UH requests $60 million for new law building
The UH Law Center will be requesting $60 million from the state legislature in May in a bid to build a new facility that will be immune to flooding and match the modernity of the rest of the UH campus.
The current center has not been updated since the 1970s. Built underground, the building is dark, the classrooms have no windows and flooding in the facility has ruined books and forced student organizations to move.
“It’s neo-brutalist, that’s the style,” said third-year law student Juris Doctor candidate April Soto. “There’s a joke about it: every first day of your first semester at law school somebody mentions how the building is ‘neo-brutalist.’ I think it was a point of pride at some point, but it’s a little outdated now.”
One of the main goals of the change is to improve the standing of the law school. The center is already ranked as one of the top centers for law in the nation in specialties like healthcare law, intellectual property law and part-time law.
“I want the new building to boost our rankings,” said 3L Juris Doctor candidate Karim Jivani. “Our building is like 50 years old, and it definitely has an impact on how we’re viewed.”
The center has already raised $10 million toward construction — which will take place at what is currently lot 19b— from alumni and the Law Foundation. The choice to ask the legislature for the money was made at the highest level instead of using money from the Here We Go Campaign, said Dean of the UH Law Center Leonard Baynes.
“The Law Center is the oldest non-adapted law school in the State of Texas,” Baynes said. “Teaching Unit II was the last addition of the Law Center complex, and it was built in the early 1970s.”
Much of the building is underground, making it prone to flooding and lack of light. The facility originally flooded in 2001 during Tropical Storm Allison, ruining $40 million worth of books, according to the Houston Chronicle. The darkness present in much of the building is also a complaint from students.
“I feel like we have neglected our building for a while, and it’s definitely in need of a makeover,” said 3L Juris Doctor candidate Stephanie Simon. “It has great bones and structure, but it needs some positivity and sunlight and some goodness to make it as beautiful as it should be.”
Although there is not much complaint about a new building, there is a complaint about the timing from current students.
“We won’t be here, so we’re not going to get anything out of it,” Soto said. She said she hopes when the new facility is built the diplomas of soon-to-be graduates may be seen as more valuable, as they could be coming from a more esteemed program in the future.
The University will not know the outcome of their request until May at the earliest, when the current legislative session ends. Whether or not UH receives the money, Baynes wants the campus to know the Law Center is one of the best the state and nation have to offer.
“It is a top-tier institution with several nationally and internationally ranked programs such as in health law, intellectual property, part-time programs,” Baynes said. “It has a faculty comprised of top scholars who are well credentialed and well published. The students are diverse, reflective of the state population and have excellent entry-level credentials.”