VP for student affairs addresses campus issues at discussion
The newly-appointed UH vice chancellor and vice president for student affairs tackled issues concerning residential life, parking and security posed by students in an afternoon roundtable discussion Tuesday in the UC Bluebonnet Room.
About 15 student leaders attended the meeting after receiving personal invitations from J. Richard Walker, who is now three weeks into his term.
Directly following UH President Renu Khator’s Fall Address, Walker opened the session by expounding on the administration’s University Center renovation and expansion plan as well as plans to expand student housing.
The housing plan involves the construction of Cougar Village 2, beginning next May following the demolition and renovation of Cougar Place. The new buildings will increase student rooms from the current 6,000 to 8,000.
The vice president said plans are also in place to improve security in the area, and interviews for a second police chief position are currently underway.
When asked if funding will be reflected in higher student fees and tuition, Walker said there’s no easy answer.
“Our goal is to try and make sure we spend with efficiency,” Walker said, citing the recent cut in state appropriations. “It will be difficult. We have to be cognizant of the ceiling of what students can pay.
“Housing rate and student fee increases are things that we will be looking at to try to do the best we can to keep education affordable for everybody.”
Walker also said the administration is considering the construction of a new Health Center on campus, and the board is open to exploring green energy initiatives to cut costs further.
Concerning the school’s constrained parking and expensive student garage parking passes, Walker said he plans to meet with the director of parking and transportation soon to address student problems.
“Anytime you’re expanding your infrastructure, there’s always a parking issue,” Walker said.
“There are going to be parking growing pains, but in this planning process we need to figure out that if parking is going to be displaced because of construction, then where are these students supposed to park?”
Student Program Board member Amber Mulligan informed Walker of communication issues between student organizations and residents, and Walker took on a personal responsibility to fix the problem.
“I think you will see much more collaboration and partnerships,” Walker said.
“My expectation is that we do not need to be working in silence, we need to be working for the general good of the overall student experience.”
Walker replaced interim Vice President Michael Lawrence on Aug. 17. He plans to have at least two more roundtable discussions this semester and encouraged a free flowing format in which students can openly discuss issues and ideas.
Student Government Association Education Sen. Denise McDougall said the event was a great opportunity.
“I feel it was very positive,” the education junior said.
“We were able to ask any question, and he was very responsive.”
“I think he is very student-oriented, and I feel confident that he will effect change.”
The event was organized by Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs Juanita Jackson, who also provided lunch and beverages to the attendees.
Walker was appreciative of the feedback and participation of the students during the event.
“One of the most exciting components of my job is working with student leaders to create a stronger and more robust campus life and student experience,” Walker said in the invitation extended to student organizations.
“The Division of Student Affairs staff and student leaders must be partners in this process.”