High-tech bling should go
During the last legislative session, the Texas legislature cut higher education student financial aid by 15 percent, and according to the Austin-American Statesman, voted on funding cuts totaling more than a billion dollars.
Bearing this in mind, and with the knowledge that all state universities must tighten their belts, it is interesting to note the eight large screen televisions placed in Farish Hall that serve no visible purpose other than advertising.
These screens resemble pedestrian versions of the highway information signs designating travel times to the interstate, Amber Alerts, hurricane evacuation routes and the vehicle descriptions of forgetful elderly people that get on the freeway and don’t exit until the interstate ends in Canada or Mexico.
Since none of these would appear to be happening in or near Farish Hall, it occurred to me that these screens might be needed as directional markers for the hordes of students in the College of Education, but the building is relatively small by UH standards and the fact that it is circular would rule that out too. Well, at least it is expected that these future educators can navigate a circle.
Another purpose of these mystery screens dawned on me when I remembered covering the Faculty Senate meetings in Farish Hall. A brief vision of tottering tenured faculty heading to the library or for research and becoming lost in Farish Hall doomed to wander for eternity in a circle crossed my mind.
Then I remembered that tenured faculty are some of the few that actually still have a confirmed spot on campus to park — they would drive to the library.
Maybe the screens themselves could provide the answer. After watching several random messages appear extolling, in true Orwellian fashion, the virtues of technology, the pride to be gained from attending UH and the College of Education and not to forget Cougar Red Fridays, a command to “like” the school on its Facebook page finally appeared. And so the enigma of these screens finally unraveled.
These screens must be part of the University’s Tier One Efforts. Any non-UH faculty or administrator we take through our school of education could not hesitate to be impressed with our progressive use of technology and impressive screens.
However, hanging multiple enormous flat screens projecting messages to “like” the school on Facebook is not only a waste of money, but also an enormous waste of electricity.
As UH continues to grow in both population and reputation, proper and responsible infrastructure implementation is critical to sustaining the growth.
At a time of severe economic and budgetary crisis at the national, state, and, most critically, the household level, there should be procedural oversight of such expenditures.
Installing random pieces of high-tech bling should remain at the discretion of each college, but it should be done with the needs of the larger University in mind.
These purchases should also be reviewed outside the college and compared to the needs of the other areas of our campus.
As much as the efforts for Tier One are to be applauded, it should be remembered that wasteful, extravagant and superficial efforts like these are more likely to be effective if the viewer doesn’t have to park at another university campus or can actually find toilet paper if they choose to use the restroom while on campus.
Stop by Farish hall and check out the screens. Maybe they will start providing useful information — then at least they will serve a purpose.
Jeb Schneider is a print journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected].