Friday, October 30, 2009

Baylor Alumni Association fails to reflect the school's diversity, width, and breadth

One of the many things I enjoyed about being a big-city newspaper reporter was personal access to news events and newsmakers.  Instead of having to read about people and events through the filter of others, I was there as an  eyewitness.

I was reminded of this perk the other day when I drove past the place in which the much-anticipated meeting for the Baylor Alumni Association was about to be held. My wife said to me, "You like to see things firsthand, so why don't you just go on in?" So I did.

Kay knew that for the past several years I've been concerned about the direction the BAA has taken.

What I saw and heard at that meeting in the chapel at Truett Seminary on the Baylor campus confirmed my worst fears. While proclaiming its desire to represent all Baylor alumni and be the true and independent voice for all Baylor graduates, the organization has in effect been hijacked by a small group of disgruntled alumni who have a political agenda (a.k.a. "an axe to grind!") that they are very carefully carrying out.

Seldom do I attend a meeting in which I feel I am among the youngest in the audience. Even though I am 63, I felt a virtual youngster at this meeting. As I looked around I saw an overabundance of people who could best be described as a "Who Was Who" at Baylor many years ago. These former administrators, former faculty members, and former student leaders seemed to have one agenda: to re-claim the days of yesteryear.

This tiny minority of alumni want to turn the clock back to the days when Herbert H. Reynolds ran the university with his iron fist—the days when everything on campus was as Herb wanted it to be, or else. Or else included faculty and students—liberal or conservative—who didn't bow to his authority and were shunned or tossed aside. The group also didn't want to acknowledge that the glory days of Robert Sloan, Herb's young and visionary successor, ever existed. Many in the room were in the mob that at Herb's instigation ran off Sloan, throwing the university into its current state of political instability and chaos.

At the BAA meeting Herb's name, history, and family were invoked numerous times—almost causing some of his loyalists to genuflect—while Sloan's name, history and family were never acknowledged or present in any way.  Herb's daughter, Rhonda, who led the attacks on Sloan, sits on the BAA board and at this meeting was awarded an honorary leadership position; his widow, Joy, was introduced with adulation. But nary a word was said about Sloan, his wife, Sue, or any of their seven children who like their parents also are Baylor graduates. Nor was a kind word said at all about Sloan's wounded friends or allies or any of the good things accomplished under the Sloan administration. 

I easily concluded that working together for the benefit of ALL Baylor alumni is simply not on the agenda of BAA. Instead divisiveness fills its agenda.

The focus of the meeting was on the current Baylor administration's proposal to assist the BAA in becoming what it should be--a forum for ALL Baylor alumni that unites and motivates instead of divides and weakens.  Instead of supporting the administration's plan, the folks gathered at the BAA meeting last Friday were poised to spit in the eye of yet another administration (the third since Reynolds) that they cannot control.
Several days after the meeting, the Baylor administration withdrew its fair-and-balanced proposal, basically letting the BAA wander off on its divisive and schismatic way. 

Baylor needs to march forward into its bright future acknowledging the diversity of its large group of alumni and its great past, including the many good things accomplished by both the Reynolds and Sloan as well as other administrations. What it doesn't need is a small band of gray-haired, angry, schismatics continuing to masquerade as speaking for alumni that they truly don't have any intention of representing fairly.