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Sunday, October 1, 2023


POINT/COUNTERPOINT: University centered?

University Center needs major upgrades to help promote school

Blake Gilson

While you are out voting in the election, do not forget to plan to vote on the student referendum on Nov. 18 and 19 to improve the University Center. This referendum matters. Unlike a process that nullifies the minority vote, as we live in a "red" state, every vote matters in this election, and we need to speak up.

The referendum gives UH students influence their our UC fees. While our increasing fees can be burdensome and sometimes our fees are outright ridiculous – being forced to pay a general building maintenance fee for a study-abroad course is surely ridiculous – improving the University Center is something we should all get behind.

The UC transition process is a bold move that should be embraced by students aiming to bring UH to flagship status. The UC is the University’s gateway. Cougar Preview and Orientation both center their base of operation at the UC. Giving tours to perspective students is not complete unless the UC and the UC Underground are visited. A new improved UC can be the hallmark of UH’s continuing push toward bringing more students to live on campus and a move to better campus life.

Some might object that they do not visit the UC, thus they do not want to increase their UC fee. But this objection misses the major thrust of the initiative, which is to improve the UC and make it more appealing for students. The issue is not whether you like the UC now, but if an improved UC would be worth your money.

While I’m naturally inclined to be skeptical of organizations that don’t have a profit or loss test, and organizations that I can’t switch my customer habits if service declines, the UC has remained in remarkably good shape despite a structural tendency toward bureaucracy. The UC has remained clean, the staff is helpful and customer feedback seems to be a big part.

The UC Concept Survey was e-mailed to students on Oct. 16, and presented four prospective options. They ranged from improving just the internals of the UC to creating a new building. It is great to see 70 percent of UH students are very likely or somewhat likely to support the UC Transformation Project.

What was disheartening was to see the highest negative percentage was for option D, a completely redesigned and new building. The major objection to option D was the cost. The fee at opening for option D would be $205, with a vast improvement of the current building. Option C was the clear favorite, with a fee at opening of $160.

The idea that $205 is too costly, while $160 is fine, seems to display a problem of rational decision making. When evaluating the different options, it is critical to weigh only the marginal benefits against the marginal costs. The only way to reject option D is to argue that the $45 difference is not worth the marginal differences in the plans.

Put this way, the student who picked option C would be turning down a completely redesigned building for $45 a semester at opening. $45 for a completely new building while we get to keep the current UC building is a no brainer; it’s a great plan.

Get out and vote yes for a new improved UC.

Gilson, a business sophomore, can be reached via [email protected]

Renovations should be put on the backburner until other updates are made

Abdul Khan

The University Center proposal is interesting. It would be nice to be the ones to create a new building for future Cougars, and the most popular option does seem to be the one that utilizes the current space. The upgrades look attractive and inviting, but really, how much are cosmetic changes going to improve this University? There are things we would be much better off with. We have been building new structures around for a while. You can look out the back of the current UC, and off to the right, you will see our new residences being built. A lab just went up a couple years back. The parking garage has not been around very long, either.

There are fundamental problems with Cullen Boulevard that need to be addressed. Those problems are larger than cosmetic. .

There is a problem with the sewage system. It is not uncommon to be in certain buildings going about your day trying to ignore the smell..

The lab mentioned above is empty and un-utilized. It was a pretty penny to build it, but then what? Was it built for the sake of being built? Was the publicity and praise surrounding the construction worth that much? Why not just give the money to a public relations firm and just let them advertise if that is all we wanted the building for?

There are more minor issues around campus that could begin the process of renovation more appropriately. We are in a big financial wreck now. The UC project is indexed for inflation around 15 to 20 percent. I’m not sure if that shows confidence in being able to overestimate the cost or uncertainty in the market.

Now would be a great time to work out all the little kinks around here. There are real and serious problems that could be addressed. We could spend our money and time conservatively while we wait for better financial times. A good deal of the square footage in the UC proposal is devoted to retail space. Retail space is leased by those looking for profit. The University does benefit some, but we are not in a boom time for our economy. Why not take a step back from trying to always improve how people see us, and invest wisely and conservatively?

Now is a good time to examine our endowment and investments. There is a potential to prosper despite the economic downturn, but that will take focus on the money itself. Throwing it out right now is absolutely doable, just maybe, but not too prudent. My uncle always used to tell me you can’t polish a turd. And given the fact that one building in particular that carries a raw sewage smell is directly next to the UC, it kind of seems like we are trying to polish one.

The UC can wait. We have been here for seven decades, and we will continue producing Cougars in the future, but just like many citizens are having to move to smaller homes, drive less and maybe even give up their new cars and buy used. Maybe it’s time for us to slow down the, "spend, baby spend!" chants.

Khan, a political science and history junior, can be reached via [email protected]

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