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Document sheds light on UHV president's ouster

By Carolina Astrain
May 24, 2014 at 12:24 a.m.

UHV President Phil Castille

Faculty Council meeting minutes shed some light on the ousting of former University of Houston-Victoria President Phil Castille.

However, the minutes don't tell the whole story and present a distorted picture of events, Castille contends.

The University of Houston System released the minutes after the Victoria Advocate filed an open records request.

"I am very glad for these minutes to be released so that finally I have an opportunity to respond," Castille said last week in a phone interview.

However, Castille challenged the comments in the minutes by Ron Salazar, Faculty Senate president.

"Nothing that Dr. Salazar says in them about me is free from bias or error," Castille said.

On March 7, the UHV Faculty Council, chaired by Salazar, met to discuss the transition period between UHV and UH Sugar Land, during which all UHV operations will be cast out of the Fort Bend County campus.

Castille provided a president's report at the beginning of the meeting but said he was not present for the portion of the meeting where Salazar alleged the ousted president alienated Sugar Land leadership and caused the UH Sugar Land Task Force to hasten its actions.

"His actions have crystallized the alienation of the SL leadership against UH-Victoria and expedited the proposal made by the regents," Salazar said, according to the meeting minutes.

Salazar did not return telephone messages last week for comment.

"He never gave me an opportunity to hear these accusations or provide him with correct information," Castille said. "There is a fundamental unfairness in this, which the Faculty Council recognized by a wide majority in their vote, when they refused to follow him at this meeting."

Salazar also said in the minutes that Castille denied UH System Chancellor Renu Khator an opportunity to speak with UHV faculty. Salazar said he met with Khator before the Faculty Council meeting.

"Dr. Khator said she had asked to speak with our faculty, but Dr. Castille refused the request and referred to the UHV faculty as 'an unruly bunch,'" Salazar said.

Richard Bonnin, executive director of media relations for the UH System, declined to comment on the meeting or Castille's new statement.

According to the minutes, Salazar also said that Castille alienated Omar Rachid, of Victoria, chairman of the President's Regional Advisory Board. Castille appointed Rachid to the position. Rachid also served on the UH Sugar Land Task Force and supported its recommendations.

According to Salazar's comments in the minutes, Castille asked Rachid to resign, but Castille said that is not true.

However, Rachid, contacted last week, said Castille did ask him to resign.

Welcome Wilson Sr., a former UH System Regent and chairman of the dissolved UH Sugar Land Task Force, said Castille's attitude toward the task force was perceived as hostile.

"This plan is going to help UHV concentrate on becoming a destination university in Victoria," Wilson said. "The administration and regents have pledged that they will have adequate resources to meet that goal."

Castille continued to question why he was ousted for expressing concerns about how the Sugar Land transition would affect UHV.

"Why was I put at risk for telling the truth about a bad and unfair deal for UHV handed to us by the UH System without consultation or compensation?" Castille said. "I was only doing my job as chief executive officer of UHV. I was protecting Victoria's university, and I remain proud to have done that."

The Advocate also requested the notes from the meeting, but the UH System continues to refuse to release them, saying the notes are not public record. The system sent a second letter seeking an opinion from the attorney general.

The meeting ended with a 30-23 vote to table a motion for no confidence in Castille.

The minutes, prepared by Faculty Senate secretary Justin Bell, do not include any of the discussions an Advocate source says occurred before the vote to table the motion for a no-confidence vote. Bell did not return calls last week for comment.

A week after the Faculty Council meeting, the UHV Faculty Senate, a smaller group, met in the El Campo Public Library on a school holiday and gave Castille a vote of no confidence. Castille contends that meeting was illegal.

The Advocate also has requested the Faculty Senate meeting minutes and notes, but the UH System has refused to release those and asked for another attorney general opinion.

Castille was ousted by Khator as president the following Tuesday after the Faculty Senate meeting.

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