Smith 'still thinking'
about renewing contract through 2004
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
UH System Chancellor and UH President Arthur
K. Smith, whose current contract runs out in a little more than a year,
told UH staff members Monday he has not yet decided whether he will seek
"My current employment agreement expires
in January 2003," Smith said, somewhat reluctantly, in response to an e-mail
query read at the end of the Fall Staff Forum
held in the University Hilton.
Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar
UH Vice President for Student
Affairs Elwyn C. Lee, center, addresses staff members at the Fall Staff
Forum while UH President Arthur K. Smith, left, and other administrators
"The agreement also provides that if I
don't want it to continue, I have to give the (UHS Board of Regents) a
year's notice. If the board doesn't want me to continue, they
have to give me a year's notice. If neither
one of us does anything when the anniversary date comes up it automatically
adds a year," he said.
Therefore, if neither Smith nor the board
gives notice by Jan. 3, he would automatically serve until that date in
2004, Smith said. He took the newly created position of
chancellor/president in 1997 following
a massive reorganization of the UH System's administrative functions.
"My wife (June) and I are still thinking
about it," Smith said, noting that he celebrated his 64th birthday in August.
"I'm in good health. By the same token, while this is a
fun job, I don't want to do it forever.
There are grandchildren we don't see very much of, there are places that
we would like to see elsewhere in the world, there are
flowers, roses still left to smell.
"But we honestly have no plans, at this
point, one way or another," Smith said.
In less personal business, Smith gave the
staff members present a history of the often tumultuous events experienced
by the University since the last staff forum in
Those events included the May passage by
the Texas Legislature of a bill providing increased "excellence funding"
for UH and other state universities and June's
Tropical Storm Allison, which dealt "a
momentous shock for the University of Houston," Smith said.
Current estimates for damages from Allison
and related costs are $95 million, Smith said, of which $26 million has
been collected so far from the University's insurance
"But we did not wait to collect the money,"
Smith said. "We began immediately" on repairs to the 90 of 105 campus buildings
that were damaged, as well as the
University's telecommunications nodes
and other facilities. Those repairs are 85 to 90 percent complete, he said.
Smith added it is hoped the remaining costs
will be offset by funding from governmental agencies, especially the Federal
Emergency Management Agency.
Administrators estimate that the $5.7 million
restoration of the University Center Satellite will not be completed until
sometime late in the Spring 2002 semester.
Smith also discussed problems related to
the University's institution of PeopleSoft, a campus-wide computer software
human resources and financial administrative
system. Those problems have included certain
employees not receiving paychecks in a timely manner, or with discrepancies
in their rate of pay.
He said that other universities that have
previously switched over to the system "have had virtually a crash. We
did it with some glitches, to be sure. Glitches were to be
expected. In fact, we may have been a
little bit fortunate, considering the experiences of other campuses. I
think we came through it with remarkable ease."
Asked if, in light of the UH Cougar football
team's 0-10 record thus far, head coach Dana Dimel would be fired, Smith
quickly said "no."
Asked about a rumored $9 million to $10
million deficit in the budget of the Athletics Department, Smith said,
"There's a terminology issue here. I think it's important to
get a clear understanding of the so-called
Smith said that of the approximately 115
Division I-A universities in the nation, "there is literally a handful,
probably fewer than 10, that actually operate their athletics
department in the black."
The overwhelming majority of those schools
"have to provide a subsidy for the operation of their intercollegiate athletics."
"Most university provosts," he said, "don't
view providing that subsidy as a deficit. They view it as an investment
for the advancement of the university — in the image of
the institution, the overall fund-raising
capacity of the institution, not just for athletics but for academics,
as a way of developing community support and attracting student
interest for the university."
Smith said the current UH Athletics subsidy,
averaged over the last two years, is around $7.5 million, much of it going
to the expansion of facilities and women's sports
"We're going through a difficult phase
in the history of the University," Smith said. "Is (the deficit) higher
than we would like? Yes. Is it still, in our judgement, an
appropriate investment in the advancement
of the University? Also yes."