University of Houston

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s portion of the Permanent University Fund (PUF) might be cut in half to help fund The University of Houston. 

Last week, Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) laid out a bill and constitutional amendment before the House Higher Education Committee that, if passed, would be a step toward adding UH to the PUF, an endowment that is currently designated to fund university operations at the UT and Texas A&M systems through the Available University Fund (AUF).

Chief financial officer Mary Knight said this could have a significant financial impact on the university.

“As far as the overall budget, a hundred million dollar reduction to any of our sources would be a very major reduction to the budget,” Knight said. “A lot of research and scholarships are funded from the AUF, so we would have to make reductions somewhere to be able to account for this.” 

Since the state constitution dictates that only UT and A&M receive the funds, the constitution must be amended to add UH to the short list of the fund’s recipients. Additionally, Turner’s complimentary bill must pass.   

Currently, $263 million of UT’s $2.658 billion budget comes from the PUF, according to Knight. UT receives two-thirds of the $17 billion fund, while A&M receives one-third of the money. Turner’s proposals would cut UT’s portion and transfer part of it to UH, granting each institution one-third of the fund. 

At Wednesday’s hearing, Turner said he thinks The University of Houston is underfunded compared to A&M and UT. This year The University of Houston received $143 million in general revenue state appropriations compared to about $262 million and $252 million at UT and A&M, respectively. 

The University of Houston, which is Texas’s third tier-one research institution alongside UT and A&M, should become Texas’s third flagship university, according to Turner. 

“We do need to have a major conversation, and we do need to find ways of making sure we have additional flagship universities that are funded at the same or similar levels to benefit other students as we move forward,” Turner said at the hearing Wednesday.

Shaun Theriot-Smith, civil engineering junior and University of Houston student government president, said he believes UH is deserving of the PUF funding but said it should not come at the financial expense of UT and A&M. 

“As far as the student perspective goes, any chance to increase funding for the University is always a good thing, but I don’t think any [UH] student is really interested in a situation which might compromise another University, such as UT or A&M,” Theriot-Smith said. “It would result in A&M or [UT] receiving a smaller slice of the pie, but there’s a way to apportion for [UH] in a way that would not compromise the financial stability of [UT] or A&M.” 

University spokesperson Gary Susswein declined comment on the legislation, which is pending in committee. 

Student government president Xavier Rotnofsky said he thinks legislators should consider the impact that cutting PUF funds will have on UT when engaging in a conversation around adding The University of Houston to the PUF. 

“Public institutions in Texas should be involved in the dialogue of appropriations, but we have to keep in mind the impact that cutting from PUF to UT would have considering the population size of not only UT-Austin but also the UT system as a whole,” Rotnofsky said. “We get a lot of our funding from PUF, so it’s a huge asset of ours. We have to keep in mind the impact of adding another entity.”

Former first minister, the Rt. Hon. Rhodri Morgan, discussed Friday morning the passing of a Welsh children’s right law in 2011.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Three politicians and experts discussed Friday the passing of a Welsh children’s rights law in 2011.

The event, held in the SAC, was part of Swansea University’s Texas Showcase — a week-long tour presenting the Welsh university’s research with stops at UT, Texas A&M University and the University of Houston.

Wales passed the 2011 law with the legal assistance of Swansea University and gained cross-party unanimous support. According to Rhodri Morgan, former first minister of Wales, the Rights of Children and Young Person Measure was the first domestic law protecting children’s rights. It required Welsh ministers to have due regard on the rights of children when exercising their functions.

“Normally in Wales, we do things after England, then follow,” Morgan said. “But with children’s rights, we did this first. We would become the first part in the U.K. and Europe.”

Although Morgan was in his “lame duck” period, he said he felt requiring government to take children’s rights into account was necessary and tangible.

“Following a very strong tradition and pretty strong cross-party support, why not do it?” Morgan said. “Why have people not already obliged the government to take regard for [what] would be followed by other countries? Why not us, and why not now?”

According to Jane Williams, associate law professor at Swansea University, there was tension regarding the law between the politicians and civil servants in the federation.

“There were elements of the coalition government that were resistant,” Williams said. “To put that in context, within the coalition in other political parties, there were brought reports. For many years, we were thinking about how to incorporate the U.N. and the barriers to that.”

Shortly after the law’s implementation in Wales, Williams established the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young Persons. Williams said the observatory members included academics, government and non-governmental organizations from Wales and the U.K. The organization provided legal research and lobbied to bring the legislative measure to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in the U.K.

