System's next step: choosing a leader

by Robert Schoenberger

Daily Cougar Senior Staff

The decision to change the structure of the University of Houston System is only the first step of many.

The next, and arguably most important, decision to make is choosing a person to serve as the combined president of UH and chancellor of the UH System.

UH faculty leaders have already shifted their political focuses away from choosing the new System structure to choosing its leader.

"The faculty are ready to work together toward the future," said UH Faculty Senate President Karl Kadish at an open forum following Monday's special meeting of the UH System Board of Regents. "The faculty at UH are going to make sure the right person is in the office of the combined president-chancellor."

Faculty and board members stated the need for the new leader of the System to be the most qualified person available instead of the most available person who is qualified.

Board of Regents member John O'Quinn pointed out that when the board tried to solve the System's problems by replacing top management at UH and the System in the summer of 1995, it did not conduct national searches.

"We picked the best two leaders we had at the time with (System Chancellor Bill Hobby and UH President Glenn Goerke)," O'Quinn said.

When restructuring debates began on Nov. 6, 1995, Goerke warned that combining the president and chancellor positions might only "move the devil down one level."

"If you move the System functions to the campuses, the campuses will draw the heat," Goerke said in November. He added that the UH community should not worry about finding a leader for the new structure.

"When the school has chosen a direction, the leadership will come," Goerke said in November. "If that direction is away from Goerke, I will vacate this office."

With the direction of the System chosen, Goerke stood behind his earlier statements, again warning about "moving the devil down one level," at Monday's forum. He also said that the new direction has not moved away from Goerke.

"The decision that has been made is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who is interested in leadership," Goerke said. "Ultimately what it means to me, I leave up to the Board."

Board of Regents Chairwoman Beth Morian asked members of the open forum to make nominations to a search committee to find the new leader, or "chancident" as Hobby referred to it.

Morian said that with this input, she hoped to have a search committee in place before the end of April. "There is a chance that we could get a person named into the position as early as December," she said.

As important as choosing the leader is, the board stated it is only the first step. Further examination must be made to determine which of the present System components will be changed under the new structure.

Members of different main campus offices that share responsibilities with the current System office had questions about how the restructuring would affect their offices.

Dina Ward, an executive secretary in the office of the vice provost requested that the board consult the university's support staff in the upcoming decisions.

Both Morian and Goerke agreed that certain offices should remain as close to unchanged as possible.

George Grainger of the Texas Center of Superconductivity asked Goerke and Morian to comment on how the structural change will affect lobbying efforts in Austin.

Goerke replied that the perception of the System should improve as the System improves. "If at the end of three months this is not a demonstrably better System, we'll be in real trouble."

Board member Eduardo Aguirre said the most important thing that needs to happen to make the new System structure succeed is to get the campuses working together.

"The UH System is a family that made a decision," Aguirre said. "I think what the outside world wants to hear is that the people in the UH System embrace this decision.

"I know the Board of Regents is unified and ready to go forward."

UH's two most well-known researchers gave the combined System structure their seal of approval.

"(I told a friend that) the most important difference is image between Harvard and UH," said Paul Chu, head of the Texas Center of Superconductivity. "(Monday's) announcement proves that I was right, that the UH System is moving us to the future."

Alex Ignatiev, the researcher who was in charge of the Wake Shield Facility, echoed Chu's words. "We've been through a fair amount of turmoil, and I hope we're over that," he added.

Although the smaller UH campuses objected to the combined position, Madeline Johnson, president of the UH-D Faculty Senate, said the faculty of these schools will follow the decision.

"This is opening day for the Houston Astros," Johnson said. "This is not unlike a team who hasn't been doing too well and the players start talking about what can be done.

"Then the coach makes a decision, and the players ... play. We're players (at UH-D). This is our team. We want to play."

Last Modified: 8-17-96    © 1996 The Daily Cougar

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