Rice University Dorm Leader Resigns After Lap Dance Vid Goes Viral

Categories: Education

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And the Ms. Oscar goes to....
The recently elected student head of a Rice University dormitory has resigned after videos and images of him receiving a lap dance from a stripper during a victory celebration February 20 went viral.

The student paper, the Rice Thresher, did not identify the student president, but included an emailed apology in a story Tuesday that stated "No gender, race, or ethnicity should ever be objectified in any manner, and I fully admit to violating this ethical standard. To be clear, we have a zero-tolerance policy on this type of behavior, which can lead to things such as sexual harassment, and I definitely made a mistake Saturday night to which I fully admit."

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Judge Has to Remind HCC That Board Trustees Are Representatives of the Public

Categories: Courts, Education

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HCC
As it fought to seal some internal records in a legal fight against its former general counsel, lawyers for Houston Community College trotted out a strange argument in court earlier this month.

Along with a swath of internal memos, emails and transcripts HCC wanted to seal or redact, the publicly-funded college system also argued against disclosing certain communications between college lawyers and HCC trustees. Here was the college's basic argument: The HCC Board of Trustees are "representatives of the college," and anything shared with them by an HCC attorney remained attorney-client privileged information, and therefore isn't public.

It was an argument Harris County District Court Judge Jeff Shadwick literally scoffed at when HCC attorneys and lawyers for Renee Byas, the college's former general counsel who was fired and ultimately sued by the college last year, showed up in court on February 9 to argue over a temporary injunction to keep certain records in the lawsuit hidden from public view.

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HISD Stands to Lose $17 Million in Federal Funding if Student Success Act Passes

Categories: Education

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Screenshot from Houston ISD
Roosevelt Elementary is just one of the many Title I schools in HISD.

Houston ISD, like urban districts throughout the country, came out swinging Tuesday, saying that it will lose $17 million in Title I grant funds if the so-called Student Success Act passes -- a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act that supporters say will return control of public schools to their local communities.

At issue is what's called "portability," which basically means the Title I funds designated to help low-income students would travel with a child wherever he or she goes to school and could even be taken to private and charter schools instead of being assigned to public schools with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged children as they are now.

According to HISD, 262 of its campuses would see their supplementary funds decrease and the majority of these schools are at least 75 percent economically disadvantaged.


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HCC Trustee Asks for Transparency in Lawsuit With College's Fired Top Lawyer

Categories: Courts, Education

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HCC
Carroll G. Robinson
Seems we're not the only ones who think it's a little gauche for a public institution to fight to keep internal records out of the public eye.

Over the past month, lawyers for Houston Community College, a taxpayer-funded institution, have twice asked a judge to seal certain internal emails, memos, or other communications if they're filed in court, arguing they fall under attorney-client privilege. At issue here is what will or won't become public in the college's legal fight against the HCC's former general counsel, Renee Byas. HCC sued Byas last summer, hoping to invalidate her contract. The college claims it fired Byas because of insubordination and problems with her contract extension (for instance, she turned in her signed copy of said contract extension to HR five days late...right), while Byas on the other hand alleges she was fired because she wouldn't play ball when trustees begged her to bend the rules for doling out contracts for the college's record $425 million bond project.

Byas' counterclaim against the college contained a number of other stunning allegations, including that she was cooperating with an ongoing FBI investigation into the college and that she even wore a wire to secretly record conversations in which trustees pressured her to "break the law." While still with the college, Byas opened an investigation into whether one particular trustee tried to improperly shuffle a $1.4 million contract to a close friend's business. Byas claims trustees regularly asked her to kill that investigation and fire the outside law firm conducting it. In fact, the day Byas was fired, HCC's board appointed another attorney to keep watch over that investigation, which ultimately concluded that there was no evidence the trustee in question did anything wrong.

The subject of that investigation was trustee Carroll Robinson (who's now running for Houston City Controller). Which is why it's so...well, interesting, that Robinson has been asking HCC to make everything related to Byas' firing public. Particularly interesting since, according to court records, Byas' attorneys plan to depose Robinson very soon.

