Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just When You Think It Can't Get More Ridiculous...

The latest propaganda piece by Gabe Semenza, A&M VS UH: Universities Compared is really something else. To me, this is a sure indication of the desperation of those attempting to sell the public on this idea of realignment. Honestly, what does comparing A&M and UH have to do with UHV  or the possibility of TAMUV? If you answered "nothing" you would be correct.

I am not going to waste all day debunking every single point made in the article, but I will touch on a few. I think most rational adults already see this for what it is anyhow.


According to the "article", in-state tuition at UH is higher than at Texas A&M. Again, I almost feel dumb even having to address this. So I did about 36.7 seconds of internet research, and came up with this official A&M System Website and this article. I will let you decide what the numbers say.


This is an interesting statistic. According to the "article" since 2000, A&M has had 50 Rhodes and Fullbright Scholars. I wonder how many of those attend classes at Texas A&M International? I'm sure Texas A&M Commerce is chock full of these scholars, right?


Umm, yeah...because now all those people that drive from Victoria, Edna, Hallettsville, Port Lavaca, Refugio, etc. to College Station to watch games at Kyle Field will just come here to watch the TAMUV (insert nickname) not play football on Saturday mornings? Are you kidding me? I don't think I even have to expand on this one.


This is an interesting one. I wonder how much of the $53.3 million in donations came from graduates of Prairieview A&M? What about West Texas A&M? Or perhaps Texas A&M Corpus Christi? The REAL Texas A&M (the one in College Station) is an institution. Generations of family members go there. There is a brotherhood amongst the former students. When was the last time someone you knew bought a blue or gold car because they went to A&M Kingsville? When was the last time you were in Beaumont or Odessa or McAllen or Fort Worth, and saw a Texas A&M Texarkana bumper sticker?  REAL A&M stickers (that represent the REAL A&M in College Station) can be found in every city in this state. Have I made my point clear enough yet?

For the umpteenth time - Texas A&M College Station is not coming to Victoria. If this deal goes through, we will have Texas A&M Victoria, no more, no less. Even VEDC will not be able to get anyone from A&M to build us a replica of Kyle Field...or Olsen Field...or Reed Arena. Get it? Good.

What I really can't figure out is why Gabe stopped where he did. Why not use murder statistics comparisons between College Station and Houston as a reason we should change University Systems?

Or how about Phi Slamma Jamma as a reason to stay with UH? After all, we are being led to believe that whatever University System we have, we can just superimpose it over the local campus.

You know, traffic is much lighter in College Station than Houston, so I think that is reason enough to make the switch.

But where are all the high and mighty history buffs? Why aren't Gary Dunnam and Sharon Steen demanding that we stay with UH, since Houston has far more history than College Station?

Why don't we just consider the schools equal, since they have the same number of Heisman Trophy winners?

Victoria, plenty of people around the State are now watching. Now is the time to make an impression. As a Victorian, I am embarrassed  with the manner in which our community is being represented by a small group of mostly non-elected people. Of course, when the best elected representation they can muster to support this thing are the likes of Pozzi, Burns, and Polasek, what do you expect? While we're at it, why don't we go ahead and ask John Clegg what he thinks.

Just how stupid does the Victoria Advocate and their gang of public coffer snoutbearers think we are?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Can't They Just Tell the Truth?

You know, I often wonder what the government-is-always-right crowd thinks of people like me. Do they think that those of us who have the audacity to question the benevolence of our wonderful elected officials do it just for kicks? Do they think we just woke up one morning and proclaimed, "I'm going to be against anything and everything that local government attempts to do"? Do they ever even consider that maybe...just maybe...we oppose or support things based on a set of principles, or a political philosophy, perhaps? Or maybe we just have BS detectors, that end to go off nearly every time we are being sold a new idea? Nah, that kind of abstract thought doesn't seem to be congruent with the persona of the sheep.

Speaking just for me, what normally gets me motivated to oppose something is when I am told something that is either completely untrue, has had the facts manipulated, or just plain does not make sense. At that point, I feel it is incumbent upon me to do a little research and attempt to present the facts. After all, I do believe in the political process and I fully understand that you win some and you lose some. While I can accept that things won't always be seen by others as I view them, I cannot accept people making decisions without having the facts.

