Alumni association given 90 days to stop using ‘Baylor’ name

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WACO—Baylor University gave the Baylor Alumni Association 90 days to stop using the Baylor name and other licensed marks.

The Sept. 10 announcement followed a Sept. 7 vote by the alumni association in which the required two-thirds majority failed to approve a transitional agreement with the university.

At the called meeting on the Baylor campus, 55 percent of the alumni association members present voted to approve the agreement that would have disbanded the 154-year-old organization, allowed the university to assume all alumni-engagement activities and created the Baylor Line Corporation to preserve what proponents called “an independent alumni voice.” Alumni association members voted 830 to 669 to approve the transition agreement, but that fell 170 votes short of the two-thirds required.

Letter to ‘Baylor Nation’

Consequently, Baylor President Ken Starr emailed a letter to “Baylor Nation” saying the university’s previously announced intention to terminate its licensing agreement with the Baylor Alumni Association went into effect Sept. 8.

“We are, however, providing the association a 90-day period to phase out the use of Baylor’s licensed marks,” Starr wrote.

The letter does not specify what actions the university is prepared to take if the alumni association continues using licensed Baylor marks beyond the December deadline.

Baylor University regents held a conference call Sept. 9 to consider recommendations from the university’s administration, Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said.

“There were several elements of the transition agreement that the university felt good about moving forward, such as extending professional opportunities to BAA staff who are interested and eligible for university employment and creating the alumni advisory board,” she said.

The Baylor Alumni Association staff moved its offices to the university’s Clifton Robinson Tower in June. At that point, Baylor began preparation to demolish the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center—the association’s previous home—to make way for a plaza leading to the bridge connecting the campus and Baylor Stadium.

Baylor Alumni Network

In Starr’s letter, he also noted the university’s Baylor Alumni Network will continue some programs previously managed by the alumni association, such as the Heritage Club alumni recognition and Baylor’s official class ring program.

“Now, with our focus on energetically serving Baylor alumni around the world, the university will go forward in building a comprehensive—and unified—alumni engagement program equipped to serve a broad range of alumni needs and interest,” Starr wrote.

The Baylor Alumni Association’s board of directors will meet by conference call to determine its next steps, BAA President Collin Cox said. He expressed hope the alumni association board might offer some “creative solutions” beyond the two obvious choices—terminate use of Baylor brands or continue using them and face possible litigation.

Options dwindling

“At this point, as I see it, there are not an infinite number of options available,” said Cox, a Houston attorney.

While the board might choose to ask the university to negotiate some compromise solution, he expressed little hope Baylor would agree. During the discussions that led to the transition agreement, university representatives consistently maintained Sept. 8 would mark the termination of licensing agreements with the alumni association.

“I take them at their word,” Cox said. “I think the letter (from Starr) speaks for itself.”

The university promoted the failed transition agreement through a “Baylor Forward” media blitz that included billboards, banners, television commercials and social media.

Proponents hailed it as a way to resolve more than a decade of tension between Baylor and the alumni association. About that time, the university developed its own alumni services office and began producing its own magazine for alumni and donors.

In 2009, Baylor asked the alumni association to give up its independent status and come under the authority of the university administration. However, Baylor withdrew that proposal about six weeks later, citing what it perceived as the alumni association’s lack of positive response.

The university ceased to grant the alumni association access to students at graduation and homecoming, and it no longer provided a list of graduates.

The Baylor Alumni Association has about 17,000 members. Among the most recent 69,000 Baylor University graduates, only 3,400 joined the alumni association, and the average alumni association member is 58 years old, Cox said.

All graduates of the university automatically become part of the Baylor Alumni Network. Last year, the network held about 850 events in 150 locations worldwide that involved more than 35,000 alumni and supporters, the university reported.


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