Board Chair Hermes Addresses Spring Faculty Assembly

March 22, 2007

The University of Houston Spring Faculty Assembly usually features a dialogue between UH professors and the university’s president. This year, Leroy Hermes, chair of the UH System Board of Regents, stepped in for UH President Jay Gogue, who is expected to be named the president of Auburn University.

The assembly, held during the UH Faculty Senate meeting, allowed Hermes to discuss Gogue’s likely departure and what that means for the university.

“We hate to see him go,” Hermes said. “He’s been a great president. He’s being honored by his alma mater, and we should be proud of him for that. We’d love to keep him here because he’s been second-to-none.”

Hermes complimented Gogue for his vision for UH and said the university would not lose sight of the many ongoing projects that began under his guidance, particularly the university’s master plan.

“I think that this plan will change the culture of this campus in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said. “What I see in this master plan is something that make the university into a community where people live, work and go to school. It will take UH to new levels of maturity in terms of academics and how the institution is perceived by the community.”

During the next board meeting on April 3, UH System regents would begin discussions on hiring a consultant to assist with a search for a new UH president and UHS chancellor, Hermes said.

“It is possible to have someone in place by January 2008,” Hermes said. “If we’re fortunate, we can have someone in this position sooner than that.”

Hermes also discussed the state legislative session and said he and fellow regent Morgan Dunn O’Connor, and Grover Campbell, UH System vice chancellor and UH vice president for governmental relations have been traveling to Austin frequently to meet with legislators. He said that he is very optimistic about the Legislature’s attention to higher education during this particular session.

“I believe that during this session we will see a significant amount of state funding focused on higher education,” he said.

Hermes also discussed a methodology developed by state universities’ board chairs to address tuition increases. The regents at state universities are required to set tuition rates before the Legislature completes the appropriation process and are unaware of the final funding formula increase to their respective institutions, he said. As a response to this, the board chairs of these state universities have agreed to develop proposed tuition increases on a sliding scale based on the assumption that there would be no funding increase beyond the previous session for the low funding side, which produces the highest tuition rate increase.

Tuition increases, he said, would then be calculated for $50 million increased funding increments up to $350 million, the amount of total formula increase recommended by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to the Legislature. The increase range is $0 to $350 million, with $350 million funding producing the lowest tuition increase.

The increase funding would be divided among the universities based on pro rata student population.

“This tuition range is being presented to members of the legislature to let them know how we are addressing the problem of setting tuition prior to having a final funding determination,” Hermes said.

Hermes closed his appearance at the assembly by saying that he and the board would require the support of the UH community during a search for a new university president and system chancellor. He reminded those in attendance of a comment made by former UH President Philip Hoffman.

“The single most important thing a board can do is select a leader,” Hermes said. “Those were President Hoffman’s parting remarks before leaving UH. I want to assure you that your board intends to honor that statement.”

Mike Emery