Issue 8, Volume 89

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@thedailycougar Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Issue 8, Volume 89

Est. 1934

FUMBLING THE BAG January 17, 2024 Front Page 8 Pages Color: Full Color


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After review, student-led committee recommends Athletics budget cut JORDAN NAVARIJO, ROBERT DE LA GARZA


Conflict of interest disclosure: The Cougar is in large part funded by Student Service Fees. To view our 2025 budget requests and SFAC presentation, go to and look under “The Cougar.”

Last month, the Student Fee Advisory Committee recommended a surprise cut to UH Athletics’ 2025 fiscal year budget. While many fee-funded units saw little to no change, the committee recommended a reduction of around $1.5 million to Athletics SFAC base funding allocation. Among other concerns, the committee cited a perceived lack of financial transparency as motivation behind the decision. While the committee recommended

“We asked if any funds from student fees were earmarked for other endeavors for travel, and they told us that nothing was earmarked from the student fee funds. The department gave us a runaround answer by saying: ‘All funds go into one big pile, and we just take from that pile what is needed.’” Anahi Ortega, vice chair of SFAC and technology leadership and innovation management senior cutting the department’s base budget, the total reduction only amounts to just over $700,000. Athletics will continue to receive another $1 million as “onetime” funding — money that is provided

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

on the condition that the organization or department receiving it justifies the allocation before subsequent SFAC committees. The proposed cut would bring Athletics’ total student-fee allocation to $3,678,322 — a 16% reduction from the department’s fiscal year 2024 budget of $4,407,707. The committee recommended the University reallocate a large portion of those funds as compensation increases for other fee-funded organizations.

What is SFAC? SFAC consists of seven students, two faculty members and one non-voting advisor responsible for recommending the funding allocations for Student Service Fees. Student Service Fees are a flat rate added to every student’s tuition each semester and are what make up the entirety of the committee’s budget. The fee rate for both the fall and spring semesters is $260 per student enrolled in six or more hours and $244 for those registered for six or fewer hours. The fee rates for the summer semester are $217 for four or more hours and $212 for students taking four hours or less. There are 33 total departments and organizations that SFAC recommends the budget for and a majority of studentrun organizations rely on Student Service Fees to operate. Examples include Counseling and Psychological Services, the Student Government Association and of course, The Cougar. The projected base budget for the fiscal year 2025 is approximately $23,092,800.

alternative Big 12 Conference schools. “Considering other Big 12 schools, UH Athletics receives substantially more Student Service Fee support, 184% of the Big 12 average,” the report stated. “Even after the $1.5 million reduction, UH Athletics will still be receiving 151% of the Big 12 average and will continue to until 2037.” During an interview with The Cougar, Vice President for Athletics Chris Pezman discussed the department’s revenue projections ahead of the 2023 football season. “As we move ahead, where we have to grow is our self-generated revenue: ticket sales, donations, parking concessions, merch, all those. We’re looking at probably close to a 250% to 300% increase across the board in each one of those revenue streams,” Pezman said. Mechanical engineering sophomore and SFAC Chair Yusuf Kadi believes that, with the projected revenue increases, Athletics should slowly wean off Student Service Fees to devote newly freed funding for student-serving organizations relying on the fees. In addition, the department’s alleged failure to provide detailed accounting alongside lacking a clear cost-benefit analysis were key factors behind the committee’s recommendation. Kadi and other members of SFAC said

“Athletics hasn’t been able to demonstrate its utilization of the money SFAC gives them. All Athletics traditionally receives other units provide very largest slice of the pie An important thing to note is that the accurate and detailed funds provided by SFAC make up just a breakdowns of exactly small portion of Athletics’ total budget, a large portion of which is provided for by where everything is alumni, event revenue and institutional support. But by no surprise, Athletics still going, and with Athletics, draws the lion’s share of Student Service we didn’t receive that.” Fees relative to other units. Further, the report states that the department receives significantly more support from Student Service Fees compared to

