AG rules UHV faculty senate minutes public, not notes

By Carolina Astrain , CAROLINA ASTRAN

By Carolina Astrain , CAROLINA ASTRAN
Aug. 23, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.
Updated Aug. 23, 2014 at 10:31 p.m.

The University of Houston System is playing a calculated game of thrones with its Victoria campus, said former University of Houston-Victoria President Phil Castille.

Five months ago, the Victoria Advocate requested documents expected to shed some light on what spurred UHV's Faculty Senate to take part in a vote of no-confidence against Castille in March.

"The UH System has a hidden agenda in how it treats its presidents," Castille said.

The attorney general's Open Records Division ruled Tuesday the Faculty Senate's meeting minutes, once approved, are public record - but the notes will remain protected by a section of the Texas Government Code.

According to that code, an interagency or intra-agency memorandum or letter that would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the agency is exempt.

The UHV Faculty Senate is scheduled to meet again Sept. 5.

"I'm not hiding anything," Ron Salazar, who served as UHV Faculty Senate president in March and is a UHV business professor, said Friday. "Please refer to (UH) System legal. I don't have anything to say. Have a good day."

Phone calls to UH's legal department were not returned Friday.

Meanwhile, Castille questions the motive behind the continued delay tactics.

"I will be very interested to see - as will everyone else - why the University of Houston leadership has gone through such lengths to keep these Faculty Senate notes shielded from the public," Castille said. "Usually, universities try to stand for transparency, openness and other interpersonal values we teach students."

In February, UH Board of Regents approved the removal of UHV's programs from the system's UH Sugar Land campus.

Sugar Land is where the majority of UHV faculty from the business and nursing schools work. Together, those schools made up 53 percent of UHV's operating budget allocated for academic programs last year.

Castille publicly objected to the move.

Michael Hummel, a retired Victoria College history professor, was a committee chairman to establish a faculty senate there in 1992 and was president until 2009.

All faculty senate-approved meeting minutes should be made public, said Hummel, who has supported open government. But one should always be wary of notes, he said.

"The notes don't always reflect the opinions of everyone in the room," Hummel said. "The official minutes should be public."

Current UHV Faculty Senate President Elsa Leggett, an education professor, could not be reached for comment.



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