Task force debates future of System, UH

by James V. Geluso

Daily Cougar Senior Staff

Conflicts between the University of Houston and the other campuses of the System, as well as conflicts between the campuses and the System and between the colleges and departments were the highlights at a Thursday meeting of the UH System Organizational Review External Affairs Task Force.

"Based on what I've been hearing, there are two evils in the world: the System and UH. And of the two evils, UH is the greater," said UH Executive Vice President Glenn Freedman, the task force's representative from UH administration.

Interviews task force members have been conducting with people both inside and outside the System formed the basis of that comment, and most of the others heard at the meeting.

Each member focused on one particular area, and the results are being assembled into a report, the preliminary draft of which was presented at the meeting.

The main theme of the meeting was that of conflict between UH and the other campuses in the System.

"The clear theme from Clear Lake, Victoria and Downtown is a concern that costs may go up and services may go down," Freedman said.

Mary Natividad, a faculty member from UH-Victoria, echoed that sentiment. "The fear is that the smaller campuses will be overpowered," she said.

The task forces, which include External Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Administration and Finance, are examining three possible options for the UH System: the current system, which Freedman called the "strong chancellor" model; an "executive chancellor" model, where the campuses would exercise more authority and a weaker System administration would coordinate them; and a "collapsed" model, which would consolidate the positions of chancellor and UH president.

The conflict was most pronounced in the area of fund raising. JoAnn Clarey, an administrator from UH-Clear Lake, said the presence of the System and UH has made it difficult for UH-Clear Lake to attract money from the larger donors.

John Scales, chairman of the task force and the System's vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement, said the problem is present not only between campuses, but between individual colleges and even departments that do their own fund-raising efforts.

The task force also discussed the image of UH and the System. Richard Murray, a UH faculty member who interviewed business and governmental leaders for the public relations area, and James Lester, a UH-Clear Lake faculty member who was researching marketing, were the strongest voices in this area.

Murray said the external image of UH has suffered from recent crises, especially the leadership transition that occurred last summer. Worse than that is a perceived lack of vision on the part of the universities and the System, he said.

"Here we're talking about structure, but structure doesn't work unless you have a vision," Murray said.

"There is a tremendous latent support for the university out there. People are saying, `We want to help, but you've got to tell us what to do,'" Murray said.

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