Legislators, community leaders discuss UHV, Texas A&M switch

July 12, 2011 at 2:12 a.m.

The issue of switching the University of Houston-Victoria to the Texas A&M University System did not fizzle out with the legislative session.

A slew of stakeholders on all sides of the topic met Tuesday to discuss the newly expanded university's future.

State Rep. Dan Branch, a Dallas Republican and chairman of the house Higher Education committee, called the meeting at the UHV campus. That brought together about 20 people, including state Rep. Geanie Morrison and state Sen. Glenn Hegar, along with leaders from the University of Houston, UHV, Texas A&M University and Victoria community members.

"There were existing and future issues acknowledged by the UH System and community leaders," Morrison's chief of staff, Justin Unruh, said in an email. "The most important issues were to ensure education excellence for our institution, and that we provide the best educational experience possible for our students."

Morrison proposed a bill in the last legislative session that would move UHV from the University of Houston to the Texas A&M University system. Hegar did not support the legislation. His district includes Victoria and Sugar Land, and he has spoken in favor of moving the UHV-Sugar Land campus under the main UH umbrella.

Branch did not respond to requests for comment, and others contacted were mostly vague about the talks.

Hegar said in a brief email that the meeting was fruitful.

"Today's meeting was very productive and will go a long way in moving forward in a positive direction for the higher education growth in Victoria," he said.

Morrison agreed.

"The main concerns that were discussed were making certain we plan for the future, and that we're prepared to accommodate both the incoming class and our existing students," Unruh said.

UHV Interim President Don Smith, Emett Alvarez and Dennis Patillo all confirmed they attended the meeting but deferred questions to Branch. Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor also deferred to Branch but told of his contributions to the meeting.

O'Connor is the former vice-chairman of the Texas A&M Board of Regents. He said he dealt with similar situations of downward expansion and new institutions, and he was able to offer perspective from the position he held a decade ago.

"We knew the importance of recognizing all stakeholders within the community and a continuum of dialogue, whether we agreed or disagreed," O'Connor said. "The bottom line was the betterment of the institutions and students. We cannot forget the student body is key and their education."

O'Connor praised Branch for wasting no time following up on his promise to continue the dialogue surrounding UHV after Morrison's bill stalled in the committee.

Morrison too plans to keep the issue alive.

"Rep. Morrison plans to work with all of the stakeholders to ensure that we continue to build on the success that we have had since the downward expansion. This is a process and one that will continue throughout the interim," Unruh said.



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