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Survey shows community wants university system other than UH

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Jan. 15, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2011 at 7:15 p.m.

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SURVEY SUMMARY Almost every person who responded said they want Victoria to have a "vibrant destination university."

More than half of people who answered talked about specific university systems. Three out of four people in that group looked to realign with another system.

Five out of six people showed interest in aligning with another system in the event the current system failed to aggressively develop in Victoria.

A small but passionate number of responders clearly support UHV's efforts and stated optimism about its growth.

Community members are clamoring for the University of Houston-Victoria to aggressively grow or leave the system.

The findings are based on 173 answers to a recent survey issued by the Crossroads Commission on Education. The group was formed by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, and studies educational needs in the area.

By a 5-to-1 margin, people said they want UHV to align with another university system if the University of Houston System does not "aggressively develop" in Victoria.

"The majority wanted to explore options with other systems," said Dennis Patillo, owner of Stewart Title Co., who reviewed the results. Patillo chairs a commission sub-group that studies how to create a destination university.

He said many of the essay-type responses were highly detailed.

"It was pretty cold and objective," he said. "They had their clear reasons, and the reasons were varied."

Three-fourths of the people who talked about specific university systems said they want UHV to realign. About half of the responders mentioned specific university system needs.

Mayor Will Armstrong, who sits on the commission and supports realigning the school, said the next step is clear.

"The only thing that we can do is to try to align ourselves with another university system," he said.

It would take legislation to realign the school with another system, something only one other Texas school has ever accomplished.

But Patillo said he's not sure findings will lead to legislation because a community cannot tell a system how to run its school.

"But all successful universities recognize the community is an integral component to their success," he said.

Armstong's opinion differed.

"I'm not going to speak to that," he said. "I know work is going on, or I hope work is going on in that regards, but I'm not going to speak to that issue."

Morrison did not return a phone call Friday afternoon. Justin Unruh, Morrison's chief of staff, said she did not have enough time to review the results but she would "work with the community to do what needs to be done to have a vibrant destination university."

The survey was sent to more than 1,000 members of the Victoria Economic Development Corp. and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. It was also announced in the Advocate.

Kay Walker, a former regent on the UH System board and who serves on the presidential regional advisory group, believes the survey does not represent the entire community.

"I personally do not consider that a resounding demand for a change," she said.

She believes the community needs to focus on attracting the best president possible. Talks of realignment are not likely to go far since the legislature is grappling with a budget deficit, she said.

"We need to hire a new president here, and any of this conversation is a distraction and will hurt the efforts of higher education in Victoria," she said.

The answers showed the No. 1 issue for the school was "better and more student housing."

Patillo said the community will be watching how well the school improves enrollment and how the school manages without the leadership of former president Tim Hudson to gauge whether growth is aggressive.

"I am a firm believer that a change is only good if every party benefits from the change," he said. "If there were to be a change in systems, it should be to every party's best interest."

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