Yusuf Kadi, chair of SFAC and mechanical engineering sophomore

these issues were made apparent in the department’s SFAC presentation — a yearly meeting where the top executives of funded units justify their use of SFAC funds. Athletics’ presentation, as well as those of every other SFAC-funded organization, can be found at sfac. According to Ortega, Pezman’s presentation failed to provide concrete answers regarding the internal use of SFAC funds. Ortega and Kadi consider the perceived lack of transparency unfair to other SFAC-funded programs that did provide detailed information. An important principle for Kadi and the committee was the return on investment that students receive by paying the Student Service Fee. “The number of services, benefits and experiences these programs give to the students was the most important factor we consider,” Kadi said. Compared to other units, athletics’ use of SFAC funds for student engagement does not justify the amount of support the committee gives them, Kadi claims. The report recommended Athletics account for SFAC-provided funds separately from their normal operating budget. The intent is to ensure that money given to the program is spent on events and experiences specifically for the student body. For Ortega, cutting support for Athletics was a difficult but necessary decision. “At this point, the consistent support of athletics will start inhibiting the growth of other units,” Ortega said. “By cutting Athletics support, SFAC can allocate additional funding to Counseling and Psychological Services, the Center for Student Advocacy and Community and other student-focused units. Another major recommendation from this year’s report was maintaining the current Student Service Fee rate. The report cites the University’s affordability as a major factor in their reasoning.. “For the time being, it’s a good decision,” said faculty SFAC member Chad Wayne. “But at some point, SFAC will have to decide to either keep services and pay higher student fees or keep the fees the same and eliminate services.” SFAC is expected to meet with UH President Renu Khator later this month to discuss their recommendations for the 2024- 2025 fiscal year before it is proposed to the Board of Regents, therefore the decision is not yet final. “SFAC’s recommendations for FY25 are currently under consideration,” said UH Associate Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Media Relations Shawn Lindsey. “The University is currently developing its FY25 budget. Final budget recommendations will be presented to the UH System Board of Regents later this year. “

Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | 3 ROBERT DE LA GARZA, EDITOR


Editor’s note: The following two pages feature a breakdown of the fiscal year 2025 Student Fee Advisory Committee recommendations. Despite the committee finalizing their recommendations Nov. 20, 2023, the report has still yet to be published online. In the interest of public awareness, The Cougar made the decision to release the recommendations ahead of the University.



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Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | 5 STARNS LELAND, EDITOR





Cougars get through first week of unforgiving Big 12 schedule with any of those teams. And it’s kind of like being the NCAA Tournament because just about every team you play either is or will be a potential tournament team.” While the condensed Big 12 schedule will be new to everyone except Cryer and the head coach, players such as senior point guard Jamal Shead are confident in the team’s ability to deal with the physical challenges the next two months may bring. Shead pointed to September, the Cougars’ most rigorous month of conditioning, as a more than adequate precursor to conference play. “I feel like our September prepared us for this,” Shead said. “Nothing we do during the season will ever compare to that, so if we could tough that out I think we’ll be fine.” Though the rough start has seemingly put those statements to the test, the Cougars are still sure of the team’s ability to bounce back and get going in the Big 12 grind. Sampson himself expressed his unwavering faith in the team going forward. “This team’s going to still win a bunch of games,” Sampson said after the loss to TCU. “We came in here with a really good team, and we’re leaving with a really good team.”

