magazine, and demolishing the BAA is not how the Baylor administration’s expensive #Baylor Forward misinformation campaign has framed the issues. Sorry, but I’m not buying the Potemkin village this Baylor PR campaign is trying so hard to sell.
I always try to look for the silver lining in any situation and I expect reasonable leaders from within to resolve impasses for mutual benefit. And when the transition agreement forged by a BAA executive committee and Baylor regents is defeated, I expect regent leaders to work with BAA leadership on ways that alumni might more effectively serve Baylor University.
At this point, editorial control of The Baylor Line has become a red herring. The real underlying issue is trust — and, sadly, there is little if any. BAA officers and directors are fed up with the BAA being bullied but are understandably unwilling to sue Baylor University. They have now capitulated to the bully. But appeasement of this bully-regents’ administration is not best for Baylor University. And current BAA leaders’ giving BAA member-donated property to Baylor is wrong-headed and in violation of their duties of loyalty and care. Dissolving the BAA disenfranchises paid membership of 1,700 members.
It’s a sad day for me. And for those who, as one highly respected voice of reason and former Baylor regent put it, now “see what has come to resemble a death knell for the Baylor which, for all its faults, we cherished and loved, to be replaced by a glossy new version in which public relations takes precedence over the honest expression of differences capable of being discussed and resolved in good conscience because of mutual trust in the good intention of each party.”
I and others now ask, ahead of Saturday’s vote on the transition agreement:
Why should we trust the Baylor administration and regents to honor a new license agreement when they didn’t honor the last one?
Why should we trust the administration and regents not to try to take all of the BAA’s endowment except for donations specifically designated for The Baylor Line?
Why should we trust the regents to do the right thing in the future when they haven’t done the right thing for the past 10 years?
Could regents’ actions withstand the spotlight of the BAA and The Baylor Line?
What are the dominant regents’ plans for Baylor if their plan to destroy the BAA fails — or if it succeeds?
Protect your BAA from Baylor’s takeover. I’m voting “no” this Saturday.
James F. Cole, 93 and a World War II veteran, is past president and director and emeritus executive vice president of the Baylor Alumni Association. He served as executive editor of The Baylor Line for 14 years. He graduated from Baylor in 1946. He lives in Woodway.