Renu Khator: Media "Misled" on UH Housing Plan

Categories: Education

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Senator Whitmire was totally not LOLing.
Toward the end of a thorough ass-chewing via text with Senator John Whitmire over a student housing proposal, UH President Renu Khator did what public officials who screw up have done from time immemorial: she blamed the messenger.

You see, according to Khator's text, the media "misled" people by reporting that the proposal was "a done deal." Maybe the media can be forgiven for interpreting the words "UH Freshmen Will Be Required to Live on Campus Beginning Fall 2015" on an August 15 press release as somehow suggesting that UH freshmen will be required to live on campus beginning in the fall of 2015. We'd link to that press release, but it's no longer on UH's site.

Yet the Chron's headline for the story, which ran the same day the statement was issued, reads "UH could require freshmen to live on campus," which to us seems a lot more clear than the University's own press release. (By the way, scrubbing that release from the website was just a straight-up dumb PR move. It suggests culpability).

The last two sentences of the press release's first paragraph, in plain old type, clash with the large, bold "will be required" jazz. They say the plan will be presented at a Board of Regents meeting "as an information item. No action is expected."

We think that's the linguistic equivalent of crossing one's fingers behind one's back. If no action was expected, then what's up with the provocative headline about an "initiative" that "targets academic performance, timely graduation"? Why didn't the headline simply state "No Action Expected on Information Item Regarding Student Housing"? What it lacks in pizzaz, it more than makes up for in accuracy!

We asked a University spokesperson if we could talk to Khator or Richard Walker, vice president for student affairs, in order to figure out how exactly the media "misled" people. Unfortunately, we were told they were not available. But we emailed questions about how to avoid misleading people in the future. (We'll update if and when we get a response).

For example, we received a University press release headlined "UH Professor Named Fellow by International Astrobiology Society." Below, it states "George E. Fox One of Four Recognized at Meeting in Japan." But what does that mean? Does that mean that George E. Fox is one of four people who will be recognized at an International Astrobiology Society meeting in Japan? Until Khator and Walker straighten it out for us, we just don't feel comfortable reporting it. It's just too soon to speculate.

Whitmire saw Khator's blame-the-media line for what it was, texting "Don't blame concept and proposal on media."

Not to excuse Khator, but after the text-drubbing she just took from Whitmire Saturday morning, we can understand why she wanted to pin at least some of the responsibility on someone else. If you read the entire conversation (which was first obtained by the Chron), you'll see what we mean:


Khator: You will read about UH requiring freshmen living outside 20-mile radius and not married to live on campus. Easy waivers to others. It is to change the culture and create new expectation. Applies only to full time freshmen. Darrin sent our statement to your office yesterday.

Whitmire: Sounds like we need to talk. I think you have overstepped on this one. Expect lots of push back. Quiet frankly sounds nuts to me. Twenty miles is nothing in greater houston. Cost of living on campus is issue. Single moms. Etc. gay people can't marry. Somebody aint thinking. Expect a lot of hell from many derections.
.i understand you want to fill those private dorms but you can't make people pay extra to live on campus You already got tuition unaffordable. This ain't Perdue or Stanford. Or even UT o AM....

Khator: ...Waiver is for anyone who gives any reason at all--any reason including financial, religious, family. Eleven other universities in Texas (not UT and A&M) are successfully using them. Students are fully supportive.

Whitmire: You and somebody did not think this through

Khator: It is on board agenda. Has not been done yet. Will think more so we do the right thing. Sylvester totally in support. Students in support.

Whitmire: Please . Your student sampling is small and largely kids already living there. UH is a commuter school unlike other schools you reference. You get them to live there by a good affordable campus housing experience. Too much to text but I cannot believe legislators and constituents allowing such requirement. Certainly I think a bad idea and will attempt to stop. You totally discount people like me that lived in an apartment with my mother and worked. You are very insensitive to UH experience

Khator: So sorry. Don't mean to. Will go back to the drawing board.

Whitmire: The single community will think your insensitive and gays will know you not looking out for them. Some or in closet and don't want gay emption. You just gonna run kids away from UH and start a firestorm. You need better advisors
I don't care what Sylvester thinks. He obviously did not understand. I know what his community thinks

Khator: I am in not in Houston, but Darrin will reach out to you. Please allow him to seek your guidance. We won't do it if it is not the right thing to do. The reason for waiver is as broad as "It is counter-productive to my learning." Hays can opt out easily but I understand your point about how it could appear to them. It is not on agenda for board action anyway, so not too late.

