Letter from the Editor: A significant year
It’s not the start of the second millennium, and it’s not the quarter century mark. 2014 was nestled just awkwardly enough into this century to be deemed insignificant from the start, but I think it proved plenty significant for UH and its surrounding communities.
For starters, the University enjoyed the grand opening of the new University Center this past January (soon to be christened as the Student Center), yet another milestone in the redefinition of the University under the leadership of President and Chancellor Renu Khator.
Speaking of Khator, she also announced preliminary plans to open a medical school by 2020 that would train primary care physicians. That’s nothing short of amazing, especially for a University that also just broke ground on a new $51 million Multidisciplinary Research and Engineering Facility, to be completed in 2016.
Probably the most obvious addition to UH this year was the widely-heralded TDECU Stadium, though its name wasn’t met with the warmest student reactions. (My opinion? It’s one of the most profitable deals in NCAA history. That’s what we should’ve been talking about.)
Regardless, the stadium opened in a matchup against UTSA that drew over 40,000 attendees but has been struggling to crack that number ever since. (Side note: to the students that want your University to have the Big 12, SEC-esque athletics programs that you envy, it would behoove you to start by supporting your own teams. We aren’t going to have an athletics program on that level if we don’t generate a fanbase that’ll rally behind our boys and girls in red.)
Head coach Tony Levine, who stormed out with the team in that August 29 matchup has been fired, to be replaced by Ohio State University’s offense coordinator Tom Herman. For what it’s worth, I’m incredibly excited, and it’s pretty cool to be writing this as his offense clobbers the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Here’s to hoping this wasn’t a jinx.
But it wasn’t all fairies and rainbows. There was one hell of a cold war waged between Khator and Senator John Whitmire over a proposed freshman housing requirement that was released on the Board of Regents website, pulled from the table and supported by the Student Government Association. Now, it hangs in limbo alongside UH’s convoluted identity as a commuter campus.
In November, Khator announced an internal investigation to ensure that $5 million in state funding earmarked for Spirit of Houston classrooms in TDECU Stadium wasn’t put toward the stadium’s construction. And Lord knows that A&F had the brunt of the bad days this year, as SGA President Charles Haston also called out the department in front of the Student Fee Advisory Committee for failing to honor parts of the Memorandum of Understanding that passed in 2012. Despite all that jargon, it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
On a more somber note, the UH community experienced two suicides this year – one in June at the stadium’s construction site, the other less than two months ago at Cougar Village 2. Professor Temple Northup wrote a column for the Houston Chronicle that called for more open dialogue around the oft-taboo subject of suicide, and I couldn’t agree more with what he’s advocating: a dialogue that won’t always be comfortable.
So, there’s been a lot to deal with. A lot to celebrate, a lot to grapple with and even more to question. As a journalist, it wouldn’t feel right summing up 2014 without mentioning the event that sent shockwaves through my field. Reporters are having an even tougher time overcoming stigmas set in place by the shoddy, distracted reporting of Sabrina Rubin Erdely for the Rolling Stone’s “A Rape on Campus,” which is still being brilliantly demystified by The Washington Post. That might sound random in a letter that’s otherwise exclusively addresses UH issues, but it’s relevant to the mission and challenges of this newspaper.
Going into 2015, readers of The Cougar (which underwent a pretty monumental facelift this year, too) can expect to hear from trustworthy, conscientious student journalists who have no greater prerogative than to deliver relevant, accurate and thought-provoking journalism. We may lose sleep and a few GPA decimals over it, but that’s a fair trade for the privilege of catering to this campus and the UH community.
Thank you to all who have come to us for your daily dose of news in 2014, and I can promise that we’ll exceed any standards set last year.
Cara Smith, Editor in chief