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Volume 71, Issue 132, Friday, April 21, 2006

News

Displaced profs still not happy

Scheduling conflict left two once-a-week classes barred 
from their normal venues

by MELISSA SEUFFERT
The Daily Cougar

Two UH professors are left asking questions after they were displaced from their classrooms during a political convention last month.

History professor Bob Buzzanco and art history professor Steven Potter said both of their Saturday classes had to be cancelled March 25 after they arrived to find their regularly-scheduled classrooms occupied by a Harris County Republican Party Convention. 

Buzzanco said he is upset for the students in his U.S. history course, some of which have to commute from as far as Galveston for the once-a-week class.

"UH students pay tuition and fees and have these regularly scheduled classes and then (they) get kicked out," Buzzanco said. "It was ridiculous."

Potter was supposed to give a midterm to his art history class, and said his confrontation with the UH Police Department intimidated him. Potter said he arrived to set up for the exam when UHPD informed him he wouldn't be allowed to give it because the room was occupied for the day. 

"It got nasty for some of my students and the Republican people," Potter said.

He said some students were physically barred by UHPD from entering the room.

"(UHPD was) extremely rude and arrogant, even laughing us off," Potter said. "I was very serious about this and they were trying to make jokes about it."

Potter and Buzzanco contacted their respective department heads looking for answers. 

Susan Kellogg, chair of the history department, said she was concerned when Buzzanco contacted her.

"When a class that meets only once a week is cancelled it is the equivalent to missing one week of class," Kellogg said. 

"My concern is for the professor and the students, that the students get the classes that they paid for. They need to cover the material that the professor needs to be covered," she said.

Heidi Kennedy, director of Academic Program Management, said in a statement from the University that priority was not given to the convention over students and professors, and that outside groups wanting to use campus facilities have to make reservations though the University Center Reservations office. 

If general-purpose classrooms are involved, UC Reservations must check with Registration and Academic Records to see if the requested rooms are available. 

Kennedy said there was a typographical error on the room assignment document that said Agnes Arnold Auditorium 1 was available for the day, when in fact it is where Buzzanco and Potter had scheduled classes. 

This document was the only information on-site personnel had, which is why Potter and Buzzanco weren't allowed into their classrooms, she said.

The Harris County Republican Party contacted UH about reserving rooms about four months ago, Kennedy said, and they had approximately 29 rooms at their disposal. 

Kennedy said administrators are trying to get to the bottom of the incident. "A preliminary fact-finding meeting was held April 5 by administrators to discuss this process and the March 25 misunderstanding," Kennedy said in a statement. "Future meetings are planned to discuss the improvement of the reservation process as it relates to general purpose classrooms (and) to large-scale events that require numerous rooms."

In the meantime, Kennedy said apology letters were sent to Buzzanco and Potter, their respective department chairs and their dean, as well as the students in the classes.

Buzzanco and Potter said they don't think this action was enough, and they aren't satisfied with how the situation has been handled so far.

"I was sent a letter of apology, but other than some vague words about miscommunication, was not given an explanation," Buzzanco said. "I'm as frustrated now about this as I was on the morning when it happened. And my students even more want answers and want to have some type of compensation for the class they missed."

Potter said he hasn't been able to explain the situation to his students.

"I still know nothing," Potter said. "I don't see this as resolved at all and neither do my students."

 Send comments to dcnews@mail.uh.edu

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