Whitmire: I would like to know who came up with this I will stop dead and pass leg if I need to. I really dissapointed and don just told me to stop it and he's rich
I want to talk to board before it gets it gets on agenda....


Khator:....Are you still upset? The issue was going only as information/option to board and I have already killed any further consideration on it. Can you please not forgive?
Is there anything I can do to ensure you it is killed from consideration? You are the best critic/friend I have so I killed it on Saturday itself.

Whitmire: Well the [Houston Chronicle] article totally set me back. It is so unfounded with lack of realism of the people I represent and UH serves that I am not going to stop till your administration understands their mission. Furthermore you totally mishandled presenting this to me and legislators. And Sylvester does not support. And I cannot believe you talk about other universities like North Texas. Look at minority make up of other schools and social economic make up of other schools . and to compare rice experience to UH is a sin. I don't have confidence in your team. You have done great things but this is not one of your finer moments. Ask John Moores could he have lived on campus and gone to UH Your team needs a sensitivity course. Please send my office immediately what it cost a freshman to go to UH this fall. Tuition books fees parking and then what the additional cost of living on campus. But bigger than that the life style and support they receive at home or provide to family while at home. I know this is dead but your team should learn. What other dumb ideas are you all working on

Khator: We will learn. Media has misled everyone by portraying it as if it done deal. They love to create sensation and we were idiots to allow it. Anyway, it is now killed even from consideration and we will listen and learn. Thank you.

Whitmire: But I still believe your team needs to hear from a real person. And I am the real person. And I am very serious
Don't blame concept and proposal on media. And walker needs a new position. And not bouncing off me and others is unpardonable
Plus you have wasted a lot of my time on one of the dumbest ideas I have heard in gov in a long time. People at your teams level should not have to learn. They should know and draw big salaries to know

Khator: I apologize. It will be an honor to have you come and guide us.

Whitmire: Too much to text. But half my district would get to live at home my Baytown kids hall to live on campus. Gay couples split up because no marriage option. Big deal many Hispanic families want daughters at home etc etc. but mostly cost. And many people think your campus unsafe. But I equally disturbed nobody in your shop understands the uh students hardships.

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18 comments
Wraxtiorre
Wraxtiorre

I love how nobody seems to care about the issue that not even being in Houston poses a problem of dissonance.  How can an administrator effectively direct policies with the community's needs in mind if she is not even in that community?  How can she claim to know what the community wants if she has no actual contact with that community?  This is where the Senator has plenty of room to attack the proposal and its handling--much less the level of professionalism of the administrator defending it.  Yes, the Senator is standing on a high horse, but that's because Khator is waffling under the pressure--which shows a complete lack of confidence (or faith) in her own policy decisions.  And sure, the Senator isn't there either, but at least he's been there, and attended the school being discussed.

echolane
echolane

and by the way, since when has the expression of strong disagreement become "bullying"?


If that's the case, I'm often bullied by my clients, my parents, my kids, my boss

echolane
echolane

Damn, seeing this text really opens your eyes to sausage making, and I've completely lost respect for Khator, who is such a milquetoast here, just giving away policy she was supposed to believe in. And what kind of response is saying: we will issue waivers for anything at all. Why bother then in the first place? 

Whitmire was right to question her so intensely; some of the dumbest ideas come from education administrators like her, just ask anyone who teaches.

astro1955
astro1955

When Dr. Khator came to UH, she did a good PR campaign but most of the UH success was based on previous administration's investments.


While Dr. Khator is excellent in PR, she is not competent in academics and is a very lousy administrator who values self-glory over the institution's good. 

Much of recent PR have been smoke-and-mirrors; in reality UH is going downhill. A lot of things look nice; for example all the construction on campus - however, she has been a major failure in fundraising (compare her performance to Texas Tech President Hance - Hance has already finished 1 billion fund raising campaign, while Khator after 6 years at UH is nowhere near that number). As a result, UH budget is a mess with the bills of those buildings being paid by taxpayers and students. 

Given this empty PR campaign, Dr. Khator had to surround herself with incompetent administrators whose function is to say yes to her and to praise her. No surprise that such a blunder happened. Unfortunately, the Board of Regents is also in the same boat. Don't blame the Senator, when he is trying to protect the interests of students and their families.


KirkW
KirkW

I have never been so appalled seeing a state senator, an alum of his university no less, have such a distasteful and unprofessional exchange with a revered University President. Johnny, are you not aware of the strides that Dr. Khator has made for UH, elevating it for the first time ever to Tier 1. Are you  not proud of that as an alumnus? 