“It’s because the University was a neutral space,” Williams said. “This was a nice illustration of how we can be an informed society and for lobbying — which we were able to do.”

According to Helen Mary Jones, a former member of the National Assembly for Wales, Swansea University’s observatory was a major component to the legislation’s success.

“Jane [Williams] built an expert grip of human rights leaders and brought them together with backbone players of both parties,” Jones said. “The work Jane and the observatory did enabled us as back-benchers … lets us think what’s the implication and what’s right and wrong. Through this process, Jane and colleagues were able to advise us.”

As a transfer from the University of Houston, then sophomore midfielder Sharis Lachappelle earned Big 12 conference honors in her first game as a Longhorn and lead the team with five goals. This year, she’s tied as the team’s leading scorer again, but that’s not what matters most.  

“The all-conference and newcomer thing: It’s nice to receive, but at the end of the season those are just extra things,” Lachappelle said. “It’s not my goal.”

For Lachappelle, now a junior studying mathematics, her ultimate goal is to be as productive as possible to help bring her team success.

“It’s not my goal to get individual awards; I would much rather have a Big 12 ring or a national championship ring,” she said. “I don’t really care about my name in the paper more so than I like to see our team’s name in the paper.”

Lachappelle has notched four goals on 20 shots on goal and three assists so far in 2013. Head coach Angela Kelly said her left-footed shot makes her a threat when it comes to scoring.

“She’s a naturally left-footed player and they’re worth their weight in gold in the game of soccer,” Kelly said. “She’s just got a ton of creativity and willingness to put the ball in the back of the net and take responsibility for a team.”

To Lachappelle, scoring is an experience that brings the team together, a fulfilling moment for her after all her hard work. 

“When your teammates are hugging you, there really isn’t any really greater feeling,” Lachappelle said. “It’s just a really rewarding feeling knowing that all your practice and preseason and everything that you work for is really paying off.”

Math is an offbeat major for an athlete, but she enjoys problem solving on and off the field.

“As a kid, I just always loved math problems, so it just made sense to major in math, and calculus is definitely my favorite math,” she said. “I like taking derivatives and integrals, I don’t know, that stuff is fun.”

As a member of UTeach, a program in which she will graduate with a teaching degree, Lachappelle said she’s considered teaching math at any level but ultimately sees herself back on a college campus as a professor but at a smaller university than Texas.

Kelly said she’s not surprised by Lachappelle’s goal of teaching and thinks her personality lends to a career like that.

“Honestly, I think that Sharis has been given qualities that are trending much more toward people,” Kelly said. “She needs to be giving back to the community, and I think if she was to become a professor, I think that would be wonderfully suited for her.”

Texas has only one game remaining in regular season play, and as the Longhorns move toward tournament play, Lachappelle’s personality and leadership ability will be key for the Longhorns to make a deep run. For Lachappelle, each day is a teaching moment, and the team still remembers the hard lesson of missing the NCAA tournament last season. 

10 things you didn’t know about regent appointees Ernest Aliseda, Jeff Hildebrand

This morning, the Senate Committee of Nominations will have a public hearing to confirm UT System Board of Regent appointees Ernest Aliseda and Jeff Hildebrand.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry made the appointments in February, but they’ve been waiting to be confirmed by the Senate before they can begin serving. Perry also reappointed Paul Foster, who will also appear before the committee this morning.

If confirmed, Aliseda and Hilderbrand would replace outgoing regents James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary. Their terms expired in February.

The appointments come at a controversial time for the board. The regents have been accused of micromanaging the University of Texas and UT President William Powers Jr. Several bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature in relation to limiting the board’s power. One of these bills is sitting on the governor’s desk, awaiting a signature or a veto.

The hearing starts at 8 a.m., and The Daily Texan will be covering it. Follow Jody Serrano at @jodyserrano on Twitter for live-updates, and check back at the Texan later in the day. But, in the meantime, here are ten things you probably didn’t know about Ernest Aliseda and Jeff Hildebrand:

Aliseda:

1). Aliseda received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. He does not have a degree from a University of Texas system.

2). Aliseda is an assistant municipal judge in McAllen, and a managing attorney at Loya Insurance Group. He has previously served as a judge in Hidalgo County. In 2009, he got the Ethics Award from the Hidalgo County Bar Association. At the time, the Texas House honored him with a resolution.

3).  Aliseda has donated significantly less to Perry’s campaigns than his fellow appointees. According to The Dallas Morning News, he has given just $1,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in the past 13 years.

