5/10/2009 11:41 PM
Chancellor Renu Khator -- meet KTRK's Wayne Dolcefino.
The new chancellor of the University of Houston system got a crash course in Houston-area politics this week, as one of the best known investigative reporters in the Houston area, KTRK's Wayne Dolcefino did an investigative series on travel and booze spending by U of H administrators. Specifically, Dolcefino documents university funds (including some tuition funds) being used to pay for booze and fancy travel. You can watch the stories in their entirety here. (Since publication of the KTRK story, U of H has changed its policies to ban use of tuition money for booze and business class travel.)
The stories are typical hard-hitting Houston TV journalism. I particularly like the clips from movies like Animal House intersperced throughout the story.
The first story in the series documents how U of H administrators have travelled on the university's dime, sometimes in business class, including trips to places as far away as India. The second story discusses the use of university funds to pay for booze. The third discusses the multi-million dollar mansion, housekeepers, Cadillac, and chauffeur provided to Khator.
In addition to the stories, KTRK has posted supplemental documents to its website here. Included are a letter from Khator responding to Dolcefino's emailed questions and a report from the Higher Education Coordinating Board showing how fast tuition has risen.
This couldn't have come at a worse time for Texas higher education. Right now, the Texas Senate has passed a bill putting an inflation-based cap on tuition increases. And the conference committee is considering university budgets. In fact, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) is quoted liberally in the story, blasting away at U of H spending.
There are various rumors floating around the Capitol about what the House Higher Education Committee or the House Calendars Committee will do on the tuition issue. (Note to Chairmen McCall and Branch, do you really want to be held responsible for stuff like what Dolcefino is documenting? I have followed higher education spending most of my adult life and can assure you that's only the beginning.)
U of H has already begun trying to do damage control. It announced that it has changed its beverage and travel policies, so tuition money no longer pays for booze and business class travel. See the new policy here.
KTRK is not done yet, and it's worth watching how this unfolds in the last weeks of the 2009 legislative session.