University of Houston Nixes Mandatory Campus Housing Plan From Agenda UPDATED
Updated at the end of this post are some more comments from Sen. Whitmire.
University of Houston officials have suspended their plan requiring freshmen to live on campus after some blowback from Texas Senator John Whitmire.
University officials pulled the proposal from a Board of Regents meeting agenda this week after Whitmire voiced his concern Monday to UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator, the Chron reports.
The proposal called for most freshmen to live on campus beginning in 2015.
Richard Walker, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services, told the Chron last week that "We are doing this because we feel very strongly that it will support our students. One of the main things this is also trying to do for us is to transform the student experience. From campus life to support services, we really wanted to make sure in that first year that they get really grounded in an environment that will allow them to succeed."
But the Chron reported Monday that "Whitmire said the plan represented a conflict of interest, as the university has built numerous dorms and apartments, and is competing with private apartments that also have popped up around campus."
The senator told the Chron that Khator told him the proposal was "not only dead, it wouldn't even be considered."
However, according to a University statement issued Tuesday, "the issue was never listed as an action item, so Regents were not planning a vote on the concept."
The proposal was merely an "information item to discuss" the issue, according to the statement.
Updated 4 p.m.:
Sen. Whitmire told the Press today that, in addition to the cost burden, mandatory housing would disrupt the dynamics of an extremely diverse student population. While the proposal would have offered exceptions for married couples, Whitmire noted that married gay and lesbian couples wouldn't fit the requirement, since such marriages aren't legal in Texas.
Whitmire also added, "I've been told by several undocumented immigrant families that they need their children there -- who happen to be US citizens -- in case one or more of the parents are picked up by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], the kids can continue to support the family."
The senator was also puzzled by the proposal's exemption for students living in their parents' or legal guardians' home if it's within 20 miles of campus.
"The 20-mile trigger mechanism is so arbitrary," Whitmire said. "I represent Baytown. So that means all my Baytown students, as freshmen, would have to reside at U of H. But I have the Heights, [where] they can stay at home. Now, who came up with that nonsense?"
He said the proposal was poorly planned and showed an "apparent lack of understanding by some in the administration of who makes up the U of H student body."
And while Whitmire called UH System Chancellor and President Renu Kator "one of the best things that ever happened to the school," he said that he told her, "You need to look around at who your advisers are."
As for the proposal rearing its head again: "I've been told they're not going to consider it any further, but don't think I won't keep an eye on them."