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Resignation clouds timing of UHV meeting

May 21, 2011 at 12:21 a.m.


MEETING ATTENDEESState Rep. Dan Branch invited the following people to meet in Victoria: UH System Chancellor Renu Khator; A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney; State Sen. Glenn Hegar, a Katy Republican; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee; and State Rep. Geanie Morrison, the Victoria Republican who authored HB 2556.

The date of a high-profile Victoria meeting of two Texas chancellors and state legislators remains unclear.

When Rep. Dan Branch called for the meeting, the Dallas Republican asked the group to meet here in June. As of Saturday, no official date had been set, the Advocate confirmed.

Branch serves as chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education. In late April, he asked the Texas A&M University and University of Houston system chancellors to meet, in part, with Victoria's state representative and senator.

The subject of the talk: the University of Houston-Victoria's future.

In mid-March, State Rep. Geanie Morrison, a Victoria Republican, filed House Bill 2556, which aims to move UHV from the UH System into the A&M System.

Morrison filed the bill because many Crossroads leaders think the UH System does not share the region's vision for the school. The bill was assigned to Branch's education committee.

Inundated with visits from supporters and opponents of the switch, and facing an already-hectic legislative schedule, Branch opted last month to call for a post-session meeting instead of rushing the bill to the House.

Still, he determined all parties should explore a resolution to the dispute.

"I look forward to meeting with stakeholders to discuss the future of UH-Victoria," Branch said Saturday night by email. "A date has not yet been confirmed as the possibility of a summer legislative session is still looming, and we allow Texas A&M to work through some transition issues."

Since Branch called for a meeting last month, A&M Chancellor Mike McKinney announced he will retire July 1. Further complicating the meeting, A&M has yet to announce an interim or permanent replacement for McKinney.

The Advocate tried repeatedly this week to interview McKinney via emails and phone calls to A&M System spokesman Jason Cook. Will McKinney attend the Victoria meeting? Will the system send someone in his place?

Cook could not be reached for comment.

It's possible A&M is undecided about who to send to the meeting or whether it should send anyone until a new chancellor is appointed.

"We should be sensitive to the timing for Texas A&M as they seek to name a new chancellor," said Dennis Patillo, a Victoria businessman and Crossroads Commission on Education member who supports the system switch. "There remains the hope and expectation that all parties to the discussion benefit, but more important is that those seeking higher education in our region are the big winners."

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