Nov. 20, 2015 – University of Houston Law Center Professor Michael A. Olivas Thursday urged UH regents to oppose plans by the University of Texas to develop a research and academic “hub” on land purchased south of the Texas Medical Center.
After discussion about the land buy and its implications for UH, regents unanimously approved a statement opposing the expansion plan.
Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair of Law and director of the Institute for Higher Education Law & Governance at the Law Center, said UT’s proposal violates established statutory requirements of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to meet educational and geographical needs of the state while avoiding duplication.
Olivas cited several instances in which plans for expansion by various universities, including Houston, were rejected by the Coordinating Board because they either overlapped programs already offered by another school or infringed on geographical service areas.
“UT should not be allowed to purchase land hundreds of miles away from its Austin campus for the purpose of offering coursework, whether in the form of engineering classes or student internship course credit,” Olivas told regents. “If the desire is to work collaboratively, with other institutions on research, UH faculty have shown their willingness to engage and 322 acres of real estate is not what is needed for this to happen.”
In a prepared statement, Olivas quoted Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymond Paredes on the importance of regional planning: “In Texas, we are in danger of expanding higher education programs and facilities beyond the state’s ability – or willingness – to fund them adequately. Ultimately, that is a recipe for statewide mediocrity in public higher education.”
UT Chancellor William McRaven told the Houston Chronicle Thursday that he has no intention of competing with UH, the city’s Tier One research institution, and plans to develop the site over several decades into an "intellectual hub" for all of the system's institutions, including its flagship in Austin.
"There is room in Houston for multiple academic and research opportunities – in fact, a proliferation of these types of opportunities is endemic to a thriving, modern, world-class city," McRaven told the Chronicle. "This is about advancing Houston, and what that could mean not just for Texas, but for our nation. This is preparing for the future, not the present. One only has to look at the growth and impact of the Texas Medical Center to imagine the possibilities."
In closing, Olivas told regents that UH has always played by the rules and called for immediate action: “This transgression violates the law and regulation of Texas Higher education location and decision-making, and we urge it be stopped in its tracks before any further plans can be implemented. This act is a Trojan horse, and Houston should not let it inside the gates.”
Click here to view Board of Regents meeting.