4). Aliseda is not the only member of his family to be involved in public service. His wife is a member of McAllen’s school board.

5). Aliseda told The Daily Texan in February that if appointed to the board, he would look forward to helping the possible merging of the UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville campuses into a single university.

Hildebrand:

6). Hildebrand is one of the richest businessmen in Texas. Forbes magazine reports that he has a net worth of $5.5 billion. He is ranked 219 on a list titled “The World’s Billionaires”, and according to Forbes he is the 59th richest American.

7).  Hildebrand is the chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company, an oil and gas production company in Houston.

8). Hildebrand got his bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Texas. He is the only nominee that graduated from a UT System university.

9). Hildebrand has already worked with the University. He is a member of the UT System’s Task Force on Engineering Education and he is on the UT Engineering Advisory Board.

10).  According to The Dallas Morning News, Hildebrand has given more than $300,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in the past 13 years.

A&M Legislative Relations Ambassador Clayton Williford discusses the importance of state funding for higher education during Flagship Legislative Day at the Texas Capital building Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Students from UT, Texas A&M University, Texas State University, Texas Tech University and the University of Houston united at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to lobby for higher education funding.

The University’s student-run Invest in Texas campaign hosted Flagship Legislative Day for students from the institutions to meet with key legislators and discuss the importance of state funding for higher education. 

“At the beginning of summer, we were looking at how we could make Invest In Texas stronger,” Michael Morton, campaign co-director and Senate of College Councils president, said. “We talked about strategic partnerships with different universities to show the combined effort for higher education, and we wanted to get the flagships involved and show that student leaders across the state are very concerned about this.”

The university representatives were divided into five groups, including one student representative from each university. Throughout the day, each student met with representatives from six legislative offices and discussed how his university would impact the state of Texas. 

UT’s finance junior Nancy Bonds brought up the point that for every $1 the state invests in the University, $18 is generated in the Texas economy.

“We are in a bad budget situation in this legislative session and that makes it a little more desirable to put money back into higher education,” Morton said.

Zachary Haber, a student representative for Texas Tech University, spoke to representatives about the large number of students going to out-of-state schools, raising an issue for the Texas economy. 

“Ultimately, the points we brought up today were valid and need to be discussed at the Capitol,” Haber said. “The representatives were very responsive and overall, we had very positive feedback from all of them.”

Allison Sibley, the Texas State University student body vice president, said even though she was exhausted after walking around the Capitol all day, she was grateful the representatives were willing to take time out of their legislative work and listen to the students.

“As far as Texas State goes, it was very beneficial,” Sibley said. “It was an honor that UT asked us to join them in the Flagship Day, and I do think it is great to be a cohesive body for higher education.”

Published on February 13, 2013 as "Texas universities unite for education funding". 

Redshirt junior Maren Taylor and the rest of the Longhorn divers will travel to the University of Houston to compete in the Phill Hansel Cougar Classic Invitational Thursday through Saturday. They will be taking part in all three diving events (1M, 3M and platform).

“It will be great for the team to get used to the University of Houston pool where we’ll have the NCAA Zone Diving Meet in March,” UT diving coach Matt Scoggin said. “Being able to dive at the facility of the NCAA Zone meet is one of the main reasons we’re going there ... A number of the schools competing in that Zone meet will be in Houston this weekend, so this will be a really good competition.”

Last week after the trip to California, Taylor earned her third career Big 12 Women’s Diver of the Week. She won five of her six events in the meets against Indiana, Michigan, Cal and Stanford.

As for other divers, senior Diana Wilcox’s first-place finish in the 3M at Stanford two weekends ago proved crucial to the Longhorns’ three-point victory. Freshman Meghan Houston and redshirt senior Shelby Cullinan have also had a successful year, making them divers to watch.

Enrollment at public universities is increasing across Texas, not just at UT-Austin.

Texas A&M University, the University of North Texas, Texas State University, Texas Tech University and the University of Houston all saw increased enrollments this year. This is the 15th consecutive year Texas State’s and the fourth consecutive year Texas Tech’s enrollments have increased.

Texas Tech admissions director Ethan Logan said the downturn in the national economy has contributed to statewide increased enrollment, among other factors.

“Generally, when you have a downturn in the economy you have an upturn in enrollment,” Logan said. “The economy starts to depress, and there are a lot of folks who want to go to college to improve the opportunity to get a job and make a good wage.”

UT-Austin admitted 8,092 first-year students this fall, which is a 13.2-percent increase from last year and its largest in history. UT’s total enrollment is the second largest in the school’s history at 52,213.

