Baylor’s alumni association plans defense in lawsuit filed by university

The school has called on the alumni association to “cease and desist” using Baylor’s licensed trademarks.

By Marv Knox

The Baylor Alumni Association plans to “resolutely — not defiantly” defend itself against a lawsuit filed by Baylor University June 6.

The university filed the lawsuit about five months after its lead attorney called on the Baylor Alumni Association to “cease and desist” from using the school’s licensed trademarks.

That action followed 12 years of contention between the university and the independent alumni association. In September 2013, the alumni association voted 830 to 669 to disband, turn over alumni activities to the university and create the Baylor Line Corporation as a separate entity. The proposal failed, lacking a necessary super majority two-thirds vote.

The university then terminated its licensing agreement, which allowed the alumni association to use the Baylor name and its registered trademarks. But the alumni association published an issue of the Baylor Line in May.

keith starr150In a letter emailed to Baylor Alumni Association members, BAA President Keith Starr of Tyler reported the association’s executive committee met June 12 and resolved to take on the lawsuit.

“Needless to say, we are disappointed in this action by the university and its leadership, and we are extremely reluctant to be dragged into this litigation,” wrote Starr, who is not related to the university’s president, Ken Starr.

The alumni association has tried to reach an agreement that would preserve its name, the title of the Baylor Line and “our commitment to thousands of Baylor alumni,” Keith Starr contended.

“Despite our reluctance, we are forced to resolutely — not defiantly — defend our rights and oppose the university’s effort to silence the BAA, which has served as an independent yet supportive voice of Baylor alumni for more than 150 years.”

The BAA executive committee does not believe the university has the right to “unilaterally terminate its many agreements with the BAA,” he added.

The letter to the alumni association’s members listed four rights the executive committee believes the association still holds:

• “The BAA has the exclusive right to be called the Baylor Alumni Association and to call our magazine the Baylor Line.”

• “The BAA has the right to provide a forum for alumni to ask questions and express views free of editorial control.”

• “The BAA has the right to continue to act as an independent voice for our member alumni with respect to issues affecting our beloved university.”

• “The BAA has the right to maintain its offices on the Baylor University campus.”

The letter announced two attorneys will represent the alumni association in the lawsuit — Shannon Ratliff, founder of the Ratliff Law Firm in Austin, Texas, and J.D. Pauerstein, a partner in the law firm Rosenthal Pauerstein Sandoloski Agather in San Antonio, Texas.

The alumni association has received financial pledges to help cover legal fees and intends “that none of the association’s endowment will be used to pay the costs incurred in the lawsuit,” Starr wrote.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogelman said, “The university is moving to protect the interests of Baylor, its students and its alumni by seeking appropriate legal relief rather than simply waiting further for some indication of actual progress from the association.”

— Ken Camp, managing editor of the Baptist Standard, contributed to this article.