August 17, 2022
Welcome back! I hope you had a restful and enjoyable summer. We are beginning yet another new year with renewed hope and excitement for our students. Campus housing is full, and more than 8,000 undergraduate students are expected to arrive on campus for the first time. Additionally, many of the sophomores and juniors who began their studies at UH in 2020 and 2021 may also be coming to campus for the first time.
It is incumbent upon us to provide all of our students — and especially those new to campus life — with opportunities to achieve their maximum potential and complete their academic journey with pride and confidence. Each one of us plays a part, big or small, in their overall learning and experience. I look forward to seeing an engaged community of learners and researchers as we reshape our campus in these post-pandemic years.
Here are a few important updates for you.
FY 2022-23 Budget
We will be presenting the FY 2022-23 budget to the UH System Board of Regents at its quarterly meeting on Aug. 25. The budget is prepared against the backdrop of high inflation, a tight talent market and lingering pandemic fatigue, as reported nationally. The process was particularly challenging because our enrollment has been flat for two years, which means there has been no new revenue. Nonetheless, we started the process with a few goals in mind. First, investing in our faculty and staff is our top priority. Secondly, we will avoid any university-wide budget cuts to fund this and other priorities. Finally, we will start the implementation of the strategic plan, even if in a modest way. You may review the full budget when it is posted for the Board, but here are the highlights:
Priority One: Invest in faculty and staff (3.8% pool distributed as following):
- Market equity for those staff categories where the external market has shifted significantly, in some cases as much as 25%. These salary adjustment were centrally distributed.
- Minimum wage increase from $11 to $13. Centrally distributed.
- Promotions to newly tenured and promoted faculty. Centrally funded through Provost's Office.
- Additional 2% pool of the salary pool for faculty and staff merit. Given to units for distribution.
Priority Two: New Faculty and Staff Lines
In light of our priority to invest in existing talent, we have put a pause on any initiatives to hire new faculty and staff positions, including Presidential Frontier Faculty. The following positions will be available for filling:
- Aspire faculty positions where endowment has been fully funded. Centrally funded.
- Staff positions that are required to meet federal and state compliance laws. Centrally funded.
- Replacement searches for vacant positions. Unit funded.
Priority Three: Strategic Plan Implementation
A fund of $5.6M has been set aside to fund priority items that offer maximum impact.
Priority Four: Compliance with Federal and State Law
In order to fully comply with new federal or state laws, we need to upgrade our data and training tools.
New Faculty and Staff on Campus
Over 120 faculty and 400 staff (hired since March) are new to the campus. Staff hiring is strong. In fact, we are hiring at the same or higher levels than the pre-pandemic years. While we still have many vacant positions to fill, data from UH human resources indicates that our efforts to invest in our staff are yielding positive results. The external talent market is still highly competitive, and I challenge units to re-imagine and re-engineer existing processes and formats to maximize productivity while retaining talent. If you have ideas about how we can help you function better and faster, within the confines of federal and state laws, please suggest it to me or your vice president. Please know that we value your service and commitment.
Construction and Renovation Projects
We are opening two new buildings this fall – the new home of the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine and the John M. O'Quinn Law building as the new home of the UH Law Center. The completion of Hilton's new tower is expected by December. Among the new projects to come this year are: (1) an Innovation Hub in the heart of the UH campus, (2) A new academic building at UH at Sugar Land, (3) a research building in the Texas Medical Center, and (4) the Football Operations Center. The renovation of classrooms, core facilities and the campus lighting project will continue as planned. Please know that construction/renovation projects are funded either by donor funds or by designated state funds and can only be used for these projects.
According to the latest estimates, the state budget is healthy and the economy is doing well. As we prepare for the next legislative session in early 2023, we will be asking for additional funds to support our goal of making UH a Top 50 public university. We will also be requesting an increase in formula funding, noting that UH did not increase tuition even though universities, just like every other sector, are under severe inflationary pressure. We will share our specific priorities in coming months.
Please welcome Dr. Robert McPherson as your Interim Provost while we search for a permanent replacement. The Provost Search Committee, chaired by Drs. Ramanan Krishnamoorti and Cathy Horn, continues to work hard to create a diverse and talented pool of candidates. The search for the dean of the Honors College is also underway and finalists are expected on campus this fall.
New Year, New Season
The football season will kick off in San Antonio on Saturday, Sept. 3, against UTSA. This is our last season playing in the American Athletic Conference. We reached an agreement with the conference to leave at the end of June 2023. Both football and basketball teams are ranked in national pre-season polls. I hope you have your season tickets to enjoy Cougar games.
Finally, please know that we are monitoring both COVID and monkeypox. Please refer to the University home page for the latest information and guidelines. I also request you to mark your calendar with the 2022 Fall Address on Oct. 12, an invitation will follow. I look forward to coming together to celebrate our collective achievements. Thank you again for your work and dedication.