Incoming UST president talks plans

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Richard Ludwick will officially become the University of St. Thomas’ president on July 7, 2017.

By Alyssa Foley

Richard Ludwick will officially replace Robert Ivany as president of the University of St. Thomas on July 7, 2017. The University Board of Directors appointed Ludwick the university’s ninth president earlier this month.

Ivany announced in fall 2015 that he would be ending his 5-year contract early, just months before faculty gave Ivany a vote of no-confidence for a lack of transparency in university finances.

Ludwick spoke with USTunderground.com over the phone last week to discuss his hopes and plans as university president. Luckwick said that his first “official act” as University of St. Thomas president would be to attend mass.

College Affordability

“Affordability is a significantly important question for not just the University of St. Thomas, but for higher education generally,” said Ludwick.

He noted that more than the university’s sticker price must be considered in a discussion of affordability, what students actually pay and how much institutional aid the university can afford must also be considered. UST currently has a 53 percent average undergraduate discount rate. Ludwick pointed out that UST’s average financial aid package does put the university within reach for most students, “especially when you consider the cost of not attending the University of St. Thomas.”

“You also have to look at the value of the experience vis-à-vis what the experience is elsewhere,” noted Ludwick.” He said that outcomes such as graduation rates and personal development can make a UST education a more valuable investment than just in a dollar sense.

To give some numerical perspective on outcomes, according to the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, 51 percent of first-time college students taking a full course load will earn a Bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to 48 percent of University of Houston students. The median annual salaries for a UST graduate is  $47,800, but the median UH graduate earns slightly more at $48,900 a year. Both Houston universities have outcomes slightly better than the national average.

Enrollment

Ludwick has experience in university enrollment from working as Provost of Saint Gregory’s University in Oklahoma and Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Albany Law School in New York.

Currently, Ludwick is studying St. Thomas’ key strengths and how they may apply to the marketplace.

There are over 6.5 million people in the greater Houston area, and 1.2 million Catholics within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. With one Catholic institution in the city, Ludwick said, “it seems logical that there is an opportunity to serve not only the Catholic market, but a wider market who would be looking for the kind of qualities that a St. Thomas education provides…Our opportunity is to match those people who value that kind of an education and make it both affordable and attainable for them.”

University Finances

Ludwick says that he wants to keep UST’s finances in perspective. “A not-for-profit organization is not intended to make a profit,” said Ludwick, but “we always think it’s important to have a positive cash flow if we can.”

The Budget Advisory Committee thinks that the 2016-17 budget will have a deficit of around $1,000,000 due to shortfalls in fundraising and tuition revenue.

“We obviously don’t want to sustain deficits,” Ludwick said that a one-million dollar deficit on a multi-million dollar budget and endowment, “is not an existential issue, [but] it is a problem that you want to fix.” Ludwick says that he will work diligently to have budgets in the black.

Ludwick says that he would start a community dialogue to determine priorities, “and how the budget can be used as a tool to make sure that those priorities are realized.”

Although Ludwick said that he does not the specific of the faculty pay situation yet, “under Catholic social teaching…we would want to make sure that compensation is fair and always appropriate.”

Professional Programs

Ludwick believes part of his role as university president will be to “help the community sort of discern where the next best opportunities lie, both within the mission and also in meeting the market needs.”

Ludwick believes that part of what makes UST special is its “emphasis on the kinds of skill sets that complement the nursing skill sets or the business skill sets…found through studying and fluency in the liberal arts, especially in theology and philosophy.”

UST graduates have understanding of Western Culture beneath their professional skill sets, which Ludwick believes that this gives them a leg up on the competition and the “currency to engage in meaningful work.”

Community Engagement

The new university president is walking into a situation where students, faculty and alumni have voiced their frustrations with the transparency and receptiveness of the university’s administration.

To address transparency issues, Ludwick says that, “I favor are structures that allow for free flow of information, so that people don’t feel disenfranchised.”

A New Houston Home

“Both my wife and I were really impressed by the folks that we met on campus,” said Ludwick, “we were particularly impressed with the students that we met, that was a big selling point for us, that we thought the students were just articulate and engaged, and they were enthusiastic, and they were just terrific.” He also mentioned that, “The dedication of the faculty and the staff was very impressive.”

Ludwick admits he’s not that familiar with Houston, but he and his wife have been new comers in many places throughout the country. “We’re looking for a long-term home, and we hope and thing that Houston will be it.”

“There is a whole lot of positive things that exist at the University of St. Thomas and we’re excited to come and join that community,” said Ludwick.

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UST #BabesForTrump student hopes for election win

By Elley Myers

Alicia Starko is a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of St. ThomasHouston who has led a “BabesForTrump” crusade to put Donald Trump in the White House.

A legal immigrant from Canada, Starko grew up in a household where her father leaned right and her mother was neutral. Starko said she was raised to reach her own conclusions on political policy.

“I have always stood for small government, strong family values, God and a free market,” Starko said.

Starko passionately advocates Trump’s vision for immigration.  When Starko was 2-years-old, her family hired an immigration lawyer and went through the process of becoming legal citizens.

“We need to stop the tidal wave of illegal aliens pouring into this country who are eviscerating our economy and bringing crime with them,” Starko said.

Starko has received media attention for her support of Donald Trump and calls herself a “BabesforTrump” girl.

#BabesForTrump became a social media hashtag after women posted pictures of themselves in bikinis and “Make America Great Again” hats.  After Starko posted her “BabesForTrump” picture, the photo went viral.

“BabesforTrump wants to make it clear that young women do support Trump, despite the media spin,” Starko said.

