UT’s Houston Campus Plans Crushed By Cougar Defensive Line, UH Fans

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

All that booing over the last year and a half from Houston’s most expansive university system and its legislative friends looks to have paid off: UT has cancelled its plans for a new research campus south of the Astrodome, citing fears that continuing to press for the project could throw a wet blanket on projects at its other campuses. The school’s press office announced the pivot this afternoon, adding that UT’s real estate office will look into how to sell the 307 acres they’ve spent the last year collecting, though it might take some time to put together a sale that makes sense.

UH Board of Regents chairman and reality real estate TV star Tilman Fertitta said today that the sustained backlash to UT’s land buy was really a team effort, assisted by elected officials, administrators, and other folks aiming to prevent what Fertitta calls an unnecessary duplication of state resources. UT had previously announced that the campus wouldn’t have been a 4-year university; chancellor Bill McRaven suggested this afternoon that plans for the land might have shaped up to include a big data science center with a focus on health care, energy, and education, and that the ideas from the task force put together to plan for the land could be put to use elsewhere instead.

Conceptual rendering of UT Houston campus: Houston Public Media

Higher Ed Shutout

29 Comment

  • Darn… I have a feeling this will be one of those things we look back on years from now and regret stopping.

  • This is bullshit. I”m sorry. Sen. Whitmire killed this with his incessant trolling and lack of vision. Great cities have more than one public university. Thanks a lot.

  • So the Admiral finally told us the general plans. How will we regret this if we don’t even do know the details? No public college spends $200 on building a campus especially in a different city. They start off small.

  • It’s the very-high-EQ sector of the economy that could use the boost. Along those lines data science might not be the best fit, so maybe it’s just as well.

  • No way did public pressure stop this project. The school purchased the land without a clear vision in sight and will now probably turn it for a profit. My guess is that UT will start building out a smaller campus in a different part of town once they have a clearer vision.

  • What a missed opportunity for Houston. Sen Whitmire should be held accountable next election for his opposition. If he really cared about quality, affordable higher education and increasing Houston’s education profile he should’ve been an advocate for this. And the legislature should’ve gotten over hurt feelings from the early communication issues and focused on the actual project potential.

  • Brian and Commenter7 have it about right. Bullying by Fertitta and Whitmire to keep real education out of Houston can’t be a good thing.

  • First, UH stops Texas A&M from buying South Texas College of Law. And now this. Tilman Fertitta is on a rampage making Houston only a Cougar town.

  • This is sad on so many levels. What a splendid way to continue to revitalize that area of Houston and bring even more world class education to Houston. UH not wanting to play with the big boys at the playground is the reason that they will always be considered a second tier commuter school. If you are scared of competition you shouldn’t be in the game.

  • So …. the bought the land before they looked at the cost of cleaning it up? Perhaps. Texas is the land of the under-educated after all.

    If you look at the proposed plan the “purely medical research campus” had athletic fields ….

  • Could it also be a shell game for UT to play? Cancel all future spending to push for clarity on budget and more money ? Legislative and local administrative push back against competition is not a new thing for any of these parties involved and no way would I believe is enough to derail long term plans.
    “But with the session underway, the schools have instead found themselves fighting for an arcane budgeting trick — one that could affect up to $1 billion worth of appropriations for higher education items such as museums, research projects and new academic programs. ”

  • i dont see why people from uh have such a low opinion of their school. i think its actually better than they’re giving it credit for and they shouldnt be so afraid of competition.

  • @spiteful because Cougar High is a state of mind, and people don’t realize they have it. Also, most Texans see universities as a football team with a school attached to it.

  • I find it very funny that the big push to stop this from happening didn’t really start till after UT made the call to keep UH out of the big 12. It doesn’t seem at all to be coincidence.
    And from the comments already posted it appears that there’s a lot of UT alum following swamplot.

  • oh, and furthermore, you guys all bemoaning that we aren’t getting 300 acres of data center from UT, read what was written maybe:
    ” chancellor Bill McRaven suggested this afternoon that plans for the land might have shaped up to include a big data science center with a focus on health care, energy, and education”
    translation, they had no clue what they were going to do with 300 acres of land, the best idea someone had so far was a data center. Who needs 300 acres for a data center? the worlds largest data center is 1,000,000 sf. a 300 acre data center would be 13 times larger than that. I mean, sure the whole thing wouldn’t be data center, even the 10th largest data center is only 470,000 sf, which is only 10 acres.
    So let’s assume UT builds a data center the size of the 5th largest data center. 700,000 sf. that’s still only 16 acres. what are they doing with the other 285 acres????
    come on people, they didn’t have plans at all for what they were going to do with this site (or they still don’t want to reveal what the actual plans were), throwing out that it would be a data center is absolute proof of that.

  • @Slayer, I don’t think that UH stopped TAMU from “buying” / merging with STCL. I believe STCL and TAMU just couldn’t come to terms.

  • @toasty

    Not data center, data science. Basically giant spreadsheets. It seeems to me that to get to the next level Houston’s economy needs ultra-high-EQ ultra-high-margin work…and it needs to be seeded by the state and/or an institution like UT. Data science really doesn’t fit the bill; because of the cloud, data science can be done anywhere; there’s really no reason to build a UT center all the way in Houston just for that.

  • @spiteful @TMR Big leagues, ok. First, UT has the PUF, and second out of Austin all the others UT are not great. Thus, UH is a great university that’s been permanently growing and improving (without the PUF !).
    If you want big league players, ok, gave the UH access to the PUF, and improve all the UT system campuses outside of Austin, and yes, of course, open one in Houston too. Smart and efficient investing is what we need.

