Athletics shuts Daily Cougar out of meeting

A Daily Cougar reporter was barred from attending a meeting in the UH Athletics Director's office Thursday regarding improving intramural and recreational sports facilities for students.

After being invited by UH Students' Association President Giovanni Garibay, James Geluso, the Daily Cougar's assistant managing editor, was turned away from the meeting by Assistant Athletics Director Bill McGillis.

McGillis told Geluso that his presence at the meeting would be "inappropriate."

"Depending on what this committee does eventually, that may be appropriate," McGillis said. "But we don't think it is now."

McGillis also told Geluso the purpose of the meeting of six to eight faculty members and students was "to discuss the condition of the recreational facilities and the need to improve them." However, McGillis said the committee wasn't discussing funding for student facilities at this time.

"We may discuss it down the road. But at this point, we're just gathering information about what different people on campus think about how we can improve the facilities," he said.

The general student body population is not allowed to use any of the recreational or training areas of the new Athletics/Alumni Facility. The Athletics Department reserves the new facility for athletes.

Students are allowed to use recreational and training facilities in the Garrison and Melcher gymnasiums, the Fouke Athletic Building and the weight training room in Robertson Stadium.

Garibay had personally invited Daily Cougar Editor in Chief Bobby Summers to attend or to send a reporter to the meeting.

He also posted a notice on the Students' Association's Internet newsgroup (uh.org.sa) Wednesday, inviting "anyone to attend."

Almost an hour after the meeting began, Fran Howell, UH interim director of Public Affairs, telephoned The Daily Cougar and said the incident was a "misunderstanding."

The Cougar declined to send a reporter to the meeting at that point, because it had been in progress too long.

"From my end, I didn't know The Daily Cougar had been invited. I had no knowledge of that at all," said McGillis who telephoned Summers Thursday night.

"I just didn't think it was fair, with no notice to the other people who were attending the meeting, to have the media there without any knowledge of it in advance," McGillis said. "Not that there was anything confidential discussed. The purpose of the meeting was to hear what some of our faculty and students had to say about our recreational facilities and services, and to get some idea how to improve them."

The group originated last spring with about 10 to 12 faculty members who expressed concern about a need to address the recreational facilities, McGillis said.

"We got together with a couple of them during the fall and decided to try to assemble a group of those users who had concerns," he said.

The Athletics Department asked Garibay to send a representative from the Students' Association, McGillis said.

"There was a general feeling, and we agree with this, that we need to address the maintenance and custodial services in Garrison, Melcher and the (swimming) pool," he said.

The group also discussed the intramural and recreation budget, and how those funds are allocated, he said.

"We also talked about the swimming pool -- the lifeguard and safety issues," McGillis said. "We need to survey the users -- students, faculty and staff -- to find out what they want."

Garibay said Sunday that he was sorry that the Athletics Department barred the reporter from the meeting.

"SA and myself, personally, have never had a problem with the Athletics Department," he said. "What happened was a problem with communication. It was an unfortunate situation."

McGillis said the committee will likely meet again in "a week, or so."

A Cougar reporter will be welcome to attend that meeting, he said.

Because the assembled committee has no direct control over university or state funds, The Daily Cougar will not file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General's office under the Texas Open Meetings Law.

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