The University did not plan to admit so many students this year. Every year, the University offers admissions assuming that some students will decline admissions offers. More students than anticipated accepted admission offers.

While UT faced problems with its increased enrollment, including housing issues, other institutions were expecting or working for their increase.

Texas A&M’s total enrollment has reached more than 50,000. This is the first time A&M has passed the 50,000-student milestone.

In an email, Texas A&M spokesperson Jason Cook said the large student body has not caused the university any problems.

“University officials here anticipated the increases and planned accordingly, so the effects of the larger student body have been manageable,” Cook said.

Fall 2012 marked the 15th consecutive year Texas State has set a new record for its enrollment. Total enrollment was at 34,229, up from 34,113 last year. Texas State saw its second largest incoming freshman class at 4,251 students.

Texas Tech has also seen a steady increase in its enrollment figures for multiple years. This is the fourth consecutive year of increased enrollment. Logan said Tech has been working on increasing its enrollment since 2008. He said the university’s goal is to reach 40,000 students by 2020.

Logan said the increase is designed to be gradual so that Texas Tech’s resources are not taxed.

“At this point we have not reached a critical increase that has challenged the resources of our institution,” Logan said. “We are trying to be conservative in the effort in growing the enrollment.”

He said the university is responding to the steady increase with new resources. For example, Texas Tech opened a new residential hall this year.

University of North Texas saw a 9.2-percent increase in its first-year enrollment to 4,444 students.

The University of Houston also saw an increase in its total enrollment but a decrease in first-year students.

Despite enrollment increases in many Texas universities, the U.S. Department of Education released a report Tuesday that found the number of undergraduates in the country dropped from 18.65 million students in 2010 to 18.62 million students in 2011.

Printed on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 as: Enrollment increases across Texas

Tier 1 university money

Amid a torrent of grim news for higher education during the past legislative session, state lawmakers affirmed their commitment to creating more tier one research universities in Texas.

The Texas Research Initiative Program, created in 2009, seeks to encourage private donations to certain “emerging research universities” — the University of North Texas, the University of Houston, Texas Tech, UT-Dallas, UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso and UT-Arlington — across the state by matching private donations to research programs with state money. The Legislature allocates money to the fund, which is then used to match qualifying donations. To date, the state has matched almost $50 million.

Texas Tech and UT-Dallas have received the most from the fund, and the University of Houston has not been far behind, according to The Texas Tribune.

State lawmakers rightly kept this fund solvent during the recent budget debate. Original budget drafts did not refill the fund, but the final version allocated almost $34 million to new donations made from 2012-13. Only three Texas universities, UT, Rice and Texas A&M, are recognized as tier one research campuses today. California boasts 12 such universities.

The Texas Research Initiative Program has been successful in promoting a public-private partnership to build Texas’ national research presence. The money used from the fund will help these emerging universities build their research operations, stimulate the Texas economy and prepare more Texans for the future.

Scandals and disqualifications shook student government elections in colleges across the state this year, raising questions about the students overseeing the elections and the rules governing the process.

Although the intricate cases varied at each institution, the problems and complaints in student government elections are a familiar scene.

Four student government presidential candidates were disqualified by their respective election authorities at the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Houston for misrepresentation, financial discrepancies and voter fraud, among other reasons. In light of the complications, all three institutions have announced plans to review the election rules and regulations to avoid future problems.

John Claybrook, Student Government Association president at Texas A&M, said he wants to work with the election commission, the student organization overseeing the election, to make the rules are as clear as they can be and coordinate them with student government rules and regulations.

Claybook was disqualified for allegedly misrepresenting the cost of his website and not reporting tax and shipping costs in his total campaign expenses, although he was later reinstated.

“I think as a culture we are being taught to value the final product of our work in regards to campaigns,” Claybrook said. “Candidates might be valuing victory more than we value how we get there.”

Claybrook’s contender, Thomas McNutt, also faced problems this year for misrepresenting the cost of his website, but was not disqualified.

UT is the only institution thus far that will now require legal review of election procedures and other SG governing documents to ensure the rules are compliant with state and federal laws. This change came after former candidate Madison Gardner filed a lawsuit against UT claiming election rules violated his First Amendment constitutional right to association. In the lawsuit, Gardner contested the association clause in the election code, which states candidates are prohibited from associating with candidates from another campaign.

UT suspended the rule in question and reinstated Gardner, who dropped the suit in direct response. Gardner’s case marks the second time UT has been taken to court due to claims that the election code violated constitutional rights.

