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Racism at the rodeo 

Racism at the rodeo

Well! My mouth is still gaping open. Bob Lancaster's reporting of the incident at the rodeo was much more than disturbing — it is heart-breaking. Bob confirms what has been anecdotal, that racism is very much alive and well in our wonderful state. Not only was the initial incident with the "scarecrow" alarming, it was also his accurate, alas, reporting of the conversations he had with folks he knew and others on whom he eavesdropped. I know how difficult racism is because I was reared in a culture, in Central Arkansas, that inculcated that ideal — it was prevalent in social interactions, it was present in classroom teaching and conversations, it was ever so present at Sunday school and church.

The teaching was so pervasive that in my 74 years I have struggled to overcome that blight — and find that even today with my best efforts, that hoary head yet rears itself. My political understanding was granted me by my grandfather who was one of the staunch Republicans when there were few of them around. I thought the Republicans had a better answer than did the Democrats, but the Republicans, in my estimation, moved away from any cherished principles in the '70s. I floundered and became neither Republican nor Democrat, choosing to look at principles and character in those in public life.

Today, I am afraid that the Republicans have moved even farther from their base principles and have become those who promote narrow, biased and obstructive positions. No wonder there is such a problem.

We have a task before us that needs to be continually highlighted: the battle against racism is not over. We look to our grandchildren to be the hope of the future that is blind to color and aware of character. Already we need to be teaching our grandchildren to be aware of the hatred and idiocy of racism and stomp it out before it has a chance to get a purchase. Sadly, it will not be in my lifetime that I will see the fruit of that labor, but I do know that the day is coming when the fruit of justice, character, and trust in others will come to bear richly. It remains, during my lifetime, to continue to wrestle privately and publicly against the beast of racism and its insidious tentacles.

Dr. Jim Robnolt

Sherwood

Red tape for seniors at UALR

Thanks to the state legislature that passed Act 678 in 1975, senior citizens (over 60) may take university courses free when space is available. The act waives tuition and fees for seniors. I registered for a course at UALR, and did not have to pay tuition. The school did charge me $105 in fees. That is a little more than 2 percent of my retirement income and does not satisfy the usual definition of "free." It gets worse. Back on a campus after a several-year break, I was unaware of the nuances involved in registration. In years past, when I paid for a course, then that ended the registration process. This is not so at UALR today. You must confirm the registration by replying to an automatic e-mail. It gets a bit complicated from this point, so I will boil down the details. I could not use the e-mail system, and seniors are not allowed to register until the last moment to ensure that we do not use space needed by degree seekers. Those two details did not give me enough time to confirm my registration. When I finally got my e-mail account set up, a message was waiting for me stating that I have been removed from the system because I did not confirm my registration on time.

I opened the message on Friday, and spent the weekend wondering if my ignorance had ended my learning renaissance. I called the registration office, and they said I had a problem, but there was a possible solution.

The first step was to contact the professor. He is a very kind and caring man, who produced a yellow card requiring multiple signatures beginning with his own. After he signed it, he escorted me to the department chairperson, who promptly signed the card even as the professor was still describing the situation. I had a feeling of relief. The last step was the dean's office.

At this office, I was not allowed a face-to-face discussion of my problem. I waited outside his office within earshot as another employee presented the yellow card, and he pronounced the frightening phrase, "I will not sign it. It is too late." He had found some technicality that reinforced that decision. At this point, I negotiated my predicament with the employee, and she thought that the dean might sign if the registration office (the last required signature) sent him a note stating they would process the form if he signed it. I had hit the administrative level of UALR and had to negotiate the bureaucratic web they were weaving. In near 100-degree heat, I made the trip across campus to fetch the suggested note. A student worker wrote the note somewhat befuddled by such an asinine request. The note satisfied the bureaucrat, and I made the trip back to the registration building to get the documentation officially enrolling me.

I would like to know if other state schools have interpreted "waiver of tuition and fees for seniors" to mean that certain fees can be charged seniors. For the Powerful People, $105 is chicken feed. However, for some seniors, it means doing without either necessary items or an education. I think the legislature intended for seniors to be able to go to school, as the law states, free of tuition and fees. To the dean, who said, after signing my card, "Welcome to the world of bureaucracy," I say, "Welcome to the world of free speech."

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

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