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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Student Government

Fighting for a change in leadership


The Division of Student Affairs has been wrestling with one of its departments as students and administrators have stood at odds with one another.

After an almost 20-year run at the University, the Urban Experience Program has come under fire. Students in the program have felt that administrators in DSA have left the students to fend for themselves.

Organizational leadership and supervision senior and former Student Government Association senator Naeem Abdullah took to legal recourse within the University to resolve the conflict. Abdullah and former SGA senator Mike Nguyen authored Senate Resolution SGAR50, which was presented to the SGA Student Life Committee. SGAR50 proposed that the UEP be transferred from DSA to the Division of Community Relations and Institutional Access under the baton of Elwyn C. Lee.

“Dr. Lee knows what’s best for the program, and we as students of the program don’t feel as though our current situation is good for the program,” Abdullah said.

Lee used to head the program when he was the vice president of DSA. Abdullah and other students enlisted in the UEP felt that a transfer between divisions was in the best interest of the students. They complained that marketing was cut, that they were accused by administrators of being ineffective and that the evidence provided by the students to demonstrate its effectiveness, including student testimony, was overlooked and denounced. Though UEP still receives funding, its students were told by administrators that they had to provide more data. This data discrepancy has the potential to affect future funding.

Robbie Evans, who was the director of UEP for almost 15 years until her resignation late last semester, addressed the Senate floor and shared her disgruntlement with the state of affairs, calling it an “abomination.”

Political science junior Ja’Terrell Moffett, who has been in the program for almost two years, was a proponent of the transfer to Lee’s division. She felt that after Evans stepped down, the office coordinator should have been appointed as an official interim director because of her experience with dealing with the students and for furthering the vision of the program. The UEP does not have a full-time director, but it does have two part-time interim directors in that leadership position.

“I’ve seen the program flourish, and I’ve seen the program fall, and it’s falling right now,” Moffett said. “The fact that our office coordinator wasn’t appointed for at least half of the interim director position, I feel like that is not working toward trying to better our program, because she knows how to do everything.”

Charles Haston, who headed the SGA Student Life Committee that decided on the SGAR50 in a special session Friday, said that though the UEP provided a useful service to the school, there were some shortfalls in the program’s ability to present administration with accurate data.

“In all fairness … a lot of the data just didn’t add up. You really could get buried in the numbers, and that was something that was really frustrating to see at (the Student Fees Advisory Committee), because we all feel that the Urban Experience Program is an important program to the school,” Haston said. “It serves a lot of students really well, but simultaneously we still need to be able to quantify the results of the program.”

Senate resolution SGAR50 for request to transfer out of the DSA was unanimously denied by the special committee. A joint letter signed by Lee and Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services Richard Walker prompted the special committee’s decision to deny the resolution.

“The University of Houston and the Division of Student Affairs are fully committed to the UEP and have no intention to close the program. The program review and assessment will put us on a path to make it stronger,” the joint letter said. “The University has an unwavering commitment to improve student success, and we share this commitment.”

Smith and several of the SGA senators on the special committee felt that the program should be housed in DSA. Engineering senator Shaun Smith presented another resolution, which would enable administrative oversight that would ensure that students and administrators would work cohesively.

“It’s in (the student body’s) interest since we’ve made that investment in the program — that not only UEP is successful and serves the students, but we also want to make sure that the Division of Student Affairs and administration officials serve us by way of making sure this program is successful as well,” Smith said.

Smith’s resolution, which passed in the SGA meeting Wednesday night, reaffirmed the position that the UEP should remain housed in DSA but with conditions.

It was decided the Student Government Association will task its Student Life Committee Chair, or committee delegate, to conduct a monthly follow-up for the remainder of Fiscal Year 15 with the staff and student members of the Urban Experience Program to evaluate the administration’s efforts in improving this collaborative endeavor,” according to SGAR-50006.

Assessments of the program would be facilitated by an SGA senator on the Student Life Committee.

Amendments to resolution SGAR-50006 were brought by Abdullah. They were wholly denied by the Senate on Wednesday in the Senate Chambers in the UC North.

The Division of Student Affairs could not be reached to comment on the story.

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