by Daniel Scholl

Daily Cougar Staff

When the EXCEL Program held its Sixth Annual EXCEL Reception at the University Hilton Hotel Wednesday, it not only celebrated six years of success, but it also celebrated growth and reception on campus.

The EXCEL Program, which is sponsored by the Dean of Students' Office, is made up of the Mentor Programs, Student Networking Programs and enrichment activities.

The Mentor Program pairs incoming students in their first year at UH with alumni, faculty, staff or fellow students who are upperclassmen.

"It's cool," said Linda Nguyen, a freshman psychology major and mentee. "I saw Dr. Pickering (her mentor) about twice a month. He gave me encouragement and advice. I really don't have that anywhere else," she said.

Not only does the program offer advice, it is supposed to offer a transition for the new students, said Ed Berry, assistant dean of students.

Berry is in charge of the program and is pleased with the way it has grown over the years, he said.

"I'm tremendously proud," he said. "This is a testament to the commitment this university has to its young people."

This year the mentor program helped 450 students and had 260 mentors, up from a total of 400 participants last year, Berry said.

Former Houston Rocket Robert Reid, who was the featured speaker of the event, said that, in the upcoming years, he expects the event to be held in the large ballroom of the hotel. Reid, who has a reputation for helping and speaking to students, said Berry deserves the credit for the success of the program, and he feels this program is unique.

The reception was also an awards ceremony. Each participant was given a certificate of participation, and four mentors were awarded Mentor of the Year.

Dean of Students William Munson, who is also a mentor, said that often the mentor learns as much as the mentee in these relationships.

"I get to vicariously relive my freshman experience," Munson said.






by James V. Geluso

Daily Cougar Staff

The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that will continue to raise tuition at state universities by $2 per credit every year until it reaches $40 in the 2000-2001 academic year.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, passed on the second reading. It must still pass on the third reading before it is sent to the Senate for consideration. It is expected to have its third reading today.

In addition to the undergraduate tuition increase, the bill raises law school tuition to $75 from $60 and allows the board of regents to raise the tuition of optometry, pharmacy and graduate programs. Tuition for optometry programs may be set at up to triple the rate set by the Legislature, and tuition for pharmacy and graduate programs may be set at up to double the Legislature's rate.

An existing law has raised tuition by $2 every year, beginning in 1991 and continuing until the 1996-1997 academic year. The bill continues the $2-per-year raise until the 2000-2001 academic year, when the tuition rate will reach $40. Tuition is currently $28 per credit.

A change to the nonresident tuition waiver had been added to the bill in the House Higher Education Committee, but a mistake by Rep. Hugo Berlanga,

D-Corpus Christi, resulted in the removal of that change.

Under current law, any nonresident student who receives $200 in scholarships is eligible to pay in-state tuition rates. The bill would have raised the minimum amount required to $1,000.

Berlanga said the waiver is "extremely discriminatory to Texas students, and costs the taxpayers $30 million a year." He introduced an amendment that he said would eliminate the waiver. However, instead of striking the section of the law that provides for the waiver, Berlanga's amendment strikes the section of the bill raising the minimum amount, leaving the waiver untouched.

The tuition waiver has not been let off the hook, though. A bill to raise the nonresident tuition rate also raises the scholarship requirement to $1,000, and another bill would eliminate the waiver entirely. Both bills are awaiting consideration by the Senate.

The change to the tuition-waiver requirements would have caused 1,800 students to drop out of school, according to a letter written to the House Higher Education Committee by John Keel, director of the Legislative Budget Board.

The House also passed a bill approving an increase in the University of Houston University Center Fee Monday.

The bill, which raises the fee to $35 from $15 per semester, was amended on the floor to require approval by the UH Students' Association before the increase can be enacted.

Although the bill has already been passed by the Senate, it must be approved by the Senate in its amended form. The Senate is expected to address the bill before the end of the week.






by M. S. Ameen

Daily Cougar Staff

With the Southwest Conference Championships behind them, the Houston track teams head to Philadelphia with their sights set on the NCAA Championships.