Over the past few weeks, quite a few claims have been made by those supporting the UHV-A&M switch. Some have been made by Dale Fowler, some by the City Council, some by members of VEDC, and some by people posting on the VA website. I don't intend to attribute each comment to its appropriate source, and it isn't even really relevant to do so. From what I have seen thus far, each and every person in favor of the switch to A&M will agree with any statement that showers favor on that endeavor, regardless of the level of veracity.

When this whole ordeal began, I knew virtually nothing about university systems. Of course I knew that several state universities had campuses in other locations, but I was unaware of how pervasive it was. I also was unaware of the switch from  Texas State to Texas Tech by Angelo State University. I don't pretend to know everything that transpired prior to that action, but I do know one thing for sure. I know that situation and this one are not identical. Some have attempted to make that point, and it is disingenuous to say the least.
As I stated earlier, there have been many claims made by many people. There have been more than a few projections floated, as well as promises made. There is no need to rehash it all, but I would like to focus on a few claims that are easily dispelled with just some rudimentary statistical analysis. I have heard several times that the Texas A&M System has a track record of taking university campuses in rural settings to levels never dreamed of before. Some are making it seem as though A&M can do no wrong and is just the fix for any situation similar to the one here in Victoria. Then there is the claim being made that this will grow Victoria and the economic boost will be so great that none will be able to deny it. We all heard Joe Truman tell us that this would garner a thousand fold return on investment. I think most of us heard Joe then stand behind his statement. So, me being the fact-checker that I am, I decided to take a look at the matter.

Of the current eleven universities in the Texas A&M system, there are only three that I can reasonably compare to UHV. One is A&M Texarkana, but there is not enough history there to have established a true record. So that left me with West Texas A&M and Texas A&M Kingsville. Neither of these universities are 100% comparable either, but it was as close as I could get.

So what numbers did I look at? Well, first of all, I checked to see how long each of the universities had been a part of the A&M System. I also thought it was pertinent to know their year of inception. After all, particularly in higher education, legacy can be a great selling point. Then I wanted to know the historical enrollment figures. Since so many people seem to think that A&M has been wildly successful in growing the student population in each of their System universities, I wanted to verify it. Lastly, I wanted to see the population trends of the communities in question. Since economic impact has been a focal point of much of the dialogue concerning the switch, I felt it was pertinent to analyze the growth or contraction of the respective communities. While population growth is not always indicative of prosperity, I think you would be hard pressed to offer up an example of prosperity without population expansion.

So here is what I found:

TAMU-Kingsville was established in 1925 (under a different name, of course). It joined the TAMU System in 1989. I was unable to locate a complete historical enrollment for TAMU-K, but I was able to find enrollment figures for a few years. They are as follows:

*1971 – 8,096
1989 – 5,783
1992 – 6,415
2000 – 5,949
2004 – 6,166
2008 – 5,698
2010 – 6,595

*Largest enrollment in the history of the institution

So, what do these numbers represent? To me, it is pretty clear that the enrollment at TAMU-K has remained fairly constant, with only a 14% increase in the 21 years it has been in the TAMU System. The Fall 2010 enrollment is also 1,501 shy of the record attendance achieved in 1971.

West Texas A&M was established (again, under another name) in 1910. It joined the TAMU System in 1990. Here are some enrollment figures for West Texas A&M:

*1969 – 7,935
1980 – 6,559
1990 – 6,191
2000 – 6,775
2010 – 7,842

*Largest enrollment in the history of the institution

In the 20 years since West Texas A&M has been in the A&M System, enrollment has increased just under 27%, or by 1,651 students. Again, the Fall 2010 enrollment is below the record enrollment in the history of the University.

Now let’s take a look at the population trends for Kingsville and Canyon, where West Texas A&M is located. The website that I collected the following numbers stopped with the 2006 estimates, but I used it because it was operated by the US Census Bureau.

Kingsville population numbers:

1990 – 25,276
2000 – 25,575
2006 estimate – 24,394

That is a decrease in population since A&M took over the local University in Kingsville.

