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All the signs indicate it's time for change

Oct. 5, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.


I attended the groundbreaking ceremonies for Caterpillar the other day, and one couldn't be more proud of a unified team of people dedicated to the success of the Crossroads area.

I was struck by the enthusiasm of the Caterpillar folks for the choice they made and the success they see for our overall partnership. They obviously liked what they saw in the can-do environment that they found in Victoria to make such a major investment for the future. During the ceremony, it dawned on me the differences between the two major players who will have a huge impact on the Crossroads area in the future. And after reading the article about changing partners with the University of Houston-Victoria in the Advocate last Sunday, I felt compelled to share some thoughts.

I have attended a lot of the hearings, as an interested citizen, on the downward expansion and subsequent decisions made as we move along in shaping what UHV will look like in 10 years and the future. It struck me how different the approaches were by Caterpillar compared to the University of Houston System. Oh, I know there is a difference between business and academia, but proactive and reactive are the same no matter where you look. All I felt at the Caterpillar event was proactive, we can get this done - winner attitude. What I have felt, on the other hand, during this whole process for UHV downward expansion from the UH System has been rather reactive - a reluctance of willingness at most turns. You just have to ask yourself what is the meaning behind the meaning. Does it make sense?

Anyone owning a business knows that you are just as strong as the people running that business and are constantly looking for those strong individuals. Individuals who are proactive have a can-do attitude, great people skills, great leadership abilities, have a pretty good grip on what the future might look like, so they can plan and get the job done. Any one of us in business would want someone like that on our team.

Maybe someone like Tim Hudson comes to mind. If you had someone in place like that, why in the world would you ever think of "reassigning" them several weeks before the very first year of downward expansion was to begin. Did you read the guest column by Charlie Alcorn about his assessment of Dr. Hudson and his impact on UHV and it's faculty? Isn't that the kind of leader, who enjoys the confidence of his faculty, that you would want heading up a brand new program?

But no, he was "reassigned" with really no explanation. That's like Lucy pulling the football! Does that make sense? Hidden agenda? Who knows? There is a huge signal here that cannot be denied. And if you read Joe Wyatt's guest column in Friday's Advocate about the history we've had with UH from a legislative perspective, there were similarly strange moves in the past. What Wyatt says about the withdrawal of the Colleges of Engineering and Fine Arts without notice, and "the simple courtesy of a phone call to the state representative was just ignored" seems to be repeating itself. Now I would hope that the powers that be from UH made that courtesy call to state Rep. Geanie Morrison and Sen. Glenn Hegar about the "reassignment" of Dr. Hudson. Surely, to remove the president at this critical time is a big deal.

For me, the meaning perhaps was that he had a vision for UHV that may have been more aggressive; he was too proactive and was taking them down a path they really were not ready to go. And so the spin on his "reassignment" was offensive to me and to others as well. I am not yet sure about what it means, but it was not a smart move to treat your partners in that manner. They pulled the linchpin! But I have always felt during this process that we were the proverbial bur under their blanket. That was a huge political blunder for our relationship. On the other hand, if you had been at the Caterpillar ceremony, the contrast in the two approaches is so evident. At the Caterpillar groundbreaking, you could feel the can-do in the air. I have never felt a smidgeon of that from UH! Not once.

And that is what has been missing from our relationship with UH: can-do. Oh, I know they are making noise about asking for money to get this thing off the ground, but for some reason it just doesn't ring true with me.

I am also concerned about the myopia of their plan of pouring a bunch of dollars into the present site, and so forth. It was about 50 years ago that I found myself as a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin. I had some friends who were in San Marcos at Southwest Texas, which at that time had about 5,000 students. Now, there are 30,000-plus going to school at what is now Texas State. I suspect that, in retrospect, they wish they could have done better planning as far as layout of the university. Well, I am an optimist, and I believe that in another 50 years, we may have similar problems here in Victoria. So doesn't it make sense to start planning for bigger things from the start? This state is going to have a larger population, and there are going to be a lot more students to educate, so why not plan for it in the beginning? That concept seems so realistic that I completely miss the point of holding on to that tiny footprint where it is now. Do they think that Victoria College will not grow and need the space?

If we really believe that the future is bright and they will come, then shouldn't we plan intelligently and be on the front side of this with a much better thought-out plan? I am afraid our future with UH will be a foot dragging, placating future for UHV. We will be a rock in their shoe! When I consider the political blunder of "reassigning" Dr. Hudson at the most inappropriate time, it just tells me that we are not on the same page. We need a can-do partner who has the vision, ability and can-do attitude to take us far into the future. At this point, I do not have confidence in the UH System to achieve that.

Tim Hudson expanded our minds with the possibilities. And once a mind is expanded, it will never return to it's original state. It's time for a change.

Dr. Buddy Lee is a dentist, proponent for a prosperous community and resides in Victoria.

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