Crisis on Cullen Boulevard

Funding is down. Faculty is fleeing. And 50 professors are in semi-open revolt. Is the University of Houston on an irrovocable slide toward mediocrity?

Campbell, who insists the outcome of the last session was indeed a victory, has no apologies for his added take-home pay. "The board reviewed my salary, the chancellor did a months-long [review] and then this last spring I was given a raise," replies the vice chancellor.

Murray finds the system's defense transparent. "They argued that the Legislature changed the funding formula. So why did they change the formula?" he asks. "Because the system didn't make a case for them not to change it. They act as if things happen in Austin because of divine wisdom."

The political scientist puzzles why "we're in the worst position of any school, and we have the weakest lobbying effort. Seems to me it ought to be the reverse. The chiropractors -- they're vulnerable. They have one hell of a lobbying effort because the medical doctors are always trying to screw them. Here we're being screwed and we ought to have one hell of a lobbying effort."

Asked why a school administration and city government with so many of the same interests haven't cooperated more, Campbell is terse. "Well, you'll need to visit with the mayor about that. I'm not going to get into it .... Once we know what it is we're trying to accomplish, then you want to get everybody involved, everybody you can think of: chancellor, alumni, faculty, neighbors, everybody you can think of. Let's not worry so much about the how, as we should concern ourselves about the what."

And perhaps that's the core of the school's current problems. Everybody you talk to seems to have an idea of what they'd like to do to put the university on the right track, but given bureaucratic and budget constraints, nobody seems to know how to get there. By the time they figure it out, there just might not be a first-class university there anymore.

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