Thursday, September 20, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 21


Flood recovery to make buildings more efficient

By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff

The Faculty Senate met Tuesday afternoon in a session that was by turns reflective, informative, celebratory and contentious.

Senate President H. Jerome Freiberg opened the meeting by calling for a moment of silence to honor the victims of last week's terrorist actions in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Johnny Kow/The Daily Cougar

Retiring geosciences professor John Butler receives congratulations for his 33 years of service to UH during Wednesday's Faculty Senate meeting.

Associate Vice President for Plant Operations Dave Irvin gave the senators a report on the University's continuing efforts to recover from the effects of Tropical Storm Allison.

Irvin told the assembly that, among the still-closed campus buildings, both the University Center Underground and the UC Satellite would re-open in stages
over the next several months.

In the case of the Satellite and the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre, the facilities department would turn the "huge negative" of Allison's effects into a positive
by correcting many of the facilities' previous deficits, he said.

"We're going to have a brand new Wortham Theatre when we're done," Irvin said, adding that it would have new seating and walls and an improved stage
and lobby. It will also now be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said.

He added that the food-service areas of the Satellite would be reconfigured to allow for more food outlets and better service. The food service areas will be
open by sometime in October, he said, and the auxiliary areas by December.

In the midst of Irvin's presentation, geosciences professor John Butler arrived at the meeting in the Kiva Room of Farish Hall. Freiberg presented Butler with a
large card (signed by the senators and others present) for his more than 33 years of service to UH, and for being "widely regarded by students, faculty, staff
and administration as a really great guy."

During his long tenure, Butler, who is retiring because of health reasons, served in a number of capacities, including associate dean and dean of the College
of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Many of Butler's colleagues and students were on hand for the presentation. Butler, who arrived late to the meeting, was visibly surprised and touched by the
presentation, and the long line of well-wishers who came to shake his hand.

"When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Tom Sawyer. I especially liked the part where (Tom and Huck Finn) attended their own funeral," Butler joked.
"I really do thank everybody here. It's a fairly large attendance. It must be a really exciting meeting."

UH President Arthur K. Smith, who was scheduled to deliver a "State of the University" address at Wednesday's meeting, explained that, in light of recent
events, he had asked Freiberg to allow him to postpone it until the next meeting, on Oct. 17.

"It seems impossible to think about a week ago Monday," Smith said, referring to last week's terrorist actions against the United States. He said he could
measure the events by the number and kind of e-mails he received on the morning of the attacks and the following days.

Smith said he learned of the "horrific events" during a cell phone call from Vice President for Administration and Finance Randy Harris while Smith was
undergoing a physical exam at the Texas Medical Center. (Smith joked to the audience that he was fine.) Shortly afterward, he received a call from Rice
University President Malcolm Gillis, and the two discussed whether they should close the schools.

"We both agreed that, under the circumstances, it was our duty as university presidents to ask our campuses to be reflective," but not close classes, Smith said.
He added that no Texas public university closed on the day of the attacks, and only one private school, Houston's St. Thomas University, did close.

During mid-morning Friday, Smith said, UH received an executive order from the office of Gov. Rick Perry mandating that on the national "Day of Prayer and
Remembrance," all state employees be allowed one hour of time off to mark the tragedy. Feeling it was impractical to allow all UH employees to individually
choose an hour off, Smith decided to close the University beginning at noon.

Smith also discussed his decision Tuesday not to allow the use of the temporary stands erected at Robertson Stadium for Saturday's football game against the
University of Texas because he deemed them unsafe, which he described as "the hardest decision I've made in my career as a university president for 11
years at three institutions."

Smith said he'd expressed concern about the stands for three weeks, and despite being told that they met safety specifications, he sought outside opinions
from an engineering firm and a soil analysis firm, then made his decision after a personal on-site inspection Monday.

"I've now received written confirmation (from the engineering firm) that the stands are, in fact, unsafe," Smith said.

"I feel very comfortable that I made the right decision yesterday," he said, adding that while many UT fans and officials are "understandably upset, I think it's
important to remind everyone that this is, after all, just a football game. It's just a football game."

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