SEXUAL ASSAULT TASK FORCE CRITICIZES UHPD CHIEF

by Deborah Hensel

Daily Cougar Staff

The Sexual Assault Task Force held a closed meeting Monday to discuss remarks made by UHPD Chief George Hess about an alleged sexual assault.

In an address to student and faculty task-force members at Agnes Arnold Hall on Oct. 5, Hess said there is some doubt the sexual assault in the UH Hilton parking garage this summer actually occurred.

"The investigation is on-going," Hess said. "But, from all the evidence we have to date, the time frame involved and a second opinion by investigators at HPD...we have some doubt that it happened."

Hess said Lt. Brad Wigtil, who represents UHPD at the SATF meetings, told him the task force is drafting a letter of criticism about those remarks, which Hess said were presented in a "sensitive and caring manner."

Citing the need to discuss "sensitive issues" and exemption from the Texas Open Meetings Act, SATF Chair Cynthia Freeland closed the meeting to the media.

After conferring with Vice President for Student Affairs Elwyn Lee, who was not present for the beginning of the meeting, Freeland stated that her understanding was the state opening-meetings law did not apply to this task force.

The meeting was closed, Freeland said, at the request of three members of the task force, one of whom was Law Professor Laura Oren.

Oren said the task force, which has permitted media coverage of previous meetings, has reached a "deliberative stage."

"In my experience, people need to talk freely," Oren said. "It is not appropriate for deliberation to occur in a glass bowl."

Asked if she thought the student body has a right to know what happens at meetings where policy recommendations are formed, Oren replied "they will know our recommendations at a later date."

After the meeting, Freeland confirmed Hess' remarks were discussed in the closed session. When asked if the task force discussed information pertinent to the safety of the student body, she said yes.

Under the Open Meetings Act, governmental bodies -- or non-governmental bodies receiving public funds -- must hold open meetings to "any interested party, including bona-fide members of the news media."

With the exception of three student appointees, all members of the task force are on UH's payroll.

SATF is a committee appointed by President James Pickering to study sexual assault and harassment at UH and make recommendations regarding the writing of campus policy on those issues.

Their deadline to submit those recommendations to Pickering is Dec. 1, said Freeland.

Freeland also said there was "strong difference of opinion expressed" Monday about whether future meetings would be open, explaining SATF would consult with Pickering.

"If they are strictly an ad-hoc committee making recommendations, they may not be subject to the act," said Bill Ogden, an attorney at Liddell and Sapp.

"However, if they are actually drafting policy, my guess is there is a much stronger case for violation of the act," he said. Ogden is a director and hotline volunteer for the Freedom of Information Foundation.

 

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AIDS KNOWLEDGE INCREASING STUDENT AWARNESS

by Florian Raqueno Ho

News Reporter

AIDS. Four letters that have the ability to provoke an onslaught of emotions ranging from fear to sympathy.

When UH students were questioned on their knowledge of the deadly disease, some said they felt they were educated enough through media exposure to AIDS and AIDS transmission.

Students mentioned such activities as homosexuality, unprotected sex, blood infusion and injection of drugs with an infected needle as ways of contracting the disease.

Dwayne White, a sophomore chemical engineering major, and Jeff Parker, a sophomore political science major, were in the military when they first heard of AIDS.

White, who was in the Marine Corps, said they had to take mandatory AIDS awareness classes, which covered the basics of the disease; a general description of what the disease is and how it can be contracted and prevented. "I didn't take the classes too seriously and thought of them as just another sexually transmitted disease class until I saw the emphasis they were putting on AIDS. That's when I paid more attention," he said.

Parker, who was overseas at the time, remembers being scared when he first heard of AIDS. "I didn't know anything about AIDS, and before we could get shipped back to the states, we had to take a blood test. The guys who tested positive were probably put in the hospital for treatment."

"The military is a high risk group, mostly because we're young Americans," said Colonel Art Stemmermann, professor of military science.

Military personnel testing positive for HIV, which leads to AIDS-related symptoms, are not prevented from coming back to the states, said Stemmermann.

"They are treated just like everyone else," he added. Very few are hospitalized so most return to their full duties.

Though a blood test is the only way to find out if a person is HIV positive, many of the students interviewed said they have not been tested. Lee Weathermax, a junior English major, said he has no worries about contracting the virus.

"I've been with the same person for six years now and I just don't want to be tested. I don't think I want to know if I have it," said Weathermax.

White, currently enrolled in an officer candidate program, has to be tested every six months. "I don't despise the testing. It's great. It gives me a heads up on where I am."

According to Betty Reed, medical technologist at UH Health Center, approximately 70 students a month come in to get tested for the HIV virus. The $10 blood test is given on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Some students feel that not enough people take the threat of AIDS seriously. "The number of people becoming infected with the disease should be proof enough that the risks are not being exaggerated," said Roxanne Lawson, sophomore business major.

