Tuesday, November 27, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 66


 
 









 
 

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 a renewal.

"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 look on.


"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
March.

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
carriers.

"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 'deficit.'"

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
programs.

"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."
 
 
 

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