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Thursday, July 27, 2017

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UT chancellor kills controversial 300-acre Houston expansion


Around 1 p.m. Wednesday, UH System Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta hinted that UT’s proposed expansion into Houston would not happen. | Marialuisa Rincon Bianchi/The Cougar

AUSTIN — The University of Texas System will not be expanding in Houston.

“The University of Houston is pleased,” said Tilman Fertitta, chairman of the University of Houston System Board of Regents. “This was a group effort by elected leaders, our Board of Regents, our administration and supporters to stand our ground against an unnecessary duplication of resources that didn’t align with the state’s plan for higher education.”

On Wednesday, UT System Chancellor William McRaven announced the cessation of the project and recommended the UT regents ask the system’s real estate office to begin selling the land, according to coverage by the Houston Chronicle.

Fertitta hinted at the news earlier in the day during UH’s Day at the Capitol, an event which gave students the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the University by speaking with state legislators.

“We’re not putting a campus in Austin, and they’re not putting a campus in Houston,” Fertitta said. “I can promise you that.”

The system’s retreat from Houston follows constant controversy over its leadership’s failure to consult Texas lawmakers before purchasing the 332 acres in 2015. Since then, the system has faced opposition from many in Houston, particularly from the UH community.

Throughout and leading up to the 85th Legislative Session, concerns were raised that a UT school in Houston would be a duplication of services already provided by UH, and would consequently pose a threat to the UH System’s growth and status as the top public research university in the region.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the state’s projected budgetary decreases may have encouraged lawmakers to question the need for another public university in Houston.

“You can quote us,” Fertitta said, according to The Texas Tribune. “We are very happy about it.”

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