A Special Message from the VP of Student Affairs

As the fall semester draws to an end, and in light of recent discussions regarding the semester-long challenges among our students living at privately owned Panther Hill (PH) Apartments within the town of Prairie View, I write to provide a brief update on some of the things that the university has done to support our students living in Panther Hill.

As we began the fall ’18 semester, it became apparent to university administration that many student-tenants of the newly constructed PH apartments would have difficulties moving into their unfinished apartments before the start of classes.  Therefore, per President Simmons’ and my note to students in August, we provided temporary shelter to those waiting to be allowed into their apartment by PH management.

In the following months, students shared a multitude of stories highlighting their ongoing struggles with facilities and management challenges at PH. These challenges included unfinished construction items, mold, drainage, responsiveness of management and delays.  Forums were held both on campus (sponsored by Student Government) and at the municipal facilities.  These sessions, which included student leadership, municipal leadership, PH management, faculty, student-tenants, concerned citizens and university representatives, highlighted the challenges that students faced, discussed solutions (including possible legal challenges) and outlined approaches to streamline resolutions.  As you can imagine, the problems were many, frustrations high and solutions tended to relate to developer capacity and the challenges that are usually associated with new construction projects and management problems.  These problems persisted throughout the entirety of the fall semester.

Because the matter is fundamentally between the developer/landlord and student-tenants, we encouraged students to take the lead in working directly with PH management.  The university, in an ongoing manner, met with developers to advocate for our students, which included informing PH management on how to deal with large student residential populations. In our direct response to students, we accommodated student’s needs whenever possible and within the scope of the university’s capacity. Those responses/interventions varied as widely as the issues raised by students.  We made adjustments where possible, without intrusion to the contractual relationship between the students and their landlord.  In spite of these efforts, the challenges and frustrations persisted.

The above experience clarified our need to establish a robust, formal off-campus student program. This new direction means that we plan to support off-campus students with housing, transportation and academic challenges. As we move to launch our best practices driven program, we will look to partner with those who have expressed interest in supporting our efforts. The activities of the past few months have underscored the broad commitment of our alumni, surrounding community members and external partners to our mission to provide a world class experience for our students. We will be looking to use that commitment to support the success of our off campus student population.

Have a happy and safe holiday!

Very best,

Tim Sams, PhD
Vice President for Student Affairs