by James V. Geluso
Daily Cougar Senior Staff
After making the decision about the structure of the UH System, regents and members of the administration brought the news to UH-Downtown and UH-Clear Lake in two forums to hear comments and to assuage fears. But despite Chancellor Bill Hobby's insistence that "this will be an absolutely seamless transition," not everybody would be pacified.
"There are people on this campus who are bitter and angry and who have never been supported by anything but words," said Shannon Doyle, a professor at UH-D.
Doyle's comments, which were met with loud applause, echoed the sentiments of most of the student and faculty speakers at the forum held in UH-Downtown's Student Lounge.
"I think it's fair to say that we're somewhat disappointed," said Linda Gratch, president-elect of the UH-D Faculty Senate. "We've heard you say that you honor the autonomy and mission of each school, and we trust that you will honor those words. We hope that you will listen with patience and logic and details, not only to the loudest voice at the biggest school."
Several faculty and student representatives spoke of a fear that UH-D would be swallowed by the main campus.
"You're saying that the collapsing of the administration ended with what you did this morning, but there are people in authority on the main campus who are talking about one college spread across the four campuses," said Thomas Lyttle, a professor at UH-D.
"When I tell people I'm going to the University of Houston-Downtown, they say, 'Oh, that's over on Cullen, right?' And I say, no, UH-Downtown," said Andrew Streckfuss, president of the UH-D Alumni Association. "I catch the Blue Star Shuttle, and on the marquee of the bus, it says University of Houston. That's wrong."
Sharon Hummel, a UH-D student, said, "At the (March) 12 meeting, I heard two regents speaking about 'one great university.' "
Board of Regents Chairwoman Beth Morian told the crowd, "The University of Houston-Downtown was created by statute. What we did today does not change that these are four autonomous universities."
While most were concerned with the immediate future, Hobby tried to focus farther off, mentioning his Vision Commission, which is charged with envisioning the shape of the UH schools in 2015.
"Well, this is 1996 and I'm concerned about what's going to happen to students (right now). I'm not going to be around in 2015, I hope," UH-D student Jeffrey Tavel responded.
"We feel the System should and can work better for students," regent Eduardo Aguirre told Tavel. "If nothing else, we will have a more user-friendly System. If there are any changes coming forth, they will be to your advantage, not your disadvantage."
"For many of us, this is a blow to the solar plexus," said Charles McKay, dean of UH-CL's School of Natural and Applied Sciences.
Like UH-D, many UH-CL speakers feared the dominance of the main campus.
"I have been told to my face by central campus faculty that the mistake was for this institution to have been founded in the first place," said Professor David Malin.
Regent Charles McMahen replied, "My brothers and sisters told me when I was born that there was no need for me to be here. I wouldn't put too much stock in a few isolated cases."
UH-Clear Lake was also told that its ongoing search for a new president has been put on hold until a chancellor-president is selected.
"We have a unique opportunity to pull together a team of very strong presidents," McMahen said. "I think we'd be shortchanging the quality of the person this campus would be getting simply because of the unknown quantity of who they'll be reporting to."
Pat McCormack, president-elect of the UH-CL Faculty Senate, replied, "You see opportunity, I see opportunity for conflict of interest. I have more faith in the selection committee as it currently stands rather than with the input of the president of the central campus."
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