Houston blew out West Virginia 89-55 Saturday in its first-ever Big 12 game. | Anh Le/The Cougar



The Big 12 grind doesn’t stop, and the Cougars are learning that just one week in. Just two days after their Big 12 debut ended in a blowout win over West Virginia, Houston had little time to rest before back-to-back road games. The first one, just two after the previous game, ended in UH’s first loss of the season at the hands of a tough Iowa State. Houston came out flat and committed uncharacteristic turnovers early that saw the team fall into a 14-0 hole. The Cougars battled back and even took the lead late, but the Cyclones — aided by a rowdy Hilton Coliseum crowd — made enough plays down the stretch to win. It was an early lesson in what road games will be now in this conference. “All these games that we’re going to play on the road, we’ve got to come out on point and not get hit early,” said sophomore guard Emanuel Sharp. “We’ve got to be the first ones to strike first, and you can’t get hit first.” The team only had two days to regroup back in Houston before going back on the road, this time to Fort Worth to play TCU. UH started much better this time, but again fell short, losing in the final seconds: Two road games, two losses that could have been won by a combined five points. “We should be 3-0,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “But we’re not. So we move to the next game.” That next game is back at home, but it’s against a surging Texas Tech team. That’s three games, two of which are on the road, against 11-plus win teams that rank in the Top 30 of KenPom — all in the span of just nine days. Later this

year, Houston will have a similar stretch against BYU, Kansas State, Texas and Kansas between Jan. 23 and Feb. 3, and two instances of having two games in three days. The Cougars may have had some three-game weeks in the AAC, but never against teams of this caliber or on the road so frequently. Now, it’s a new norm that UH will have to get used to in the Big 12. Luckily, it’s a grind that senior guard L.J. Cryer, who spent three years at Baylor, and head coach Kelvin Sampson are all too familiar with. “That is the tough thing about playing in the Big 12,” Sampson said. “When I was in the league before, we had a lot of Saturday-Monday games. We’d play Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday afternoon, then play Texas at home on Monday. But you’re in that league.” The most important thing for such games, according to Cryer, is to be able to maintain a short memory, re-focus on the upcoming game and stay fresh physically. “A lot of those times you have a Saturday, Monday game is usually a really good team, and then a really good team again,” Cryer said. “So you can’t kind of dwell on those wins. You’ve just got to flush it mentally and get on to the next one, because the next day you got the scouting report, so you’ve got to really lock in and stay off your legs.” Another challenge for UH playing in a new conference is the lack of acquaintance with its new opponents. Rather than having previous years of film playing against in-conference players and coaches, many of the Cougars’ games will be against teams that they’ve never seen before — much like the NCAA Tournament, as Sampson compared it. “You’re playing 18 NCAA Tournament games,” Sampson said. “We’ve been to the

tournament enough times to get ready for the next game and have no familiarity

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Focus less on New Year’s resolutions, more on becoming happier

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar



The new year is here! As we ring in 2024, odds are good that you’re feeling some pressure to adopt some kind of resolution, like going to the gym more or reading a certain number of books. While the idea of self-improvement is admirable, is it possible that adopting New Year’s resolutions can actually do more harm than good? Of course, there’s nothing inherently harmful about wanting to get better as a person. We could all stand to get better in certain areas. But the best resolutions are ones adopted from a genuine desire to improve, not from the annual peer pressure that sets in every January. After all, there’s a reason many gyms have adopted the habit of offering deals exclusively for new customers who sign up close to the new year. Many of these gyms are well aware that the customers signing up in January aren’t likely to stick around, so they can get more money out of them if they sign them up for a

“cheaper” yearly membership. This kind of wheeling and dealing is a bit sketchy, but one could easily say that it’s just good business sense on the gym owners’ parts. However, it points to a fundamental issue with a lot of New Year’s resolutions: They almost never work. Forget about gyms. If you really want to see how common failed resolutions are, try searching “Goodreads” on X and looking at any posts from the past few months. More than likely, you’ll find dozens of users bemoaning their unmet goals to read a certain number of books that year. Some of these people missed their book reading goals by several dozen books, and yet a lot of them also joked about how they plan to do the same thing next year. So why do we insist on doing this dance over and over again? How many people genuinely improve their lives significantly off one half-hearted vow they took while slightly tipsy off too much champagne and cheese? For some people, the stress of trying to