  • @ILE so you admit this is all about greed, bureaucratic turf wars, and resentment over UT’s constitutional advantages?
    It would be hilariously petty if it didn’t hurt Houston as much as it does.

  • There’s plenty of horse-trading goin’ on in Austin among the University systems in the current session. UT is getting something in return for giving up the site, just not sure what.

  • Politics aside, as a resident who’s lived down the street from the proposed site since 1985, I think the area’s already undergone significant revitalization, regardless of an impending mega campus. I’m happy to keep the nature preserve-class traffic noise buffer for now.

  • The politics of higher education appear bizarre and arcane, but they aren’t totally opaque. Just follow the money. I think that we can reasonably infer the following:
    1) UT was never looking to establish a full-fledged university. They stopped establishing new universities after the wave of Baby Boomers came and went, and thereafter have only done institutional mergers and consolidations and grown their student base mostly as a function of population growth. At their flagship campus, undergrad programs are not a focus for growth at all. (The same is true of A&M, and they put a finer point on it by partnering with Blinn College to handle a lot of undergraduate instruction.)
    2) What UT had in mind was to set up specialized workforce development programs with institutional and corporate partners. They’d also probably have rolled their MBA program into this campus. These programs are profit centers that subsidize other parts of a university and they generate an alumnus that over the course of their careers are most likely to become wealthy and politically entrenched. To the extent that such opportunities exist, UH wants to protect themselves from competition and keep long-term opportunities open. They were also wise to fight A&M on the potential law school acquisition.
    Is that really important? Well, that’s a salient question with a salient answer: UH happens to be working on a new medical school, and the feedback that they’re getting from the State is that the market is already saturated from the perspective of public policy because residency opportunities in Texas are finite and already over-served. Who is crowding out that market in Houston? None other than UT. Baylor is also there too, but it partners with Rice University. Can UT be expected to partner with UH? Doubtful. It’s already well-established. Why would it? If UH is shut out of the Houston market for medical schools, it’ll be because UT got there first.
    So…from the policy perspective, I think that the ideal case would be that general study programs ought to be served by Public University Systems on an exclusive and regional basis. UT gets Austin. UT-RGV becomes its own System. Small-town university programs like A&M-Kingsville or UH-Victoria get spared that fate if they can continue to benefit from a relationship with larger institutions. Capital-intensive specialty programs, on the other hand, ought to be served by established schools that are most outstanding at offering those specialties. Medical schools probably fit that description, but business schools and law schools do not. A&M’s marine science programs in Galveston would seem justified. If such specialties are presently non-existent and arise due to the advent of new technologies, for example with UT’s proposal for a big data science center serving industries specific to a city’s economic base…yeah, that’s probably something where the regional university system ought to take the lead. And if financing such things is an obstacle for a university without access to the PUF, then the legislature needs to address that.
    Alas, this is a policy issue where entrenched interests fight to stay entrenched and where loyalties blind otherwise intelligent people to other ways of doing things. Goddamn, it’s annoying.

  • Way to go UH Nation! UT cannot be trusted. The Big12 debacle proved that yet again. UT giving public support while never having any intention of letting UH in. UT says the 307 acre campus was not meant to cut the legs off UH but the campus was almost as large as UH. A datacenter type development requires about 15 acres. UH is attracting more research dollars and this was clearly a move at redirecting funding their way as if they don’t have enough. This is just karma for UT’s arrogance in buying the land in the first place without approval.

  • Lol…all the UT alum beamoaning the ‘lost opportunities’ due to the local’s rebuke of the ever altruistic Longhorn campus blessing us with their presence in our fair city. This was a pure power move set that began with a shady deal. No competition with the other public school in town you say? Nice athletic fields in the rendering btw.

  • LOL at butthurt ut homers.

    the plan was terrible. read McRaven’s statements to BoE, he was all over the place, in one of his first meetings with them, he even said it could be a 4 year institution… a statement that people often overlook.

    what i find hilarious is that when UH wanted to build a medical program, ut blocked them with political pressure and fought to ensure the project didnt get funded… then a year later announced dell medical school… amazing how you nitwits are ok with double standards.

    but its all good, UH is on the path to greatness. ut will continue to be Underachiever U.

  • Just desserts for UT double crossing UH on Big12 expansion. UT showed itself once again that it cannot be trusted. UT’s stated intentions about the 300 acre + campus are not credible. This was to be a UT @ Houston campus. I would be for a research park concept but only if UH was a full and equal partner (even if PUF endowed UT ponied up more funds). If UT can’t get to a place of treating UH with respect, as a peer state institution for higher learning, then enough said.

  • This is wonderful. After all of the push around against UH from UT they finally get a taste of their own medicine which they have been dishing out for years. This is fabulous news. “Real education” writes a commenter here. I am shocked that UT people write such things. Glad to see Houston standing up for itself. Way to go Houston!

  • So I wonder if UT will now support the UH $40m+ request for medical school funding from the legislature come spring? Just askin’. Folks around here are speculating about consequences if the funds are not forthcoming.

  • Last I heard, UT’s had this pig back on the market for months. Ralph Bivins posted that they fear the sale will only bring $100,000,000….of the $200,000,000 paid. To a former UT Regent who was kind enough to sell it to McRaven, et al.

    UT JUST WASTED $100,000,000 for…..nothing?!

    No wonder they’re trying so hard to spin this debacle.
    Same ‘ol Horns. It’s just money.