Defying some lawmakers who are urging it to slow down and reconsider, the University of Texas System on Friday completed the purchase of 100 vacant acres for a new campus in Houston.
The site won't be home to a new university, system officials have said, but will be a research and study site for its 14 existing universities and medical schools. The system eventually hopes to own more than 300 acres in southwest Houston but will need to buy other tracts before the site is complete.
Chancellor Bill McRaven announced plans for the Houston campus in November, saying he wanted to increase the system's presence in the state's biggest city. The idea immediately incited outrage from University of Houston officials and some local lawmakers concerned the UT System would be infringing on UH's territory.
The UH System Board of Regents approved a resolution expressing "concern" about the move. Nineteen state legislators wrote a letter to McRaven asking him to slow down and work with local leaders before making a purchase.
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The UT System didn't disclose the sales price for the land it purchased, saying it wants to wait until all of its purchases have been completed.
McRaven is developing a task force of Houstonians who will "explore opportunities for how the land could be used."
"The task force will focus on ways to significantly increase research funding and educational opportunities in nationally emerging fields and will be asked to avoid recommending programs or initiatives that duplicate what other Houston institutions are already providing," the university system said in a press release.
The purchase comes days before the UT System will be asked to explain its plans to state leaders. The House Higher Education Committee is expected to discuss the Houston campus idea during a meeting Wednesday. In addition, McRaven will brief the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board during its Thursday meeting.