The state has stuck its nose in it

College campuses have state mandated guideline they have to adhere to in order to receive state funding.

Arkansas Tech University is no exception.

However, with the guidelines comes an unclear line of who holds the final say over the university’s business. We say it should be Dr. Robin Bowen, president, and the Board of Trustees. We say this because Dr. Bowen has proven she has the students’ interest at heart and the Board backs her up showing us she has a good support system.

There are many wrong ways and right ways to address an issue and we believe the state has stepped in beyond their capacity the wrong way all the while keeping the proper funding for comparison from our campus. We ask that if you are going to judge us and restrict us, do it equally across the board for all campuses.

Let us start when the line was tested this past spring 2017. The incident in question was an event entitled “Sex on the lawn.” State representatives Mary Bentley, Trevor Drown and Marcus E. Richmond claimed their constituents were unhappy with what was being promoted and displayed at the event.

“We have to keep diverting our attention to Arkansas Tech because of the complaints we are getting,” Drown said.

The representatives the took a stand saying that was not an appropriate event for the campus or for the community and do not want to spend tax dollars on that.

“As State Legislators we hold the ‘Purse Strings’ of the states budget. Do you think this is an appropriate use of your tax dollars?” Bentley said.

They suggested that the funding would be cut if the Department of Diversity and Inclusion continued.

Students rallied; attending meetings and speaking out to the representatives.

Dr. Bowen and the Board of Trustees setup a meeting to discuss this event and the resolved to come up with a solution.

The solution was the Board had to approve every event that DDI will hold, host or attach their name to. This means all events for the current academic year (2017-2018) had to be approved over the summer.

DDI had to plan an entire year of events over one summer and have everything in place before it goes to the Board. We can’t even plan beyond our next paper because of the work and chaos involved let alone imagine planning a year’s worth of events.

So who had the power of the decision-making and who had to follow?

In our opinion this is just an on going battle between the people with the money (the state representatives) and those concerned with the students education (Dr. Bowen and the Board) and the two do not seem to mix.

The reason we think this is an ongoing battle and will continue to be until it becomes a private college is because our president and the Board are willing to fight back and stand their ground.

The beginning of this semester began with another round of we have the money and as state representatives we are questioning how the university is spending it. We get it, this is what you are supposed to do but there’s a catch. This time State Representatives Mary Bentley, Trevor Drown and Senators Greg Standridge and Gary Stubblefield were questioning the funding the university gives its agriculture department. When questioned the university stood its ground and fired back. The university called out the lack of funding it gets from the state ($20 million less than similar size universities according to financial documents from the state) but then the board members stated they fully support the decisions Dr. Bowen makes.

It’s about time.

To our knowledge this is the first time the Board has declared that it fully supports Dr. Bowen and the decisions she makes without having to double check her everytime. They have reached the point that they see, like us, the changes that are happening and hopefully see that so far it is for the better.

Though we don’t agree with everything Dr. Bowen does (no one can be 100 percent perfect), we do agree she has the students’ interest at heart and she wants to expand and grow the campus. Because of
all of this we believe the state representatives should back off and let her run the university.

Colleges are supposed to be a time of change and growth for us to become better, let the university have the chance to do the same. Let us fail before you call foul. Also we would claim for fairness to give us equal funding from the state so we can show how we can make this campus better for everyone.

To have your voice hear about this subject reach out to the state representatives. Mary Bentley can be contacted by email at mary.bentley@arkansashouse.org or by phone at 501-889-3556. Trevor Drown can be contacted by email at trevor.drown@arkansashouse.org and by phone at 479-857-2498.