Admin answers at Town Hall

Students pressed administrators with questions concerning the campus community at a Town Hall meeting Tuesday in Melcher Hall.

Students came with questions about parking and transportation, on-campus housing, transfer credits, student organizations and the endwment.

Director of Parking and Transportation Bob Browand fielded questions regarding campus shuttles, parking problems and construction.

Browdand said the new East Garage, which is under construction will add 1,500 parking spaces with 1,300 set aside for student use and the rest for faculty staff and visitors.
‘ Browand said the East Garage should open in the Fall 2009 semester. He also gave insight into the University’s big picture for parking.

‘TPAC, which is the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee, has been working really hard this semester on a parking plan. What was a 3-year plan is now a 6-year plan,’ Browand said. ‘Our goal is to try to plan ahead and get this parking in place before the actual construction of other projects starts, so we’re not in the same position we’re in now with the Calhoun Lofts and East Garage going up at the same time.’

In addition to the East Garage, TPAC has plans to build two other garages. The location of those garages is a topic of debate.

‘The plan right now calls for the 2011′-13 time frame for those two projects. As Dr. Carlucci mentioned, though, it’s not going to be cheap,’ Browand said. ‘Parking structures generally cost about five times more than what a surface parking lot costs, and since parking is an auxiliary service, we have to raise our own capital for these projects through fees that we charge.’

For students this cost will translate to a substantial increase in the cost of parking citations, parking permits, or an increase in both, Browand said.

Carl Carlucci, executive vice president of Finance, said students should not assume that building more parking is the solution to the problem. He reiderated the University’s push to increase use of Metro. An alternative step toward decreasing the number of students commuting to campus is to move more of them in.

‘The University has a goal of becoming a Carnegie Residential Campus which sets a goal of 25 percent on-campus residence,’ Carlucci said. ‘We currently have about 4,600 beds, so we have 36,000 students, so we need about 9,000 beds, so we’re going to need to add 4,000 beds at least.’

UH reached a milestone in this campaign Tuesday afternoon when the Board of Regents approved the addition of 1,000 beds to the campus.

‘That will be the first project. Then we plan another 1000 beds after that. Then we’ll probably take some older units offline and rehab and replace them, but again, we have to raise the money, ‘ Carlucci said. ‘We do a bond issue, so any finance majors, if you want to come help us issue our bonds, our last bond issue was $110 million to build housing. To satisfy the plans of the dean, we’ll have to issue another $100 million.’

Even with hundreds of millions tied up in construction and plans to spend hundreds of millions more, Associate Vice President for Plant Operations David Irvin said the University’s priority is still education.

‘With the endowment having less money, as you’ve read, the board has decided that everyone in the administration is committed to making sure those cut and reductions don’t come from student scholarships. But it may mean in other programs we may have to cut back a bit,’ Irvin said.

‘It may mean that we don’t fill vacant positions, and some of that is in administration. In all the potential resource reallocation that we’re looking at, the number one priority is to try to not touch students and not touch the classroom.’

The administrators at the meeting answered all students’ questions and explained their roles in resolving issues that concern the UH community. Interim Dean of C.L.A.S.S. Joseph Pratt made a call to students to play an active role in the changes they want.

‘That’s the useful message of the whole night: don’t be so timid. It’s your university – make it work for you. Don’t sit and wait for somebody to do these things for you,’ Pratt said. ‘I know you want to have a 4.0 and all that, but there’s a bigger world out there and you can make the institution responsive to you. But you don’t do that by not poking every once and a while.’

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