fulfill the resolutions is little more than a meaningless ritual, but the pressure is much more real for others. Between potential family stress and financial struggles, the holidays can already be a lot to deal with, and a national push to make some kind of vow of self-improvement hardly helps. These stresses can be especially stressful for people dealing with body dysmorphia, eating disorders or mental health struggles in general. Sudden pressure to go to the gym is hardly likely to be helpful to any of the above examples and runs the risk of actively worsening certain mental health conditions. It might be easy to say “Well, some people need that extra push,” but again, setting good habits rarely works like that. If you really want to make a change, you need to have the conviction and time to really set yourself up for success. And most importantly, you need grace if you end up stumbling a bit on the way there. So this year, maybe consider taking it easy on yourself. A lot happened in 2023, and it’s okay to take a bit of a rest

instead of pushing yourself further. Gen Z has been marked by a notable embrace of “self-care” ideas, and if the declining January gym membership promotions are any indication, that trend is being taken seriously. If you have to make a resolution, consider trying something broader like “take more time to enjoy nature” or “spend more time with friends”. It might sound cheesy, but life is too short to start the year already stressed. Make 2024 the year you take a deep breath and choose to enjoy life regardless of what you accomplish.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Let us know on our Instagram @thedailycougar!

Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | 7 MALACHI KEY, EDITOR




Letter from the Editor: What it means to be a Cougar JOHN LOMAX V


The spring semester is once again upon us, Cougars. Time to pull ourselves from the stupor of winter break and savor the last few weeks of pleasant weather before the city reverts to its usual oppressive climate. Temperatures aside, with a new year and new semester also comes an opportunity to reflect. A chance to think about who we are, where we’re going and a host of other anxiety-inducing topics usually only encountered on sleepless nights spent staring at the ceiling fan. One topic I find myself returning to on such nights is the nature of our school and the people that comprise our community. At a university the size of a small city it seems almost unrealistic to think that there’s a culture that we all share in common. And yet, as I enter my final semester here, I can’t help but feel that there is something at our core that unites us. Something that makes us Cougars — aside from attending UH, of course. In her State of the University address, President Renu Khator pulled a quote from legendary UH football coach Bill Yeoman that I think epitomized the common

“It’s not easy being a Cougar; but it is worth it... today and everyday.”

bond we all share. This rings true even outside of our less-than-stellar performance on the football field this year. Navigating a sea of people scattered across a sprawling campus that now includes a colony in far-flung Sugar Land is not something I think anyone would describe as easy. I’ll be the first to admit this University has issues. Those who’ve met me know I’m not one to shy from criticizing our alma mater. But for all my pessimism, I can’t help but get defensive when some Aggie or Longhorn deridingly refers to us as “just a commuter school.” Yes, we may not have the helicopter-advising found at private schools, nor the traditional college environments of UT or A&M. But what we do have is the blunt honesty of an apathetic bunch of college students that just can’t be bothered with the performative activism in orange nor the military roleplay in maroon. And that honesty is, I believe, worth it. You don’t come to UH if you’re in the habit of having things handed to you. Including myself, I have encountered enough “nontraditional” students to the point where I’m starting to believe the only true UH tradition is being nontraditional. First-generation students, older students, students from marginalized communities, international students, veterans — this campus houses a million different flavors of students who took the back route to get here. Ultimately, that is what I believe


i The Cougar


John Lomax


Cindy Rivas Alfaro WEB EDITOR

Emma Christensen NEWS EDITOR

Robert De La Garza


Anh Le


Jose GonzalezCampelo


Atirikta Kumar Logan Linder Regan Grant Riley Moquin



Malachi Key


While you probably will never see me wearing red, I assure you my blood runs scarlet.| Anh Le/The Cougar

John Lomax Cindy Rivas Alfaro

is at the core of being a Cougar. Not being a commuter, not wearing red on Fridays, but living honestly through adversity. Easy is going to a college where your friend group, social life and support network are handed to you at orientation. UH is having to put yourself out there, it’s talking to people in your classes, it’s going to the Den after a rough day. There’s an undeniable human component to this university that mirrors the city around it. Like Houston, we’re diverse yet hardly aware of it; resilient while somehow still uncertain; proud of who we are without knowing who we really are — a confusing mess of passions and desires that are the hallmark of a student body that defines our school’s culture and not the other way around. Other universities require students inherit a portion of an already-established culture. They ask that you make room in your