Starko began using the media attention to cultivate a platform that would encourage women to be more active and opinionated when it comes to the presidential election.

Starko said she strives to embolden women to speak out about their beliefs when it comes to political policy.

University of Houston’s College Republican organization is one of several Republican student organizations that have chosen not to endorse Trump.  Jordan Smith, University of Houston’s College Republican president, shares a different opinion concerning the #Babes4Trump campaign.

“This is a dumb idea,” Smith said.  “It’s a millennial tactic that makes Trump look like what Donald Trump is.”

Starko said she felt it was necessary to expand her political views beyond “BabesforTrump” into another organization called Students4Trump in order to broaden her scope.

Students4Trump is a nationwide student organization that seeks to inform people about Trump’s policies and principles in the hope that Trump will win the presidential election. Starko continues to be an advocate for Students4Trump despite the opposition it faces from neighboring College Republican campuses that do not endorse Trump.

The Republican student organizations at Texas A&M, Rice University and the University of Houston have made the decision to not endorse Trump as the Republican candidate.

Elana Margosis, a Rice University student reporter, wrote an article this September regarding Rice University’s College Republican’s decision to reject a Trump endorsement. Margosis interviewed several student Republicans at different campuses as well as members of the Rice chapter of Students4Trump.

“Club leadership was split at Rice while Students4Trump had a much more unified position.” Margosis said.

According to Margosis, Rice’s Republican organization’s decision not to endorse Trump was democratic.  Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters had the chance to debate their views before a vote was taken.

UH Republican organization’s decision to not endorse Trump was made by its board members, Smith said. This was in an effort to bring unity to the Republican group.

In an email to Margosis regarding Rice’s Republican organization’s decision, Starko stated that she believes anyone who is against Trump is automatically a Hillary Clinton supporter.

“We fear that your negative influence upon your conscience will cost us this election, allowing the radical left to hang onto the Oval Office.” Starko said in an email to Margosis.

Smith maintains that organizations like Students4Trump have become too aggressive, and that Students4Trump only supports one view-point.  Smith believes that groups like Students4Trump promote authoritarianism rather than democracy.

For Starko, this election cycle has developed her interest in public policy. She said she is excited about having the opportunity to share her views and will continue to use the media to extend her reach.

Starko said she will remain involved in politics after the election.

Alumni petitioners told: leave or be arrested

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Screenshot of a YouTube video posted by Concerned UST Alumni where UST President Robert Ivany and campus Police Chief James Tate ask Alumni Mary Malone to leave for handing out literature to members of the Board of Directors before a meeting.

By Alyssa Foley

A few alumni were told to leave campus by the university president and campus police chief for handing out a petition to the board of directors.

The group, who call themselves Concerned UST Alumni, posted a video and audio of the incident on YouTube on Nov. 2.

In part of the video, the alumni can be seen greeting a board member as he walks through the door before the Oct. 27 board meeting. They hand him a package and say, “This is from the alumni.”

“Oh, thank you,” replies the board member. He continues walking past the alumni into the boardroom in Mallory. Later in the video, university staff can be seen physically blocking the alumni from handing packets to board members as they walk in. The staff escort the board members away from the alumni.

The video shows the group being asked to leave multiple times by university President Robert Ivany and campus Police Chief James Tate. Tate tells one of the alumni, Mary Malone, “You have to leave now, unless you want to be placed under arrest for trespassing.”

“After all these years and two degrees, you’re kicking me off the property?” asks Malone.

“Yes, for what you’re doing,” says Ivany.

“For trying to communicate directly with the board members?” asks Malone.

“Correct, yes.” replies Ivany.

When Malone asks what’s wrong with communicating directly with board members, Ivany said that he is not willing to discuss it. Malone states in the video that she has asked the Board Chair Herbert Edmundson to share their petition with the board and he refused.

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to find another way then,” says Ivany.

“This is our other way,” says Malone.

“But this is private property,” says Tate, “we have the option to say ‘leave’ if that’s what we need to do…I’m asking you leave the area, this building…” Ivany says they are free to hand literature out from the street.

The beginning of the YouTube video is audio only, and Malone can be heard telling someone, “We’re not disrupting this meeting. The meeting has not started yet.”

“Once the board meeting starts, you’re going to leave, right?” someone asks.

“Of course, of course…we will not disrupt the board meeting at all,” replies Malone.

Hours before the video was posted, Chief Tate confirmed with UST Underground that he was present at the incident and that President Ivany asked the alumni to leave for disrupting a meeting. When they did not leave, Tate said he asked them himself. He added that, “They were nice, no one was upset.”

Since it was a verbal warning and they complied, Tate said he did not write a police report on the incident. He explained that only if someone was warned in writing not to come back or arrested for trespassing would a trespassing incident be recorded in the campus daily crime log.

The alumni are upset that there is no Basilian candidate for university president. They started a petition two weeks ago on Change.org asking that the presidential search committee reconsider their finalist decision. The petition has since received 427 signatures, just shy of their goal of 500 signatures.

The only candidate nominated by the Basilian fathers for the presidency, Father Anthony Giampietro, was not selected as a finalist in the presidential search. This means he was did not make it to the stage where he would have been invited for an on-campus interview.

The petition says, “We do not understand why this has happened. We find this particularly troubling in light of the University’s current financial difficulties and the faculty vote of No Confidence in the current president last spring.”

The petition asks that Father Giampietro be considered a finalist and brought to campus for interviews, and it’s addressed to the Catholic Archbishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, who sits on the university board of directors.

The three finalists, James Loftus, Richard Ludwick, and Jeff Senese each spent two days on UST’s campus in October meeting with university constituents.