Did she not state that waivers would be entertained and most likely granted to those who requested them? They appear to be extremely lenient. But, what upsets me most is your abominable tone to someone who NEVER showed any disrespect like you did. 


Yous shameful behavior comes across as a little hurt kid who wants to puff out his chest because his little feelings were hurt. You can most certainly have your opposed view, but you could have handled it so much better in so many other ways. I was a student of the 70's and did horribly my freshman year commuting after graduating high school with a 4.0. My grades improved when I moved away from home, closer to campus (there weren't nearly as much dorm capacity as now). 


And, to think that this issue is so minor compared to the many that you need to address for our district.

adherridge
adherridge

Bravo, Senator Whitmire! As a student of UH System with a spouse who is a Cougar alum and a father who attended there and graduated from the system, I whole-heartedly agree with the Senator's words.

GlenW
GlenW

The above exchange makes it pretty clear who runs things at UH. I'm surprised with how she buckled.

Danny
Danny

This entire conversation was about one thing: Whitmire bullying Khator, insulting UH as a community, and trying to keep us down. How dare he say we're inferior to UT or A&M? What an arrogant embarrassment to the UH community.

Coogs4life
Coogs4life

Houston Press did what commentators who realize they're wrong on an issue have done from time immemorial: criticize people's style instead of the substance of policy.


Khator did one thing wrong, and that was allowing this charlatan to undermine the authority of every administrator, student, faculty and staff member. Whitmire's only connection to UH is the fact that he graduated from UH 40 years ago. Since then he has never held any kind of administrative position or otherwise been involved in any way with this university. The way Whitmire assumes authority over the university like this is a pecedent so utterly dangerous that I fear for the world of higher education in general. 


Whitmire's also indicated a complete lack of understanding of the entire issue. He himself would not have been forced to live on campus due to the gratuitous financial exemptions granted that were a part of the proposal. It's kind of hilarious the way plays the LGBT card in a situation in which it's completely irrelevant. Many if not most of those in charge of both the Housing department and the Division of Student Affairs are gay. Does he honestly think that they wouldn't exempt same-sex couples? Ignorant asshattery at its finest.


I've never seen an individual make such a vulgar display of arrogance. I'm a pretty strong Democrat, but considering the situation I'd happily vote even for a Republican just to get this guy out of office and make sure he never again sees the light of day.

williamsonrwf
williamsonrwf

I think the only one who comes out sounding bad is the Senator. He was rude and overbearing. Studies have proven that students who live on campus do better. UH looked at in and allowed a very easy way out for students who could not do so. A reasonable discussion was possible without his derogatory remarks

rat618
rat618

Well she can still blame Benghazi and Obama. I still this more as a way for UH to get more money from its students. Perhaps Khator can tell us what the cost is to live in the dorm vs the nearby privately owned apartments Whitmire mentions. Since the students are paying for part of the new football stadium they can pitch tents on the field.

stjnky
stjnky

Wow. Senator John Whitmire is my new favorite politician.

KDBY
KDBY

Khator may have handled the whole media-blame thing poorly, but exploring a requirement to have 1st-year students on campus is a fantastic plan for the University. It's too bad she and the University were bullied by this Senator who clearly knows nothing of the importance of establishing tight student-citizen cultures at colleges and universities. It's one step of many that can improve student success rates and retention.

KirkW
KirkW

Oh, and, Craig? Sorry if your little feelings were hurt, too. Her ONE line of the media was so passive. You act like Dr. Khator had a press release about the media. YOUR rant about that one liner was idiotic.

KirkW
KirkW

@adherridge Really, and would this proposal affect you now? Are you sending a freshman to UH? Are you proud of your university? Do you donate money to UH? Did you not see Dr. Khator's professionalism as opposed to Johnny not letting up AFTER she said she would drop it? He's saying that your degree is second class and you should know your second place status because you went to UH. Or, are you just naturally ignorant?

hcougars82
hcougars82

@stjnky  Why, because he is a complete jerk that makes baseless arguments to pander to minorities?  Everything he said was untrue.  Dr. Khator told him that exemptions from the rule would be granted for things as simple as "It is counter-productive to my learning."


If you're in the closet and don't want to come out, there is no need to.  You don't have to disclose anything about yourself or your living situation.


Whitmire has to go!  What he did is not how a state senator should conduct himself when addressing the president of a university.  Have some respect for the office.

mburns111
mburns111

@hcougars82 @stjnky If you read that presentation of the universities you'd wonder if the number presented were true. They didn't link to any studies in their presentation to back anything up. I can claim all the things in the world but where is the info that backed up what UH and Khator were saying?

Someone called them on the crap.

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