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President Renu Khator rejects SFAC proposal, marks first in 16 year tenure

Len Duenas/The Cougar

President Renu Khator has officially rejected the recommendations made by the 2023-2024 Student Fee Advisory Committee, according to sources within the committee. 

The report, finalized before the beginning of the semester, recommended divesting $1.5 million from UH Athletics’ base budget. The committee recommended reallocating the funds — around two-thirds of which would remain in the department’s budget pending future committee approval — into other student programs and services along with an external review to the Athletics department. Members of SFAC and other student organizations will appeal to the Board of Regents at their next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

“SFAC will be at the board meeting,” said SFAC chair Yusuf Kadi.  “Rejecting the athletics cut calls into question what happens to the SFAC-funded units. The funding that Athletics receives will no longer be available for other units to use.”

The rejection represents the first time that Khator has opposed SFAC’s proposal in her 16 years as president, according to Kadi. 

Among other reasons, Khator cited doubts about the committee’s ability to conduct an external review — a recommendation the committee made in response to what they saw as a lack of financial transparency in the Athletics department. In addition, Khator pointed to Athletics’ student fee allocation, which has remained unchanged since as early as 2009, and claimed UH Athletics received a far smaller portion of the student fee fund relative to other Big 12 schools.

This claim is contrary to the assertion made in SFAC’s report, which stated UH Athletics receives the largest support of student fees compared to other Big 12 conference schools. Kadi and other members of SFAC will respond to these arguments during the meeting. 

“Most of their arguments are either grasping at straws or just flat-out wrong, there was also unconfirmed information,” Kadi said. “I responded by asking for sources because some things are just completely unfounded. We have no idea where the information is from.”

The arguments that will be presented to the Board of Regents will not only be counterarguments to Khator’s office but also appeals for financial transparency.

“Services funded by student fees are for the students that pay for it. This is the core of our argument,” Kadi said. “Some of these units that do provide for them are not able to because of their current funding situation.”

After the president rejects SFAC’s recommendations, they are then expected to submit alternative recommendations back to the committee, according to the Texas Education Code. Despite this, Khator’s office has yet to notify SFAC of these alternate recommendations, Kadi said. 

Members of the Student Government Association, which appoints the majority of the SFAC members, pledged support for their recommendations and will be present at the meeting. SGA held a vote expressing confidence in SFAC’s report at their most recent meeting.

“Look at things like the Children’s Learning Center, Counseling and Psychological Services or other things that serve the student body not just for social reasons. They are important and necessary,” said SGA Senator Risa Lizcano. “If we can reallocate some of the Athletics funds to things that students are going to be using daily, it’s going to impact them.”

SFAC members such as Jesus Nieto also encouraged SFAC-funded programs and related student organizations to be present at Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting.

“I would like to see all the funded programs, whether students, staff or anybody that uses any of them, come out to Wednesday’s meeting,” said SFAC member Jesus Nieto. “Those are the people who are going to get impacted by the board’s and president’s decisions.”

Ultimately, the future of the reports falls into the hands of the Board of Regents, who will vote on whether to stand by SFAC or with Khator and her alternative recommendations.

“I hope that our arguments are considered thoroughly by the Board of Regents. ” Kadi said. “I can’t give an exact answer on which way I think the meeting will go. But I’m hopeful about our position.”

Students, however, have rallied behind Kadi and the committee. A protest sponsored by multiple student organizations, including the SGA and Students for Justice in Palestine, is planned for 10 a.m. on Feb. 21 at the Hilton Courtyard.

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