UTSG presidential candidate Yaman Desai was also disqualified after telling a supporter to impersonate an election official to gain information on Gardner’s campaign.

Although Texas A&M did not face any legal challenges, Claybrook said he wants to have A&M’s general counsel look over election rules to be safe.

Soncia Reagins-Lilly, UT dean of students, said on March 30 that it was important to review these documents to clarify the rules and make sure the University does not face another lawsuit in the future.

“It’s important to have these governing documents reviewed by UT legal or a designated legal office,” Reagins-Lilly said then. “It’s a great responsibility to sit with all those documents and make sure we’re all satisfied.”

At the University of Houston, the school’s Election Commission disqualified president-elect Michael McHugh after they found him guilty of committing voter fraud. The commission charged McHugh and two members of his team with obtaining student identification numbers under false pretenses and using the numbers to vote for themselves in the elections. McHugh hired Jolanda Jones, an attorney and former city council member, to fight for his reinstatement, but lost the case.

McHugh said each college has the right to establish a disqualification clause, but with such rules comes great responsibility. He said he advises universities to be very careful when incorporating such clauses in their election codes.

“By including a disqualification clause in the election code, students focus too much of their time on trying to remove their competitors from the ballot and spreading hearsay rumors to justify their claims rather than focusing on their own campaign and winning the right way,” McHugh said.

Taylor Kilroy, a member of the election reform task force at the University of Houston, said he spoke to legal representatives for UH about reviewing the student government association’s election rules and other governing documents but was unsure on whether they will be reviewed by next year’s elections. Kilroy said UH is working on making the election code more succinct and implement a system that includes password protection in order to vote.

He said UH already passed legislation to ensure the students who oversee the elections only handle election offenses and not disciplinary action.

W.H. “Butch” Oxendine, executive director of the American Student Government Association, said it is common to see candidate disqualifications in the approximately 5,000 student government associations around the country. He said there should be a fine or another punishment instead of disqualification.

Oxendine said disqualifying candidates causes great harm to the reputation of a student government organization and leads students to lose faith in the organizations, which leads to low voter turnout and involvement. He pointed out a case at Florida International University, where candidate scandals and disqualifications caused the student court to recall the results and hold the elections again.

“The general student body doesn’t care about student government,” Oxendine said. “When you see these kind of shenanigans, you think of kids playing government again instead of [focusing on] what is SG doing for us.”

UT Student Government is not the only student representative body facing delays in its 2012 presidential and vice presidential elections. As of Wednesday, students at the University of Houston became familiar with a term UT has been acquainted with — disqualification.

Michael McHugh, University of Houston Student Government Association president-elect, and running mate Mohammed Aijaz were disqualified by the UH Election Commission when the commission found members associated with their campaign guilty of voter fraud. According to the UH Election Code, candidates may be held responsible for the activities of their supporters who are in violations of the code.

McHugh and Aijaz were elected in a run-off election on March 7 over opposing candidates Cedric Bandoh and Turner Harris.

Election Commission representatives said a number of students filed complaints with the commission claiming Brandon Balwant and Lazami Ramana, natural sciences and mathematics representative-elects, solicited student voting information under the pretense of filing a petition to change faucets in the M.D. Anderson Library, according to the school’s newspaper The Daily Cougar.

Arsalan Razakazi, UH chief election commission, told The Daily Cougar Balwant and Lazami asked for students first and last names, student ID numbers, birthdays, classifications and the college they were enrolled in. All of this information is required to vote in the election and the McHugh-Aijaz party is the party who benefitted from the fraudulent voting.

UH Student Government Association currently operates under a ticket or party system, in which candidates are allowed to endorse one another and run under a banner or name. UTSG outlawed candidate associations in 2008, defining an association as any official campaign title or name used by a candidate to signify an alliance.

Yesenia Chavez, a senator-elect and member of the McHugh-Aijaz party, said she was shocked when she heard about McHugh and Aijaz’s disqualification and felt it was unfair to disqualify the candidates because of the actions of someone associated with them. She said she felt the decision may have been biased because members of the Election Commision were appointed by the current SGA president and vice president, who support McHugh’s opponents. Chavez said McHugh and Aijaz have appealed the decision to the SGA judiciary branch.

“I’m not saying the guys running the Election Commission aren’t good guys,” Chavez said. “I just don’t think a student should be running the [election]. Some type of bias is always bound to happen.”

In regards to whether McHugh could possibly sue the school if he is not reinstated, Chavez said she felt he would because of the hard work he put into the campaign.