UH needs to explain ousting of great president
By the Advocate Editorial Board
May 13, 2017 at 2:36 p.m.
Updated May 14, 2017 at 6 a.m.
After inheriting a campus in disarray in 2014, Vic Morgan built a community at the University of Houston-Victoria.
The community includes not only the students, faculty and staff at the university, but also the residents of Victoria and the Crossroads.
When we learned of his abruptly announced departure from the university, we became concerned because the community would lose a strong leader and the university would lose the best president it has had in years.
Morgan, a veteran university leader, moved to Victoria as an interim president during a time when the school was in turmoil. He quickly went to work focusing the educators on their purpose of educating the students and making sure the four-year university accomplished its goal of becoming a university that attracted students from across the region and state to its Victoria campus.
At the same time, he was making connections in and around Victoria, garnering support for the university and its programs.
Two years later, and, rightly so, he was promoted from interim president to president.
He continued to work with the students' success at the forefront of his goals.
The public and many at the university were surprised last month when the University of Houston System announced to the UHV faculty and staff, via an emailed letter from UH Chancellor Renu Khator's chief of staff, that the system would begin a search for a new president.
Even stranger was the letter said the System had taken the action based on the outcome of a survey faculty and staff had completed earlier this year.
The survey, which was taken by the same faculty and staff who have publicly supported Morgan, supposedly said they wanted new leadership.
May 3, the Advocate made an open records request asking for the survey results. So far, UH has not answered that request.
Supplying the survey results as requested should have been a simple task if the results had really been tallied and the announced action was based on those results. Clearly, this is a public record.
Not knowing the survey results or even the questions, our community is left wondering what really happened. Universities like to give lip service to so-called shared governance, but we have no evidence this action was called for by faculty, students or staff.
Morgan came out of retirement to lead UHV and has done so with remarkable skill and diplomacy. He should have been allowed to lead UHV for as long as he wanted to do so. The only good news out of the situation is he will remain president through the 2017-18 academic year.
Morgan knows what it takes to build a destination university. As president of Sul Ross University in Alpine for 19 years, he had to work to attract students to a small west Texas town. By all accounts, he was successful at that task.
He knows it takes having more face-to-face classes for students to attend in person. He also knows that these classes need to be offered when students are available on campus, which means the faculty has to be on campus to teach.
Such requirements may not have set well with a few faculty members who prefer teaching online classes and picking the days they are on campus. We've heard some grumbling about these changes.
Since arriving in Victoria, Morgan has worked to get more classroom space and more buildings planned and built so the university is on the right track to have 6,000 students on campus by 2025. Morgan has worked to bring many projects to reality, including:
• Breaking ground on the new learning commons building.
• Purchasing land from Victoria College for a new academic building.
• Purchasing a large portion of the former Town Plaza Mall from Our Lady of Victory Cathedral to be used for storage as well as classrooms, labs and offices. The university has also received a $1 million grant to help renovate the facility.
• Helping gain support from the community to make Ben Wilson Street the main entrance to the university. He also successfully worked to have the number of lanes decreased so it will be safer for students to cross.
In his pledge to not be a lame-duck president, Morgan said he would use these last 15 months in office to continue to work tirelessly for the students, faculty and the university system.
We have grown to expect no less from him. We expect much more of UH.
This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.