Canyon population numbers:

1990 – 11,365
2000 – 12,875
2009 estimate – 14,529

So after 19 years of their local University in the A&M System, the population of Canyon, TX has increased by just under 28%. Let’s see how that compares with Victoria, where, according to some, we are in desperate need of the boost that only Texas A&M can provide.

Victoria population numbers:

1990 – 55,076
2000 – 60,603
2006 estimate – 62,169

That reflects an increase of roughly 13% in population since 1990. I am sure that number would have exponentially higher with A&M in town. The UH System should be ashamed for holding us down. Will any of this change anyone's mind? Probably not. But at least now a few people will have a few facts with which to formulate an opinion.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A&M? Really?

The whole UHV situation has gotten bizarre. There may be a better word to describe it, but I can't think of one. Last week the citizens of Victoria were told that the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation (VSTDC) had approved a $100,000  transfer to VEDC for "an unnamed economic development project." Then a blog was posted on the Victoria Advocate website that suggests the $100,000 was for the hiring of a lobbyist to align UHV with another University system. While the blogger admittedly qualified the information as unsubstantiated, it certainly does raise some eyebrows. The story seemed to come full circle earlier this week when a group of Victoria's most wonderful citizens traveled by bus to Austin for "Victoria Day." To those that had heard of the shady deal surrounding the $100,000 the announcement by State Representative Geanie Morrison that day of the filing of a bill to realign UHV with another system was enormously predictable. What was not predictable was that the new system would be Texas A&M. I don't know anyone that saw that coming.

For me personally, I don't have any allegiance to either A&M or UH. I was raised in an Aggie household and I am a fan of Aggie sports, but the various campuses that are under the several University systems have nothing to do with the flagship University. They don't bear the same mascot names, and usually don't even share the same team or school colors. Graduates of UT-Tyler are not Longhorns, graduates of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are not Aggies, and neither are the graduates of West Texas A&M. More on that later. My two cents is that these University "systems" are not a very good idea. There may be positives that I am unaware of, but I think they restrict effective branding. Does anyone honestly believe that UTEP will ever be mentioned in the same breath as UT? Will Texas A&M Kingsville ever be on par with Texas A&M? I guess the immediate financial resources are a plus, but that is all I can see. From where I sit, these "system campuses" will always be known as the younger brothers. No matter what they do, they will always have a big brother. If these campuses stood on their own, they could possibly compete with and even exceed the reputations of the other universities, at least in one area or another. Does anyone think that any single department of UT-Pan American will ever be considered superior to its counterpart in Austin? What about Texas A&M International? I don't think so.

OK, so there's nothing we can do about the administrative and legislative structure of University systems. I get that. I just wanted to toss the idea out there. Anyhow, ever since the story broke about the filing of Morrison's bill, it seems as though most people have firmly aligned themselves either for or against the idea. I don't really care whether out local university is aligned with UH or A&M, but I want everything that transpires to be above board. I also don't want any of this business to have unintended consequences. It is this that I think has been overlooked. More on that later as well.

I would like to go back to the idea of these exterior campuses that are placed under another University system. Most of the folks that are in favor of the alignment with the A&M system seem to think that we are now going to magically become College Station. They don't seem to understand that the main Texas A&M campus is not shutting down. None of those students will be transferring to Victoria. There will be no Corps of Cadets. Kyle Field is not being placed on train cars. Reed Arena will still be located in Brazos County. The Aggie baseball team will be playing at Olson Field, and not Rosebud Stadium. You see, this is not the same as a franchise. When the people of various towns around the country hear they will be getting a Super Wal-Mart, they get pretty much the same thing as every other town with a Super Wal-Mart gets. The same goes for Burger King, Walgreen' get the point. This is something completely different.

Now let's explore the idea of unintended consequences. Keep in mind that I have no inside knowledge of any of the hypotheticals I am about to share. These are all just things that have been swirling in my head since the filing of Morrison's bill.

