Government invasion of universities’ rights


Editorial: ed·i·to·ri·al
[ed-i-tawr-ee-uhl, -tohr-] noun:
An article that represents the official viewpoint of a newspaper on a topic of public interest.

Arkansas Legislature appears to be getting more and more involved in the day-to-day operation of colleges and universities, from the most recent gun law bill that passed to issues with defunding different departments here at Arkansas Tech University. We believe the legislator is over stepping its bounds and has enough to delegate over that it doesn’t need to interfere with college campuses. Colleges such as ourselves have Boards of Trustees that are elected to help us in decision-making processes.

The trustees are appointed by the governor and serve five-year terms. Plus, those people appointed to serve typically have strong ties to the university, which means they already understand the university and the way it should operate. That makes them much more qualified than legislators, who have the whole state to worry about, to provide oversight.

Trustees are invested in doing what is right for the campus because it reflects on them and their community.

Our Board of Trustees and other upper level administrators have advocated for no guns on campus and previously passed laws on campus to showcase this. On May 23, 2013, the trustees unanimously voted to prohibit concealed handguns all campuses.

This was in response to Act 226 of the 89th Arkansas General Assembly that was approved on March 1, 2013. The act allows trained and licensed Arkansas college and university staff and faculty to carry concealed handguns if the governing boards of the schools do not adopt a policy expressly forbidding it, therefore Tech adopted the policy. This means the trustees and the campus understood Act 226 and responded accordingly to what they felt was best for the campus.

In fact, the University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas, Harding University, Henderson State University, Hendrix College, University of the Ozarks, Arkansas State University, Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville and East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City all opted out of Act 226. But now that the new law legislature has passed these schools no longer have a choice.

The Legislature has forced something on campuses that clearly is not welcome.

Then, Tech had an issue with the diversity office and legislation. The legislators claimed that people from Russellville were unhappy about the events the Department of Diversity and Inclusion were holding, while Tech claimed to have support from those on campus and in the area.

“The final straw, I guess you could say, was the Diversity and Inclusion Department, and there’s been a few issues that it always seems it goes back there,” Trevor Drown, Arkansas state representative, said. “I mean to put something like that out at an institution of higher education and then some of the pictures that were sent to us, it wasn’t just things dealing with sex education, it was different items, I’ll leave it at that, that you would not think would be appropriate to have at an institution of higher education. Maybe somewhere else, but not in the River Valley.”

We believe that we are as forward thinking, as cultured and as educated as anyone or any school outside of the River Valley and therefore Tech should hold events that show case that such as with “Sex on the Lawn.”

This event and many others held by the DDI are to inform and educate students and the community about diversity and inclusion. The only reason to have the legislature step in is because closed-minded people did not take the time to educate themselves and instantly went into shock; shock from what they did not understand and felt no need to understand. We need to understand that when we hide information the worst usually happens.

It’s like the quote from George Santayana, made famous by Winston Churchill, goes, “If we don’t learn from history we are bound to repeat it.” It’s because people don’t discuss uncomfortable topics to move beyond the awkwardness into understanding. So we go on making the same mistakes others have already learned from because we don’t share this information. This then creates a fear, a fear of the unknown. From this fear we get laws that are unnecessary or increases the fear, like handguns on campus.

We fear all of this signals a trend on the part of the Legislature, as if legislators believe they need to be exercising more oversight on those day-to-day activities on campuses. But that belief is misguided. With the aid of the Board of Trustees, educated administrators and a whole campus of people who have been adulting for quite some time, college campuses across Arkansas seem more than capable to govern themselves.