Anh Le

personality for an ill-defined, centuries-old legacy that often revolves around nothing more than “Yay football.” UH, for better or worse, makes no such request. Instead, at UH you are asked what you have to offer the campus. You are asked to take a portion of yourself and add it to the greater Cougar mosaic. In our apathy flourishes true, unapologetic individualism that forms the foundation of a campus culture more authentic than any other in Texas. So as you’re gearing up to kick off this semester, think about what it really means to be a Cougar. Think about what it is you can offer the campus community. Think about the impact you can have on our campus. Chances are, it’s bigger than you think.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The Cougar welcomes letters to the editor from any member of the UH community. Letters should be no more than 250 words and signed, including the author’s full name, phone number or e-mail address and affiliation with the University, including classification and major. Anonymous letters will not be published. Deliver letters to N221, University Center; e-mail them to; send them via campus mail to STP 4015; or fax to (713) 743-5384. Letters are subject to editing.

ABOUT THE COUGAR The Cougar is published biweekly on Wednesdays during the fall and spring semesters, on Wednesdays during the summer and online daily at The Cougar is supported in part by Student Service Fees. Copies of The Cougar are free.


Choose intelligence over force. Look for opportunities to improve your life. Say no to anyone who tries to talk you into something you don’t want to pursue. Life is too short to give in to people who want to make decisions for you. Focus on your needs, wants and goals, and you’ll find your desired happiness. Trust your judgment. CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19) -- A direct approach is best. Don’t be shy; find out who is interested in your plans. A positive change at home will make your life easier and encourage you to go after your goals. AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) -Look at all aspects of a situation before attempting to deal with it. An opportunity to turn an idea into a profitable venture is apparent if you seek out people with

something to contribute. PISCES (Feb. 20-March 20) -- Refuse to let your emotions get in the way of a situation that requires patience and professionalism. Be direct, stick to the facts and clarify what you intend to offer. ARIES (March 21-April 19) -- Look inward and adjust your lifestyle and goals to suit your needs. Refuse to waste your time arguing or let anyone bully you into something you don’t want to pursue. TAURUS (April 20-May 20) -- Invest in yourself, learn all you can and expand your awareness. Use your imagination and call on experts and people you trust to broaden your perspective. GEMINI (May 21-June 20) -- Change begins with you. Don’t rely on others to finish what you

start. Be secretive regarding your plans until you have everything up and running. Don’t take a chance with your reputation. CANCER (June 21-July 22) -- Refuse to let an emotional incident stand in your way. You should follow through with your plans, embrace what life offers, and use your intelligence and energy to set yourself up for success. LEO (July 23-Aug. 22) -- Keep life simple. Take care of yourself first. Honing your skills or learning something new will encourage you to work to get ahead. Attending networking events will allow you to expand your interests. VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22) -Sharing personal information or feelings will lead to vulnerability. Choose to make your home less of a burden and significantly

more functional. Take care of domestic responsibilities. LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 23) -- Be observant, avoid trouble and don’t pick sides if an argument erupts. Strive for peace and focus on opportunities rather than trying to change others. Recognize your faults. SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 22) -- Update everything. Details and prep work will be necessary for success. Reach out to people you respect and form a network you can count on for backup. Don’t gamble with your health or money. SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 23-Dec. 21) -- Consider your intentions, be honest and tidy up loose ends. Free up your time and follow your dreams. Opportunities await you, and positive change is within reach.

No part of the newspaper in print or online may be reproduced without the consent of the director of Student Publications.

ABOUT CSM The Center for Student Media provides comprehensive advisory and financial support to the university’s student-run media: The Cougar newspaper, CoogTV and COOG Radio.


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