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Students Want UH to Fire Three Administrators Over TDECU Fiasco

Categories: Education

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Brian Reading via Wikimedia Commons
TDECU Stadium
The University of Houston's brand-new $128 million football stadium was supposed to be a point of pride when it opened to students and fans last summer. Fast-forward seven months, and TDECU Stadium is just a continuing source of heartburn for UH officials.

Last night UH's student government cast a vote unanimously calling for the resignation of three university officials, one a key aide to UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator, largely because of problems surrounding the university's new stadium.

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Grier's State of the Schools Address: Happy Campuses, Except for the Ones That No One Wants to Send Their Kids To

Categories: Education

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Screen shot of live stream
Superintendent Terry Grier issued challenges along with his attaboys
The 50-minute State of the Schools address given by Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier Wednesday reached its in-your-face moment just before the 17-minute mark when he told the sold-out room at the Hilton Americas Hotel that "We should support our strong magnet schools. But you know we really can't deny this reality of the underbelly of school choice."

"We have a handful of the nation's academically elite public schools," Grier said as he waded once again into the issue of HISD's school choice program, saying that if the best students abandon neighborhood schools for magnet schools, they often leave behind a depleted student body. "Yet we have scores of children in neighborhood schools that need extra help, a lot of it."

"The truth is, the list of Houston schools that most of us in this room would refuse to send our own children to is longer than the list of schools we consider acceptable for our own children. And folks that can't, that will not stand in HISD," said Grier to applause.

And while this was in a lot of ways an incredibly brave thing for Grier to say and resolve to change, it also rather significantly undermines his contention that HISD is a great school district and a master of innovation (a theme he returned to several times.)

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Houston Community College Still Wants to Seal Records in Lawsuit

Categories: Courts, Education

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via Wikimedia Commons
Lawyers for Houston Community College went to court yesterday to argue that internal records from a public institution would harm said public institution if made public.

As the legal battle between HCC, one of the largest community college systems in the country, and the college's ousted top lawyer continues to drag on in court, HCC has renewed its push to seal documents and shield some of its own internal records from public scrutiny.

At issue in the case is why HCC really fired Renee Byas, the college's former general counsel. On one hand, HCC claims it fired Byas because she was "insubordinate" and because her contract extension with the college was "invalid." (HCC says that only the board's chair, not the full board, signed her extension, and that Byas turned her extension back into HR five days late. Really.)

On the other hand, Byas alleges HCC fired her in "attempt to silence a public servant who refused to let HCC's Board of Trustees use a $425 million public bond project as a private slush fund."

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Teen Says He Was Forced Out of Local Private School for Being Gay

Categories: Education

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YouTube
Early this month, 17-year-old YouTube blogger Austin Wallis posted an emotional 10-minute video in which he said he'd been forced to leave his private school because he's gay. The school's principal, he said, called him into the office and delivered an ultimatum: Wallis was to delete all of his social media accounts and go back into the closet, or else he'd be banned from any extracurricular activities at school.

Wallis says he ultimately felt he had no other choice but to leave. But in his video, Wallis doesn't identify the school, saying he doesn't want the episode to tarnish the reputations of the students and teachers who supported him while he was there. But late last week, the Texas Observer reported that Wallis attended Lutheran High North, a small private school just north of the Heights.

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All Right! All Right! All Right! Matthew McConaughey to give Commencement Address at UH

Categories: Education

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McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.

It may be one of the best attended commencements ever in the history of the University of Houston. UH has just announced that Academy Award winning actor Matthew McConaughey will give the inaugural commencement address on Friday, May 15 at the TDECU Stadium before 5,000 graduates.

Turns out, UH had an "in." His dad, "Big Jim" McConaughey once played college football at the University of Houston, according to University of Houston President Renu Khator.

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UPDATED Houston Community College Has a Unique Definition of "Insubordinate"

Categories: Courts, Education

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Twitter
HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado, center (obviously), at a press junket earlier this month.

(See update at the end of this story)

Let's say you've just been named chancellor of one of the largest community college systems in the country and the college's top lawyer reaches out to you. She tells you she wants to bring you up to speed on ongoing corruption investigations into board members and whether they've been using the college's $425 million bond fund like a private piggy bank. She tells you the FBI has even been sniffing around.

What do you do? If you're Houston Community College Chancellor Cesar Maldonado, you call her insubordinate and put her on administrative leave.


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