Nine men and seven women will travel to compete in the Penn Relays, one of the nation's oldest track medleys, today through Saturday.

This will be a homecoming of sorts for seniors Dawn Burrell and De'Angelia Johnson. Both attended Penn Wood High School in Yeadon, Pa.

With a little more than a month remaining before the NCAA Championships in Knoxville, Tenn., the Cougars have some time to qualify additional athletes.

"We just need to get healthy," said head coach Tom Tellez. "We lost some points last week (at the SWC Championships) without (decathlete Michael) Hoffer and (hurdler) Ubeja Anderson."

The Penn meet, as the name implies, focuses on the "track" part of track and field. However, the men's and women's long jump and the men's triple jump will also be held.

Burrell will try to regain her form and qualify for a spot in the NCAA Championships in the long jump. Sheddric Fields (long jump) and Chris Lopez (triple jump) complete the Cougar complement in the field events.

The majority of the events will involve hurdles and relay teams. Both sprint and distance relays will be run.

Paul Lupi, the 1995 SWC champion in the 800 meters, will lead the men's 4x800 team as well as the distance medley team. Distance runners Oscar Bauman, Matt Moran and Wayne Newsom will join Lupi.

The women's sprint relay team of DeMonica Davis, Cynthia Jackson, Johnson, Burrell, Janine Courville and Drexel Long are looking to improve upon their times in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.

Fields will be joined by Isaac Bell, Eric Hayes and Henrik Olausson in the men's 4x100 relay. The team suffered a bad exchange in last week's SWC Championships and failed to place.






by Frank McGowan

Daily Cougar Staff

Wearing your sunglasses at night may be the 'cool' thing to do, but it will not do your eyes any good. The same can be said of wearing sunglasses that do not have ultraviolet protection.

The group Prevent Blindness Texas warns that wearing sunglasses that block the sun's glare without screening UV radiation may actually cause eyes more harm than good.

Not all sunglasses block out UV light. In fact, most products that shade the eyes without screening UV rays can dilate the pupils and let in more harmful rays.

The sun emits many types of radiation, including visible light, which we see as color; infrared rays, which are invisible but felt as heat; and ultraviolet rays, which are also invisible but often called the sunburn rays. UV radiation has been linked with eye damage and is divided into several categories, including UV-A and UV-B.

Long-term exposure to UV rays contributes to the development of cataracts, pterygium (tissue growth on the white of the eye that can block vision), skin cancer around the eye, and macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans. Excessive short-term exposure can cause sunburn to the eyelids and photokeratitis, a painful sunburn of the cornea.

Although everyone is susceptible to UV light's harmful effects, certain people are at increased risk, including people who spend long hours in the sun because of work or recreation, individuals who have certain retinal disorders, and people who take certain medications, such as tetracycline.

To help select the proper sunwear, Prevent Blindness Texas suggests these helpful tips:

• Select sunglasses that provide 99-100 percent protection from both UV-A and UV-B rays. Avoid products that say, "Provides UV Protection" without specifying exactly how much UV radiation the product blocks.

• Wear a wide-brimmed hat along with sunglasses for maximum protection.

• Examine the lenses for scratches, bubbles or other flaws that could distort vision.

• Choose eye wear with polycarbonate lenses -- especially for children -- for the greatest impact resistance.

Additional tips on selecting sunwear can be obtained from Prevent Blindness Texas at (713)526-2559.

(Prevent Blindness Texas is an affiliate of Prevent Blindness America, the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America and its nationwide network of affiliates and divisions serve millions of people each year through public and professional education, community programs and research.)






Photo by David Jensen/MCA

The Murmurs will return to Houston to play Party on the Plaza tonight with Adam Ant.

by Joey Guerra

Daily Cougar Staff

Being an opening act is always tough, but when the audience is there to see a band that is at the opposite end of the musical spectrum, the outcome is anything but pretty.

That was the problem encountered by The Murmurs, an ethereal, acoustic duo that opened for hard-rockin' alternative boys Bush when the group played in Houston. According to Murmur Leisha Hailey, the experience was pretty horrendous.

