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McRaven's Folly: UT Backs Out of Plan to Build Houston Campus

University of Texas Chancellor William H. McRaven as an admiral in the U.S. Navy.
University of Texas Chancellor William H. McRaven as an admiral in the U.S. Navy.

Leave it to an old sailor to recognize a sinking ship.

After getting crosswise with many residents and lawmakers in Houston, the University of Texas on Wednesday scrapped plans to build a campus here, the flagship school announced.

UT Chancellor William H. McRaven did not appear to realize he would upset state legislators and start a turf war with the University of Houston with the plan, but was forthcoming about where the blame for the land grab should lie.

"I accept full responsibility for the lack of progress on this initiative," McRaven said in a statement. "I also offer my deepest apology to those members of the Houston Task Force who selflessly dedicated countless hours to develop a bold vision for the future of UT's investment in Houston."

When UT bought 332 acres of land in northwest Houston, many here were flummoxed over why the state's flagship university was seeking to enlarge its footprint, with the public University of Houston nearby. McRaven had hoped to build an "intellectual hub" for various UT institutions on the property, according to the Houston Chronicle.

University of Houston regents worried a UT expansion would drain UH of research grants, talent and prestige. Legislators from Houston and elsewhere in Texas were upset McRaven never told them about UT's plans for an expansion in the Bayou City, the Texas Tribune reported.

Senator Boris Miles echoed that sentiment in a statement Wednesday afternoon:

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"My greatest concern regarding the UT land deal has always been about the nontransparent method by which the land was acquired and by the system's inconsistent explanations for how the land was to be used," Miles said.

University of Houston regent Tilman Fertitta, who once wondered if UT had actually broken the law by purchasing the land, welcomed McRaven's announcement that UT is not expanding to Houston.

"The University of Houston is pleased that UT is not expanding in Houston," Fertitta said in a statement. "This was a group effort by elected leaders, our Board of Regents, our administration and supporters to stand our ground against an unnecessary duplication of resources that didn't align with the state's plan for higher education."

McRaven said he has directed the UT real estate office to sell the land.

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