Federal Judge Orders Baylor into Mediation Over Alumni Center

By Regina Dennis


The front of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center located on University Parks Drive.

Staff photo - Rod Aydelotte

A federal judge Wednesday ordered mediation for Baylor University and a Baylor Alumni Association member who successfully obtained a temporary restraining order earlier this month preventing the university from demolishing the 
BAA’s building.

The Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center was to be razed this month as part of an agreement between the alumni association and Baylor. The university wants to use the site for a plaza leading to a pedestrian bridge that will connect the campus to the football stadium under construction on the opposite bank of the Brazos River.

But U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr. signed a temporary injunction July 2 halting the demolition in response to a suit filed by Chicago banker Kurt Dorr alleging that the move needed the approval of the alumni association’s membership.

Baylor; BAA; the group’s past president, Elizabeth Coker; and its current president, Collin Cox,
are named as defendants, although Dorr’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss Baylor as a party.

After a hearing Wednesday in Waco that lasted 41/2 hours, Smith mandated that the parties enter mediation with the goal of resolving the dispute this month. Attorneys for the parties agreed to meet July 22 with Austin-based mediator Karl Bayer.

The temporary restraining order blocking demolition will remain in effect until the mediation is completed.

Attorneys Gerald Haddock (from left), Tom Nesbitt, and Adam Feinberg, all representing plaintiff Kurt Dorr of Naperville, Ill., leave the federal courthouse in Waco.

Staff photo - Rod Aydelotte

Brian Nicholson, associate vice president of facilities, planning and construction for Baylor, testified that postponing the demolition will not prevent completion of the stadium and the pedestrian bridge in time for the first game of the 2014 football

But Nicholson said the university could incur up to $300,000 in additional overtime costs to stay on schedule if the demolition is pushed back to September, when BAA members could next convene to vote on the project.

Also, he said, part of the alumni center site is needed as a temporary parking lot for Mayborn Museum staff during phases 
of construction.

Dorr’s request for the restraining order claims that the agreement to vacate the alumni building violates a 1994 contract that prevents Baylor from taking possession of the alumni center unless there is a need for the land, no alternative exists, and Baylor provides another building of comparable “size, condition, quality of construction and location.”

In addition, the suit charges that an agreement that would transfer alumni outreach functions to Baylor violates a 1993 license agreement that gives BAA the perpetual right to act as the university’s alumni association except in the case of a default.

Both agreements were signed by Cox, Coker and Baylor leaders on May 31.

School’s argument

But attorneys for BAA and Baylor argued that while the agreement to transfer alumni outreach functions still must be approved by two-thirds of the alumni membership at an upcoming Sept. 7 meeting, the agreement to leave the alumni building is a separate document that only required approval by the executive committee.

Cox testified Wednesday that 11 of BAA’s 14 executive committee members approved both agreements in a single vote during a May 30 conference call.

Adam Feinberg, another attorney for Dorr, argued that the two agreements were part of an ongoing effort by Baylor to force closure of the alumni association.

Baylor in the past decade started its own alumni outreach organization called the Baylor Alumni Network.

Former BAA board member Kent Reynolds testified that Baylor in 2009 presented and later withdrew a different proposal to dissolve the association and take over its functions.

Reynolds said the relationship with the university progressed from “strained” to “contentious” after that proposal.

Attorney Andy McSwain, representing Baylor University, leaves the federal courthouse. U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr. has ordered mediation between Baylor University and a Baylor Alumni Association member who won a temporary restraining order preventing the university from demolishing the BAA’s building.

Staff photo - Rod Aydelotte