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Letters to the University Community June Update 2010

Dear Faculty and Staff:

The Academic Year has come to an end. Thanks to you, we have made tremendous progress. We produced a record number of graduates and received a record amount of research contracts and grants. We recruited top notch faculty members, including multiple members of the National Academies, and we raised a higher than average amount of privately donated funds despite the bad economy. We increased alumni engagement to its highest point to date and our Cougar football team was ranked as high as Number 12 in the national polls. As you take a well-deserved breather this summer, please know that we value your commitment, dedication and service to our university and to the Greater Houston area through UH.

Faculty-Staff Salary Raise: In its May meeting, the Board of Regents approved a 3 percent salary increase pool for the faculty and staff. All raises, according to the board, will be based on merit/productivity with a full report back to the board. Provost Antel and Executive Vice President Carlucci are working with governance leaders and deans to distribute the raise pool.

Budget Reduction: Two weeks ago, the Governor's Office informed us that the submitted 5 percent budget reduction plan is being executed. This means that we now have $15 million less in our budget than expected. This year's reduction, in part, has come from the one-day furlough that all of us are taking; however, next year's reduction will have to be more lasting in nature because the reduction is permanent. The State's budget woes, which prompted the mandated budget cuts, are tied directly to state sales tax revenue, one of Texas's primary sources of funding. Sales tax revenues in Texas have been down substantially from previous years reflecting the overall recession, leading some to predict that additional budget cuts are possible.

On Track to Tier One: We are focused on getting UH listed in one of the two national organizations that evaluate universities based on their national competitiveness-(1) The Center for University Performance that publishes an annual report called Top American Research Universities (TARU), and (2) Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching that publishes a report once every 2-3 years. The 2010 TARU report published last month included UH in its reporting (Texas' other Emerging Research Universities failed to meet the minimum criterion for inclusion in the report under any tier). In 2008, UH had one of the 9 measures ranked in the top 50; this year in 2010, we have three measures ranked in the top 50. Congratulations to you all!

METRO: METRO has started moving the utilities in preparation for construction of the Southeast Light Rail Line along Wheeler Ave. Although we have not resolved all our METRO issues, we are looking forward to working with the organization's new board members. Five METRO Board members have visited the UH campus to meet with administration leadership and to participate in our community meeting. Almost 200 faculty, staff and students attended the community meeting and shared their concerns with METRO and City of Houston officials.

Renovation and Construction: Nearly 2 million square feet of space is either under planning/design or construction at UH! If you are wondering why we are building instead of putting these funds directly into academics, please know that construction funds come from sources that cannot be used for purposes other than construction (bonds, building donations, tuition revenue bonds, capital funds). Cougar Village, the new undergraduate residential facility along Wheeler Ave., will open this August bringing our residential student population to 6,300! A $12.5 million renovated Hilton now adorns the campus. A feasibility study is under way by UH Athletics to finalize the site and design of new/renovated stadiums for football and basketball. Please visit the construction website for details on all our projects and their timelines for completion.

Cougar Red Goes Green: The University of Houston is the only area university and one of only three Texas universities that made the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges. Many thanks for making this a priority!

Athletics: The best news about Athletics is that our student athletes are setting records in the classroom. They have scored higher-than-ever GPAs in this year's NCAA report. Their graduation rate is improving, and their retention rate is competitive. We also have two new basketball coaches: James Dickey at the helm of men's basketball and Todd Buchanan leading women's basketball. We have great hopes for both teams, and we are here to support our student athletes reach national heights! If you have an interest in athletics, you are probably hearing the same national chatter I am about the BCS conference realignment. Speculation abounds but that's all it is - pure speculation. Our goal is simple and clear: we want to build a nationally competitive athletics programs, both in the classroom and on the field/court. It is important that we stay focused on building our academic, athletic and media positions to be competitive in any setting and under any scenario.

Research: I had sent an earlier update on the Office of Research. I am in the process of securing a firm to conduct the search for the VP for Research and Technology Transfer. In the coming months, the provost, who is chairing the search, will announce the details.

UH System: The UH System (UHS) has two missions: providing access and being nationally competitive. Consistent with the first mission, UHS has begun to reach out to the previously under-served areas in the Northwest (UH and UHD), Pearland (UHCL) and Cinco Ranch (UHV). Consistent with the second mission of building a nationally competitive university (Tier One), UH is refocusing its attention on increased research, improved graduation rates, expanded graduate population, and enhanced quality of the student body at every level while maintaining our highly valued diversity. New academic master plans developed by our four UHS universities complement one another to fulfill the System missions while also achieving their maximum potential as individual institutions.

Thank you again for your support and hard work. Take some time off this summer to rejuvenate yourself.

Wishing you all the best,

Renu Khator