"We have a really different audience, and their fans weren't very receptive," Hailey said from a tour stop in Arizona. Regardless of that bump in the road, though, she and bandmate Heather Grody had a lot of fun on tour with the members of Bush, whom Hailey called "really great guys."

It's been pretty much non-stop road action for this New York-based duo, which has trekked across the country for nine months with a variety of artists, ranging from the Lightning Seeds to Joe Jackson to Adam Ant, the band's current partner, while doing the tour thing. Hailey said this experience has been much more positive than the band's last go-round, and touring with Ant, whom she calls a "real rock star," is a blast.

After this tour leg, The Murmurs will take a breather and concentrate on getting in some relaxing time. Hailey also said she and Grody will start writing for the next album, which will be recorded around September. The Murmurs write all their own lyrics, and Hailey says much of their work is based on actual experiences.

"Heather and I usually write the basic song together. Then we do the rest separate and collaborate in the end," Hailey says. The group's method seems to have paid off, what with the success of "You Suck," the bitingly bitter kiss-off song that introduced The Murmurs to the world. Hailey said she was surprised by the song's success, but she understands it. "People really identified with the song," she said, which basically entails telling a guy, "You made my life a living hell, but I'm over you now. You suck!"

People will probably identify with most of the other songs on The Murmurs' self-titled debut CD, which is a swirling collection of tributes to life and love. Hailey called the music "urban-folk pop," but she assured me that they don't sit on stools while performing, as do most of your run-of-the-mill folk types.

Run-of-the-mill is not a phrase that describes this angelic-voiced group. Aside from their distinct vocals, one of the first things you notice about Hailey and Grody is their hair. Hailey's is an iridescent pink, and Grody has the whole rainbow on her head! Hailey insists this is part of their everyday look, and not just some image to attract fans. When asked to explain the reasoning behind it, she simply said, "We're really into colors."

As for the future, The Murmurs will get into gear again in July and August, when they hit the road to promote their latest single, a cover of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." Hailey lists Airplane as one of the group's influences, along with 10,000 Maniacs, Maria McKee, and Simon and Garfunkel. Although "White Rabbit" is not available on The Murmurs' CD, it will be issued as a single and perhaps on a reissued CD later this year.

If you just can't wait to hear the duo perform its version of the classic rock tune, check out The Murmurs when they play tonight at Party on the Plaza. (The Murmurs usually perform the song in their live shows.) You shouldn't have a problem spotting the two; just look for the pink hair.






Photo courtesy of What Are Records?

Ugly Americans, promoting its self-titled release, will be headlining the UH Perpetual Park Party on Friday.

by Sean Fitzpatrick

Daily Cougar Staff

Ugly Americans headlines the refurbished Perpetual Park Party that gets underway at noon Friday in the field across from Entrance 1. The Austin band will be promoting material from its W.A.R.? release <I>Ugly Americans<P>. Depending on your point of view, this is either good news or bad news.

First, the good news: You've heard all this before. The rhythm section, composed of bassist Sean McCarthy and drummer Dave Robinson, sounds suspiciously like Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section, Double Trouble. Corey Mauser's C3-organ work sounds a whole lot like Booker T. Jones' (Booker T. and the MG's), among others, and guitarists Bruce Hughes and Max Evans sound like the group just came out of the Austin clubs, which it did. The boys have struck the mother lode of grooves, and do not let go.

Now the bad news: You've heard all this before. Like lead guitarist Evans, who spins out (steals) Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dickey Betts licks at an amazing pace (to the band's credit, it thanks the Allman Brothers in the liner notes), the band never finds an original voice. Look for no help from whoever wrote the lyrics that vocalist Bob Schneider sings, almost all of which are formulaic, good-time nonsense.

But this is the Perpetual Park Party, and Ugly Americans is like the ultimate bar band. If you're paying attention to what they're singing, you're missing the point. Go study for finals.

This CD made me want cold Shiner. See you at the park.


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