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UHV faculty looked to grow in Houston while UH had other plans

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
June 21, 2014 at 1:21 a.m.
Updated June 22, 2014 at 1:22 a.m.


OPEN RECORDS UPDATE

• The minutes from the April meeting were delivered last week to the Victoria Advocate via email in response to a public information record request. Along with meeting minutes, the Advocate requested all written correspondence between UHV Faculty Senate President Ron Salazar and UH System Chancellor Renu Khator, who also serves as president for the University of Houston; and the draft meeting minutes from a March 14 UHV Faculty Senate meeting where a no-confidence vote of UHV President Philip Castille was taken.

The UH System is seeking an opinion from the attorney general concerning the written correspondence request. The Advocate began requesting meetings minutes from the UHV Faculty Council and Senate shortly after former UHV President Phil Castille was ousted by the chancellor in March. UH has not provided the Faculty Senate meeting minutes because it contends they have not been approved. UH argues that the draft meeting minutes are protected under Texas Government Code 552.111, the deliberative process privilege.

• The attorney general extended the period for issuing a decision concerning the Faculty Senate draft minutes requested by 10 days for additional time to research the legal issues raised by the UH.

• In their request for an opinion, the UH System stated that the UHV Faculty Senate meets at least once each month during the a regular academic year. The UH System argued that the minutes cannot be released because they had not been approved at the time of the request.

Castille stood against the approved changes coming to UHV, which include the absorption of the portion of the UHV School of Nursing in Sugar Land and the removal of UHV programs from the Fort Bend County campus.

SOURCE: VICTORIA ADVOCATE ARCHIVES, UH SYSTEM

While the University of Houston System was developing a plan to move the University of Houston-Victoria out of Houston and Sugar Land, campus faculty members were looking at ways to improve enrollment in the Houston area.

According to minutes from a UHV Faculty Council meeting April 4, the shared governance body approved a proposal to the University of Houston System asking for financial support to conduct a study of the potential market for academic programs in Houston.

"This motion is made to address the significant interruption in the delivery of academic programs in Sugar Land and the need to move them to one or more locations and the need to build on investments in higher education already made by the U of H System," stated Paul Carlson, UHV professor of education, according to the approved minutes.

Less than a month later, the UH System announced a plan to separate UHV from all of its extension operations in Houston. Charles Alcorn, UHV director of corporate and foundation relations, was named chairman of a work group comprised of community leaders charged with determining how to grow the university at its Victoria location rather than in Houston.

Phil Castille, former UHV president who was ousted from his position in March by UH System Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator, said the minutes show "the UHV Faculty Senate received false assurances from the UH System leadership."

"The system's real plan all along appears to have been the annexation or elimination of UHV's extended academic programs in Sugar Land and other Houston sites - so far without any compensation for our losses," Castille said in an emailed statement. "This was my fear and worry from the beginning, when the UH takeover of UHSL was first announced last December. I think most faculty now understand what an unfair and one-sided deal this is for UHV."

Richard Bonnin, UH System spokesman, said, "These are issues that will be addressed by the transition committee."

The Advocate recently obtained the meeting minutes via a state open-records request.

Asked about the conflicting directions revealed by the minutes, UHV Provost Jeffrey Cass said the new work groups needed time to do their job. "Nothing has been firmly decided," he said.

"I know people are anxious to know the future of UHV, but we've got to let people do their work without any added pressure," Cass said.

UHV currently provides face-to-face classes at the UH System campuses in Katy, the Woodlands, Cinco Ranch and Sugar Land.

Thirty-one percent of UHV's face-to-face teaching occurs in Fort Bend County, and 53 percent of its faculty offices are in Sugar Land.

In the April 4 meeting, Faculty Council Chairman Ron Salazar touted improved relations with faculty.

"The current mood of administration is unprecedented," Salazar stated, according to the minutes. "I saw current administration as willing to listen more than any before."

It was unclear which administration Salazar referred to. Khator has served as UH System chancellor and UH president since January 2008. Khator ousted Castille as UHV president in March because, in part, he opposed the system's plan to strip the university of its ability to offer programs in Sugar Land.

In the Faculty Senate President Updates and Issues portion of the meeting, the minutes state that while the UHV administration is "on notice" from the chancellor, now is the time for their voices to be heard.

Salazar and Carlson did not return calls from the Advocate for comment.

"We can shape our future," the minutes state. "Ron's approach with administration has been to put major issues on the table, wait for council meetings, hear from the schools, address the issues as a body."

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