‘Twas the fall of 2010. I was 18 and a fresh-faced freshman at the University of Houston—you may have heard of it. I had been in love with the campus since my brother started his college career there in 2008. But, my residency depended on how much scholarship money I could receive. Option A. receive the Terry Foundation Scholarship, and Option B. live at home in Stafford, TX and commute 19 miles every day. By the grace of God (and Mr. Howard Terry), Option B. was taken off the table in the spring of 2010. I lived on campus for three years. I walked to class/football games, I created friendships that I believe will last a lifetime, I earned a killer GPA/made Dean’s list every semester, and was able to be involved in multiple student organizations. Most of these I think were made possible by my living on campus—just a hop and skip away from the luxuries of campus.
A week ago, the UH Board of Regents put an item on the agenda to require freshmen students this same experience. The item would require all entering freshmen to live in one of the more than 8,000 beds on campus. There were some exceptions; If you lived within 20 miles, had a child to care for, etc. you could opt out of the requirement.
Apparently, this idea did not sit well with alumnus and Texas Senator John Whitmire. On Saturday, Khator and Whitmire texted about this—how modern of them. Whitmire expressed his concern, and Khator said she would remove the item.
Then, she begged for his forgiveness. No… seriously. She begged.
Whitmire lived at home during his time at UH with his mom. He worked to help pay rent. He is exactly the student that Hugh Roy Cullen had in mind when he made the first of many donations to the school, saying “I have only one condition in making this gift. The University of Houston must always be a college for working men and women and their sons and daughters. If it were to be another rich man’s college, I wouldn’t be interested.”
But, that was 1939. I mean I am not arguing that Cullen’s words are no less important. But since then, the University of Houston has grown into a system, with four campuses and five off-campus centers serving more than 65,000 students. And, cumulatively, the UHS has maintained this promise to Cullen. This movement to encourage more students to live on campus is not going to detract from the foundation of UH.
UH went on to have the Board of Regents meeting. The item was no longer on the agenda, but there were a few allusions to the matter. Khator has said that the whole thing was media exaggeration. That the media should have known and expressed that it was not an official thing.
The classic “Blame the media” approach hurts a little… Especially since it is completely ridiculous. Let’s compare headlines:
AANNNDD The University of Houston press release (no link because the press release is mysteriously missing…)
Wait… so the only sensationalized headline/article was produced by UH itself… NOT the media.
So, if you’re confused… UH announces they will require students to live on campus. Media organizations write about this possibility. A state senator says he hates the idea. UH president takes off this item from the Board of Regents agenda and blames the idea on the media—unjustly. Congrats. You are up to date on this situation.
Living on campus helps students connect with their campus in the crucial, acclimating time of freshman year. It may add to the price tag of an education, but it more than makes up for it. You pay a more to have benefits to your education. It’s like, who orders a burger without the fries? The fries make your burger dining experience better. No one will argue otherwise. Ugh, I’m hungry.
What’s sad to me is Khator knows how important campus housing is. I reported on higher ed for The Daily Cougar. I’ve heard Khator and other administrators describe their initiatives of encouraging students to live on campus. The original proposal was right on track with what UH wants for campus. This redaction and these excuses all screams politics and brown nosing on Khator’s side of things. And for that, I am extremely disappointed in this step back in growth for UH. My alma mater needs to make this bold move in order to evolve the student experience.
Maybe this initiative didn’t go over too well because it was a bit of a surprise. Maybe there should’ve been a more gradual approach to getting more students to live on campus. Maybe UH shouldn’t have used that wording in their press release headline. But, I firmly believe big things happen when you take big risks. UH, you should take a big risk.