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Rudley, Cabinet address staff concerns during forum

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At the onset of the 2007 University of Houston Staff Council Fall Forum, President John Rudley discussed plans for creating a more pedestrian-friendly campus, including a proposal to close a portion of Cullen Boulevard that runs through campus.

He also shared an observation with the staff in attendance at the M.D. Anderson Library’s Rockwell Pavilion.

“The Cougar football team is just great,” he said to much applause. “I want to congratulate Athletics Director Dave Maggard, Coach Art Briles and the team for putting UH back where it belongs – as a powerhouse in Conference USA.”

Following these kudos, Rudley and his cabinet answered questions regarding issues such as raises, staff tuition scholarships, the campus framework plan and the Metro light rail route that would be linked to the campus.

On the topic of creating a campus with less traffic, Rudley said closing a portion of Cullen Boulevard that runs through campus would have a positive impact.

“A Tier 1 institution should not have a highway running through it,” he said. “If Cullen was closed, the campus would have a beautiful promenade with benches, trees and, perhaps, a fountain.”

Rudley said about 12,000 vehicles pass through this area of Cullen Boulevard, and UH is discussing this proposed closure with Houston Mayor Bill White.

Regarding raises, Rudley was asked whether guidelines could be developed to ensure that staff members with favorable performance reviews receive merit increases. He responded that the university’s performance review program, the Performance Communication and Development (PCD), is designed to recognize staff members who go above and beyond the call of duty, and those charged with conducting the reviews should be fair in their evaluations.

“The university embraced this performance review system to provide appropriate compensation for those who work the hardest,” Rudley said. “Supervisors have undergone training regarding conducting PCD and should understand that the process must have equity.”

One question focused on the status of the staff tuition scholarships, and Jim McShan, interim vice president for administration and finance, was on hand to offer an update. He said 364 scholarships were awarded during the 2007 fiscal year. This fall, 123 scholarships have been awarded. Staff members can receive scholarships of $1,200 to apply to classes on campus during fall, spring or summer semester.

Dave Irvin, associate vice president for plant operations, addressed a question requesting an update on the campus framework plan. He cited several projects integral to this plan that are already in progress including the planning and construction of the Calhoun Lofts, Michael J. Cemo Hall, landscaping along Calhoun Road and a potential project with the city of Houston to build a park at Calhoun Road and Wheeler Avenue.

Irvin also addressed the planned Metro light rail route that would lead to the university. He UH will work with Metro as the route is fully developed. The safety of faculty, staff and students is taking precedent as these plans continue to evolve.

“Once the route starts to actually materialize, we consult with Metro to ensure the safety of our campus community during the construction process, and once it is completed,” he said. “Metro is aware of our concerns, and we’ll continue to communicate and work with them.”