1.  What if A&M doesn't want UHV? It seems as though everyone is assuming that A&M would be more than happy to set up shop in Victoria, but can anyone make that claim with 100% certainty? From a logistical standpoint, the acquisition doesn't make much sense to me for A&M. If you will remember, the majority of the underclassmen that attended UHV's first year of downward expansion were from the Rio Grande Valley. Evidently that was an area that was overloaded with prospective students. It made sense for UHV to recruit there, because there were no other UH schools in the area. The same cannot be said for A&M. Do you really think A&M is going to recruit students from the Valley to Victoria, and imply that they ignore the two other A&M campuses that they pass on their drive north? I just don't see it. Also, how do you think UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville will react to active recruitment in their vicinity from their main rival?

2.  How hard will UH fight to keep UHV? This is really the key to the whole deal. From what I understand, the Morrison Bill would transfer not only the Victoria location to A&M, but also the Cinco Ranch and Sugarland locations. If it were only the Victoria campus, they might not put up much of a fight, but I can't see them letting A&M come right into their backyard and snatch of two campuses in the Greater Houston area. So let's assume for a moment that UH resists the move. If that is the case, and the bill passes anyway, it could be harmful for Victoria in the future. If there is any amount of solidarity amongst the many Houston area Reps and Senators, they could do quite a bit as payback for Victoria in the future. They could block appropriation bills, or block State agency locations in Victoria, or a number of other things.

3.  What if A&M doesn't see much value in the current UHV, and puts them on the back burner? As it stands now, the A&M System has quite a bit on its plate. Galveston has always played a major role for A&M, and they appear to be very aggressive in Amarillo and San Antonio right now. So what happens if they take over UHV, and then don't pony up the new campus? Do you think the State Legislature will care if Victoria comes back them whining about A&M?

4.  To my way of thinking, some of this posturing is akin to a kid asking for a really expensive Christmas gift right after Dad gets laid off from work. There is no denying the current financial quandary that the State of Texas finds itself in. We all know there is a serious shortfall, and we all know that education was the first areas mentioned for cuts to get the numbers straightened out. So here comes Victoria, which already gets a considerable amount of State money, and it wants the proverbial pony. The difference between the spoiled child and Victoria in this analogy is that the child is not expected to understand the error of his ways, but political and business "leaders" of a community should know better. I just hope all this foot stomping doesn't cost us down the road. Whether we like it or want to accept it, we only have one State Rep. Someone please enlighten me, how many does Houston have? Once again, I think you get the point.

In summation, there are two areas of concern for me in this ordeal. The first is that everything done is legitimate and legal. The second is that we don't end up with egg on our faces. I guess whether my fears are founded or not is something that only time will reveal.

In my next blog, I will delve more deeply into the $100,000. I am waiting to get the whole story on that one before I comment fully.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good Times, Good Family, and Good Friends

It is Sunday evening, and I have just returned home from a gathering for a friend's father's 70th birthday party. The man in question was afflicted with an illness prior to our introduction that has severely hampered his abilities to socially interact. However, I have come to know well many people who were good friends with him in earlier times. To a man, each has lauded Robert Moore's friendship. I wish I had known him before the terrible misfortune, but I am still glad to know him and his family now.

I was struck by the number of folks that attended this party. There were former coworkers, fellow Legionnaires, neighbors, friend and family. There were children too young to walk, and a few so old they walked with difficulty. It was great to see that Mr. Moore and his family had forged so many strong friendships during their time. Mr. Moore's youngest son made a comment that everyone there was like family. Most of them had known him and his brother since early childhood, and remain close to this day.

This is what is most important about life. It is about the relationships that we are able to create and nourish. It is about giving so freely of yourself that others give of themselves in return. Days like today remind me that while life may be a long journey, we are seemingly never able to devote as much time as we desire to the things we enjoy most. It is sobering to be mindful that we can never truly spend enough time with those we enjoy and love. My only purpose in writing this short blog is to remind us all that life is never too busy to make a simple phone call to a friend or loved one that we haven't seen in a while. We never have too much going on to drop by an old friend's house on our way home from work. If we ever find ourselves of this mindset, then it would behoove us to clear out some of the clutter in order to make room for the things that are really important.