Sunday, February 8, 2009

Updated: UH-Downtown: The name stays (for now)

(Update - I wanted to *refine* some points and include a more detailed account of those in attendance.)

Happy Sunday, y'all!

My weekend blogging begins with a report on the developments of last Friday's meeting of the University of Houston Board of Regents. The Agenda had one item on it - to pass the motion renaming the University of Houston- Downtown to "University of South Texas."

I attended the meeting with my brother Jaime, a senior English major and an officer with the UH-D Student Government Association (SGA) and his good friend, a young lady (I'll call her Nat) who is also active with SGA. Jaime was on the list of speakers to address the Board and Chancellor Renu Khator. I am very proud of my brother and his stand against the poor treatment of the UH-D community in the name changing process. Security was on the heavy side. I don't know exactly what they were expecting. UH-D faculty, other students and alumni were on hand for the meeting. Everyone seemed to contain themselves for the most part. You know how rowdy PhD's can be.

While Jaime made a sprint to the meeting room, Nat and I parked the car and were met in the lobby by a uniformed UH police officer, who was as nice as he could be, and a contigent of UH security officials who attempted to keep us out of the meeting room. They ushered us away from the meeting room to an "overflow" room, waaaay down the corridor and around the corner. Like a good public citizen, I did what was suggested and sat in a classroom to view the proceedings on a screen. Nat wasn't having it. She turned around and walked back to the meeting room, which may have accomodated more people if UH security had been elsewhere on campus, preventing ACTUAL crime. I got up and walked back to the meeting room, and despite the fact that Nat and I were heavily armed with cameras, UH security didn't stop us from being in the room.

Sue Davis, VP of Public Relations, carted out the UH-D Dean of the College of Business, a marketing professor and Dr. Spears, a distinguished member of the UH-D faculty who proceeded to slam SGA as illegitimate because only a small number of students participate. He was cut off by the regents and sat down. Included in the mix were a UH Bauer College of Business graduate, young Mr. Nguyen, who delivered an anecdotal testimony of his experiences of being "confused" with being a graduate of UH-D and told regents that UH-D should be renamed because he didn't want the "value" of his Bauer degree "diluted" by UH-D business graduates posing as Bauer graduates. Yup, he sure did say that.

Mr. Nguyen was followed by Jaime who read prepared remarks that he'd been working on for a week. Jaime talked about the haste in the name change process, the outstanding faculty and he asked that the regents delay the name change in favor of more vetting from the UH-D community. He did great. I'm proud that that little dude, as my mom called him growing up. I'll upload the video of his remarks so you can all watch.

It didn't take long to realize that both regents and UH-D students and faculty were being pushed around by the big fat elephant in the room - the Bauer College and its MBA program. About three years ago, the Board of Regents gave UH-D President Max Castillo the go-ahead on an MBA program that was quickly aborted at the behest of Bauer alumni and power brokers who didn't want to give themselves any competition. Castillo was reminded of this fact at the meeting by one regent who was clearly infuriated by the proceedings.

There are more BBA degrees from UH-Downtown in circulation in the business sector these days than ever before. Furthermore, as presitgious a Bauer degree is for potential students, UH-D is just as competitive and maybe more accessible to a growing market. This is the problem, folks.

Changing the name from UH-D to something else will not make the Bauer School shine any brighter. Bauer is an excellent program but it shouldn't demand its place in the market. It should be a top draw because of its reputation. Bauer is not McCombs, it is not Harvard and it is not Wharton. Maybe with Tier I status it will be. But I guarantee you that a UH-D grad with a BBA in Accounting, Marketing, Finance or International Business would absolutely get into any of those schools and potentially bypass Bauer altogether.

I thank the UH Board of Regents and, specifically, Chancellor Khator, for reassuring UH-D faculty, students and alumni that we are not the unwanted redheaded stepchildren of the UH System. We like being part of the University of Houston family and we deserve some respect for our accomplishments. UH-D needs a new president who can offer strong vision and leadership.

In the end, the Board of Regents realized that the moniker "University of South Texas" was problematic because we already have a school named South Texas in Downtown Houston as well as another UST about 2 miles west of Downtown. Let's not forget that Houston, the 4th largest city in the United States, is not technically in South Texas. The regents also admitted that there was no way that Houston lawmakers were going to take a name change to battle after already taking up the charge of Tier I status for the University of Houston. Priorities, people!!

Tier I status is a cause we can all support! Onward and upward.

1 comment:

Brian said...


I wrote a bit about the UH-D naming situation on my blog. If you'd like to hear my take on it, check it out here.