Students' safety should come first
Ever wonder what the University of Houston did to follow up on the safety concerns of UH dormitory residents following the Sept. 26, 1995, fire in the Horizons cafeteria in Moody Towers? We certainly do.
After the fire, representatives of ARAMARK, the owner and operator of The Grilleworks where the fire occurred, and representatives of the UH Residential Life and Housing Department, pointed accusatory fingers of blame at each other.
A Houston Fire Department official said the fire was caused by faulty wiring, which caused accumulated grease to ignite. Thus, the blame was placed on both ARAMARK and RLH.
A day after the fire, The Daily Cougar published an editorial which asked if faulty wiring in the cafeteria area of Moody Towers might indicate a deterioration of the general state of the electrical wiring in the entire building.
The editorial then conjured up an image of a possible "Towering Inferno" and called on UH administration to ensure that electrical wiring in the Towers and other campus dormitories was in good condition and posed no danger to students.
We expected the administration to come back howling with indignation, asking us how we could be so irresponsible as to suggest such a scenario. They didn't.
In fact, when asked in September for the most recent building inspection for the Towers and other campus dormitories, the administration said RLH had been doing its own inspections, and no, they had no inspection reports.
That was September. We heard that James Hale, UH vice president for Administration and Finance, turned slightly green when he found RLH was doing its own building inspections.
Now, Hale should be turning more than slightly red-faced. Almost four months have passed, and despite Daily Cougar requests in December and January for an update on dormitory safety inspections, Hale and other members of the administration of interim UH President Glenn Goerke remain silent.
Apparently Goerke, Hale and Glenn Freedman, UH executive associate vice president, are emulating the three monkeys of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil."
UH is in a convenient "Catch-22" situation regarding building safety inspections. The City of Houston and the Houston Fire Department don't do building or safety inspections on campus because UH is a state-owned facility. The State of Texas also doesn't do building inspections here.
UH must ensure that the dormitories are safe. No amount of buck passing or stone walling will change that.