The decks run red 

Have pirates seized control of the state's flagship university? If not, they're dangerously close, the fighting hand to hand. The Arkansas Farm Bureau, the lobbying arm of agribusiness, always more devoted to tax breaks and cheap farm labor than to education, has been campaigning diligently if furtively across the state to get a former Farm Bureau president, Stanley Reed, named the new president of the University. The Farm Bureau believes there's cash to be milked from the university cow if the right man is doing the pulling. A farmer of sorts, Reed has no qualifications to lead an institution of higher learning. He does have a record of being on the wrong side of numerous public issues, including his support for private segregated schools and anti-gay laws, and his opposition to laws prohibiting cruelty to animals.

For awhile, the Board searched for a new president in private, a majority of the trustees repudiating the state Freedom of Information law and their own duty to taxpayers, students, and parents. The Board found support for its secrecy from a chief counsel, Fred Harrison, who believes that university trustees, like vampires, work most efficiently in the dark.

A change in the chairmanship of the Board has opened the process up somewhat, Harrison notwithstanding, and that glimmer of sunshine may hurt Reed's chances, though his supporters on and off the board continue to connive.

The Board's raggedy reputation was further damaged last week, when the Times revealed that the Board has no policy prohibiting its members from doing business with the institutions they oversee. What little language the Board has concerning conflict of interest is intended more to protect the conflicted trustee than the university. One board member, Mike Akin of Monticello, has just entered a real estate deal with the University of Arkansas at Monticello; other trustees may have their own ventures working. This kind of thing should be banned outright, by statute if not by the Board.

The UA Board ceded considerable authority to the Walton Foundation in exchange for a large gift a few years back. It's never been made clear exactly how much the Board handed over, but we know the transaction produced a well-financed UA department whose purpose is to undermine the public schools.

We didn't expect the Board to offer the president's job to the Dalai Llama while he was in town, but we'd rather not have a Blackbeard either. Cannot we add just an ounce of idealism to the search for a university president, some slight acknowledgement that university graduates should know of value as well as price, of truth as well as profit margins? Arkansas needs more than hustlers.


Sign up for the Daily Update email


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Latest in Editorials

  • The end of an era

    We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
    • May 8, 2014
  • A stand for equality

    Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
    • May 8, 2014
  • Same old, same old

    Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
    • May 1, 2014
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Outmatched

    It's almost proverbial to say that every bully is a coward at heart. But that's wishful thinking. In politics, many strongmen are like Vladimir Putin: ruthless, cunning and sadistic. As the world witnessed in Helsinki, a posturing blowhard like Donald Trump is simply no match for the Russian dictator.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation