University of Houston Nixes Mandatory Campus Housing Plan From Agenda UPDATED

Categories: Education

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We actually lived in a Wal-Mart our freshman year.
Updated at the end of this post are some more comments from Sen. Whitmire.

University of Houston officials have suspended their plan requiring freshmen to live on campus after some blowback from Texas Senator John Whitmire.

University officials pulled the proposal from a Board of Regents meeting agenda this week after Whitmire voiced his concern Monday to UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator, the Chron reports.

The proposal called for most freshmen to live on campus beginning in 2015.

Richard Walker, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services, told the Chron last week that "We are doing this because we feel very strongly that it will support our students. One of the main things this is also trying to do for us is to transform the student experience. From campus life to support services, we really wanted to make sure in that first year that they get really grounded in an environment that will allow them to succeed."

But the Chron reported Monday that "Whitmire said the plan represented a conflict of interest, as the university has built numerous dorms and apartments, and is competing with private apartments that also have popped up around campus."

The senator told the Chron that Khator told him the proposal was "not only dead, it wouldn't even be considered."

However, according to a University statement issued Tuesday, "the issue was never listed as an action item, so Regents were not planning a vote on the concept."

The proposal was merely an "information item to discuss" the issue, according to the statement.

Updated 4 p.m.:

Sen. Whitmire told the Press today that, in addition to the cost burden, mandatory housing would disrupt the dynamics of an extremely diverse student population. While the proposal would have offered exceptions for married couples, Whitmire noted that married gay and lesbian couples wouldn't fit the requirement, since such marriages aren't legal in Texas.

Whitmire also added, "I've been told by several undocumented immigrant families that they need their children there -- who happen to be US citizens -- in case one or more of the parents are picked up by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], the kids can continue to support the family."

The senator was also puzzled by the proposal's exemption for students living in their parents' or legal guardians' home if it's within 20 miles of campus.

"The 20-mile trigger mechanism is so arbitrary," Whitmire said. "I represent Baytown. So that means all my Baytown students, as freshmen, would have to reside at U of H. But I have the Heights, [where] they can stay at home. Now, who came up with that nonsense?"

He said the proposal was poorly planned and showed an "apparent lack of understanding by some in the administration of who makes up the U of H student body."

And while Whitmire called UH System Chancellor and President Renu Kator "one of the best things that ever happened to the school," he said that he told her, "You need to look around at who your advisers are."

As for the proposal rearing its head again: "I've been told they're not going to consider it any further, but don't think I won't keep an eye on them."



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3 comments
JacquesNoir
JacquesNoir

I work at a university that recently began requiring freshmen to live on campus because the research shows they are better students. The pushback from faculty has been from those who don't want to have to actually work with freshmen. They don't want to answer their questions, be available during office hours and basically they don't want to do their job. The faculty for it are the ones who love to teach and enjoy the students.

sralph
sralph

Senator John Whitmire has inappropriately injected himself in a proposed policy by UH. A proposal which is now dead by the way - thanks to Whitmire. Whitmire did not step in to engagement himself in a constructive dialog, rather he demanded that the President cower to his request to take the issue off of the table for discussion and threatened litigation. This arrogance is insulting and undemocratic.

Shame on Senator Whitmire. The proposed policies (that was merely up for discussion) would not have prevented anyone in the UH community from attending. There were generous waives included in the policy for financial and situational concerns. Further, that fact was clearly explained to him (see text messages published in the Chronicle). His actions appear to speak either to a priority of attention over substance or an inability to contemplate the effect of his actions.  Both are unflattering for an elected official.

Baal
Baal

I am a faculty member at UH (for 17 years) and I have been generally happy with President Khator.  But Mr. Whitmire is right, she really does need to look at who her advisers are.  Many have not been at UH for long. Vice President for Student Affairs is a relatively new position at this university, and the person holding the job has been at UH for about 3 years now, and his prior experience was at a private university.  The Provost is also relatively new.  The university needs to find ways to get more of the freshmen living on campus.  It is clearly good for educational outcomes when it is feasible, and the campus itself is a much more hospitable place to live than it used to be.  But the idea of making it mandatory for freshmen was never going to fly and was never, to my knowledge, widely vetted among faculty (who would have been able to provide some good advice on this -- don't do it).

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