 

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BUDGET SHORTFALLS PROMPS STATE SENATOR TO LOBBY STUDENTS, SAYS UH UNDERESTIMATED

by Meagan McGovern

Daily Cougar Staff

Fears about the budget restrictions UH faces in the upcoming legislative session may be well-founded, said state Senator Robert Eckels at a Students' Association meeting Monday.

UH administration, state government officials and the governor have all expressed concern about Austin's $5 billion budget shortfall expected in January.

Eckels said the state expects a $2 billion increase in revenue to meet a $7 billion increase in expenditure.

"This is money just to cover current services. We're $5 billion in the hole for no new programs," said the Republican representative.

Eckels informed student senators about the upcoming budget war and how they could help fend-off major damages.

The best way to help, he said, is for students to let their representative know UH funding is important to them. "The Harris county delegation is pretty sympathetic to the problem," said the UH alumnus.

Eckels doesn't expect any actual cuts to the UH budget; rather, he expects the budget to remain the same. He admits, however, given inflation and other factors, the allocated monies will not adequately cover expenses. One way to help the funding problem is to make people aware of the role UH plays in the community, he added.

"If people realize the uniqueness of the school, of its place in the business community, they'll be more willing to help," said Eckels.

He said rural colleges don't understand the mission and role of UH. "The UT and A&M folks aren't gonna understand the role of UH, the things we can do here," he said.

Eckels spoke at the request of SA Director of External Affairs, Kevin Jefferies, who is organizing a lobbying group through SA to reduce the expected budget constraints. Jefferies, a graduate political science student, is attempting to bring state representatives to campus to inform students about the problems with funding, and educate the representatives about the value of UH and the problems it faces, he said.

After Eckels spoke, SA President Russell Hruska, a fifth-year architecture major, said the organization is starting a committee to examine the restructuring of the university.

UH is currently undergoing a reshaping process, spurred by budget fears, where the current spending and structural policies are examined to look for ways to streamline policies and pare costs.

Hruska said the committee would join Jefferies' lobbying group, Students as Constituents, to look at the reshaping process. "We'd just like to look at what's going on in each college," Hruska added.

Before the meeting, College Republican Chairperson Maria Schmitt presented a flag to SA, given to her organization by Vice President Dan Quayle. Legislation passed last year by SA encourages "increasing the amount of state and national flags displayed on the UH campus."

Refering to the SA flag legislation, SA member and College Republican Jason Fuller said, "See, the Students' Association can pass legislation that gets something done."

 

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ILLEGAL PARKING COMES WITH VARIOUS PRICE TAGS; COMFORT MORE IMPORTANT THAN FINES

by Julie Johnson

News Reporter

Many students who park illegally are oblivious to the consequences they face. So, before creating a potentially expensive parking place, be aware that some violations are more costly than others.

Some students opt for quicker, although costly alternatives to waiting for a legal available space. They park in reserved spaces, handicapped spaces, faculty or staff spaces, fire zones, on the grass or in driveways.

According to UHPD's latest figures, almost 1800 citations for illegal parking were issued in September, 1991. Regardless of the illegal parking option chosen -- all the spaces came with a price tag.

Students who choose to block a crosswalk, park near a fire hydrant, in a fire zone, or in a handicapped space without displaying the proper decal or block a crosswalk paid $25.

Other parking violations such as parking on the grass or sidewalks, along curbs, in driveways, blocking a driving lane, parking without a decal or permit in a designated lot or parking in reserved spaces costs $15.

Students' cars are towed only in extreme cases, such as parking in a fire zone, in a handicapped space without the proper permit, blocking aisles or having excessive violations.

A student's car may also be towed if it's parked in a reserved space, but it is up to the discretion of the spot's designated 'owner'. The tow charge is $40 with an additional two dollars a day tacked on for storage. The storage fee begins the second day the vehicle is in the tow lot.

UHPD Lt. Brad Wigtail said that a car is considered towed once the wrecker hooks the car up and the wheels are off the ground. UHPD decides when a car is to be towed and a contracted wrecker company does the towing.

Director of Parking and Transportation Gerald Hagen said, contrary to what some student think, the towing company does not have a quota to fill. About 22% of the cars illegally parked are towed.

Hagen also said the university does not make any money from towing. "The towing company is paid $25 for each tow and the other $15 is used for administrative processing, so the university breaks even," Hagen said.

Hagen said there are less costly options for students when it comes to finding a parking space. Students who have a decal for inlying lots can park in the outlying lots. "If all the illegally parked cars were taken to economy lots, there would be enough spaces for them," said Hagen.

The problem is a shortage of convenient, close parking, Wigtail said. Lots 15D, 15E and 16B are the most congested lots because they are near buildings which provide academic core classes. Many students park in these lots for convenience, regardless of available legal parking space.

Hagen said two new parking lots, due to open in November, will provide 600 outlying parking places.

 

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ACCIDENT

School of Communication Director Kenneth Short broke his leg Saturday during a bicycling accident near his Kingwood home.

Short underwent surgery to repair his left femur, which required several pins in his leg, at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital.

His wife, Mary Jane Short, said he is doing well and will remain in the hospital until Friday, but is not expected to return to work for about three weeks.

 

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