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Thursday, March 30, 2023


EXCLUSIVE: Facebook messages between Whitmire and Haston stir tension

(Editor’s note: This conversation was released by Haston exclusively to The Cougar. The Facebook messages were not edited for grammar or content.)

State Senator and UH alumnus John Whitmire publicly opposed a plan to have mandatory freshmen on campus living starting fall 2015. Student Government Association President Charles Haston stood by the UH administration in its decision to revitalize UH and take steps towards becoming a fully designated Tier One university. Haston invited Whitmire to attend the first student senate meeting on Sept. 3. Below is the Facebook message thread that took place on Aug. 21 in which Whitmire accepted and then rejected SGA’s invitation.

Charles Haston: I’m sure you meet so many people that you don’t remember me, but my name is Charles Haston and I’m the Student Body President at the University of Houston. We met at the alumni gala in the spring. I know you’re incredibly busy, but I was hoping we could host you at our first senate meeting of the semester on September 3rd at 7:30pm. As one of our preeminent alumni in the state legislature, it would be wonderful for our student leaders to have the opportunity to hear you speak and be able to ask you questions about higher education in Texas.

Student Government President Charles Haston has said that Senator John Whitmire "singlehandedly sunk" the freshman housing requirement.  |  File photo/The Cougar

Student Government President Charles Haston has said that Senator John Whitmire “singlehandedly sunk” the freshman housing requirement. | File photo/The Cougar

John Whitmire: I would be honored. I hope we can discuss a wide variety of subjects. I am a proud cougar and want only what’s best for UH

CH: I really look forward to it. You are such an incredible alumnus of UH and I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and gratitude for everything you do for UH. I disagree with your position, but I believe you did what you did because you care. How should we coordinate this. Should I reach out to your office?

JW: Yes. My office or me. Thank you for your respect. I would gladly share the comments that are overwhelmingly opposed from a diverse group of citizens that are strong supporters of UH. Not only financial matters but cultural considerations. The co Ed dorms are unacceptable to many and so many want kids at home at that age. Particularly South Asians and Hispanics. Work considerations are also major. I will gladly discuss but it’s dead for hundreds of reasons. Have you thought what it would do to students who’s parents are undocumented. Please put yourself in others shoes. Have you thought of Muslim students It dead and I believe there are so many more important issues Like cost of tuition etc

CH: Senator, I was actively involved in shaping the exemptions to the policy because I’m acutely aware of our students needs. All of the situations you described would allow the student to be exempt from the policy.
What the policy was really attempting to do was require freshman who have no reason to preclude them from living on campus to live at a private apartment complex adjacent to UH or in midtown. Our data shows that students who live on campus, especially minorities, take more credit hours, are more likely to graduate and do so in time, and have higher GPA’s. It is also cheaper to live on campus than live off campus at a private apartment. So if students are more likely to succeed and have no reasonable reason to preclude them from living on campus, then why wouldn’t we want to do it, especially when the proposed policy is so flexible to meet every student’s unique needs?

JW: So flexible that its meaningless. Most do not want to declare exemptions. Gay students Muslims do not want to be subject to hate etc. At least your honest. It’s all about money. You totally are displaying you do not understand most UH students experience. You would be shocked at the credible opposition. One of major Department heads at UH said it would devastate Hispanic enrollment. If you say so many exemptions then why do it. You need to allow as option and let some chose others live there lives. UH is Great because of its ethnic diversity and as well as lifestyle and circumstances. It’s dead and I don’t intend to debate and maybe should reconsider my visit. The legislative delegation is against. That should mean something. If you want to discuss moving forward and making UH better. I willing but I don’t intend to spend valuable time on a policy that was shaped by you and administrators hat demonstrate a lvk of hardship many UH students experience. The cost along is prohibited. You say living off campus cost more. Not if you live at home or with gay lover which you have no exemption for. I guess you helped with 20 mile trigger. It’s nuts. And the administration knows it. They were trying to compete with developers across Calhoun It was all special interest and insensitive and dead. Good nite.

CH: I have publicly said that the mileage needed to be much larger. But the proposal was a draft and was moving toward conversation with the BOR. I think there are many things that would be wonderful to discuss with you. Student leaders on this campus are extremely active and I think it’s important for you to speak with student leaders to be informed about the student perspective. I hope we can work together because everyone here wants what is best for UH, even if we may not always agree on the means to achieve the best ends.

JW: I not sure about how realistic your small number of student body leaders are. I am not available on sept 3. I look forward to visiting in future I do know I am arranging to speak at UH democrat club soon.aybe you can catch me and we discuss matters that are important and broken. Immigration high tuition health care criminal justice.

CH: Well I’m disappointed that you feel that way about student leaders at UH. We work extremely hard here and for no other reason than the fact that we love UH. I will say that many of them do not support requiring freshmen to live on campus. If you choose to renege on your commitment to come speak onSeptember 3, that is certainly our prerogative. I was not trying to ambush you in a public forum, I was actually going to suggest we have a small discussion group. I think you would be surprised how diverse our student leadership is- it really is reflective of our unique student body. I think we all just want to understand your perspective on a range of issues, most significantly more important than freshmen housing, ie affordability of education, and want you to understand our positions, as well.

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