A&M defers affiliation with South Texas School of Law

Heather Detrixhe

Managing Editor

University of Houston officials said they are happy to hear that the recent affiliation between Texas A&M and the South Texas School of Law appears to have been put on the back burner, at least for now.

"I'm happy that A&M agrees that they now should go through the proper channels (to get approval)," said UH Law Center Dean Stephen Zamora.

In January, A&M and South Texas School of Law in downtown Houston announced an agreement to change the name of the private school to "South Texas College of Law Texas A&M University."

This agreement was designed to give A&M a long-coveted law school and South Texas national name recognition, according to spokeswoman for South Texas Sheila Hansel.

The agreement was ill-received by University of Houston officials who complained that the name change was implemented without the approval of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The Coordinating Board governs public colleges and universities in the state.

"A&M now recognizes that they will have to take this to the board for a full review ... this has been UH's position all along," said Zamora.

After the announcement was made, UH made presentations to the board expressing concerns about the agreement.

UH is mostly concerned with a private institution using the name of a publicly funded university, Zamora said.

What the agreement says "is that state funding will not go directly to (South Texas), but it will be reflected in its affiliation with A&M," Zamora said.

Coordinating Board member Ray Grasshoff said the board will review the alliance with respect to the intrests of the state.

"There are limited funds for higher education. We want to guarantee quality and guarantee access. There is a question of whether or not Houston needs another law school."

Grasshoff said that whether or not A&M brings a formal proposition to the Coordinating Board, he expects the matter to be discussed at the next meeting.

The Board convenes quarterly, and the next meeting is scheduled for April 23.

Texas Higher Education Commissioner Don Brown met with A&M System Chancellor Barry Thompson to voice concerns over the agreement. The two made an informal agreement to hold off further steps of the affiliation until the Board could review a proposal of the agreement. Before it can be approved, A&M will have to present a revised "role admission," a mission statement, to include granting a law degree. This will also have to be approved by the board.

Though no definitive plans have been made to make such a presentation, Thompson said the university "intends to observe public policy and cooperate with the board to fulfill the interests of the state."

Despite the controversy, Hansen said the A&M Board of Regents has made reassurances that no plans have been made to change the name or the original agreement.

"We're confident that we've made a legally sound agreement, and we're sticking to it," Hansel said.

As per the original agreement, representatives from the American Bar Association are scheduled to visit the South Texas School of Law Monday and Tuesday to inspect the campus and meet with the Board of Regents to review the agreement. The board will also present a statement of intention which to be reviewed by the ABA.

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