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UA priorities 

In his letter to the editor published May 17 (“UA priorities”), David Warren Kirsch expressed a misguided belief that the University of Arkansas cares more about issues involving athletics than it does about academics — in this case, as it pertains to the loss of faculty member David Lincoln Chappell to a coveted endowed chair at the University of Oklahoma.

It appears that Mr. Kirsch has confused the insatiable appetite by the media and some fans for all things Razorback with the priorities of this institution. This assertion could not be further from reality. The university is keenly aware that Dr. Chappell’s career opportunity is our loss. The extent to which the media wishes to cover his career, however, has nothing to do with institutional priorities.

I would suggest that Mr. Kirsch view the latest report of the university’s 2010 Commission, “Raising the Bar” — found at www.uark.edu — to gain a more informed sense of the institution’s values and priorities.

The letter also suggests that spending on athletics diminishes funds available for academic purposes, such as retaining top faculty and academic materials. This claim also is completely devoid of fact.

Intercollegiate athletics at the University of Arkansas is entirely self-supporting, and does not use state appropriations or tuition income to function — to include the payment of coaches’ salaries. We are one of a handful of universities nationwide that has remained able to keep athletics separate from the important — and largely underfunded — academic mission of Arkansas’s flagship university. The fiscal independence of Razorback athletics is a source of pride for the university.

There is no doubt that athletics can serve as a valuable window through which the community and state as a whole sees a university, and that often proves advantageous to help promote academic endeavors. Unfortunately, that window in recent months has been shaded by virulent and baseless Internet chat room innuendo — which the media has chosen to follow intently.

We forge ahead despite these ongoing distractions, working to recruit and retain more world-class faculty — such as Dr. Ron Rardin, a renowned scholar who left a faculty leadership post at Purdue to accept an endowed chair in our College of Engineering — and to shed light on the remarkable contributions the larger university community makes to the state of Arkansas.

Tysen Kendig

Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations

Secret vote

Re: your editorial “Give workers a hand”:

Since when is a secret ballot in any election considered to be anything other than a necessity if intimidation is to be prevented? The so-called Employee Free Choice Act is obviously designed to allow union intimidation of voters in an outrageous attempt to turn back the continuing decline in union membership. This decline is not due to changes in labor laws but in the general recognition by managers that fair and open dealing with their fellow employees is critical to their mutual success. There are no great organizations in which this principle is absent; and when applied, union representation becomes irrelevant.

As for the value of union jobs and union wages, I will simply note that the pressure of the global economy is a reality that cannot be ignored or avoided. How do you explain the decline of our once dominant auto industry? Could union negotiated wage and benefit packages that have raised the price of Detroit’s output above its foreign based competitors’ been a major part of the problem? Of course, successive managements share the blame for this sorry state of affairs as they agreed to contracts they had to know were unsustainable in the long run.

In any event, you can be certain the Free Choice Act, if implemented, will only act to reduce America’s global competitiveness. By the way, I always enjoy your paper. Blessedly it is free and worth every penny.

Jon Jacoby

Little Rock

The tenant farmers

Great article on the Southern Tenant Farmers’s Union museum at Tyronza. It’s an important institution that will hopefully keep Arkansas students aware of this part of our history.

I’ve long been fascinated by the rural labor movement in Arkansas in the 1930s. Its members and goals are now mostly forgotten, because they were quickly overtaken by mechanization and a war-time economy, but its history is interesting. For a story of a federal prosecution of slavery in Crittenden County in the 1930s, presided over by a former Arkansas governor, see the winter issue of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly.

Another story mostly unexplored by the media is the funding for this museum, and other university museums in Arkansas. The current funding formula for colleges and universities, based on student enrollment, effectively punishes any university expenditure that does not increase student enrollment. UA-Fayetteville recently closed one of its museums, choosing to spend the money on funding that would increase enrollment. Other universities spend money on TV advertising, rather than museums, to boost enrollment and therefore their places in the formula. Museums that remain open, like the ones operated by Arkansas State University (including the STFU museum at Tyronza, the Hemingway museum at Piggott and the plantation museum at Lake Village) depend on one-time general improvement funding, which is not dependable and is very controversial.

Sen. Robert F. Thompson

Paragould

Royalty

A decision has recently been made to not let Prince Harry go to Iraq, even though he volunteered. It would have posed too great a threat for not only himself but his men. He will serve elsewhere.

A long-ago decision was made that the Bush twins would not serve in Iraq because it would pose too great a threat on, and disruption to, their privileged lives. They will not serve elsewhere, not even to put on a Red Cross uniform and visit Veterans Hospitals. There are “royals” and then there are “roils.”

Chris Gray

Monticello

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