by Max Brantley
Had to happen. Democrat Joe White, challenging Sen. Gilbert Baker, Republican, comments on the controversy at UCA, first chastising him for silence on larger issues on campus but also commenting on our story about unusual housing practices at the college. On the jump.
And here, we'll pick up the Board meeting, too. The meeting opened with testimonials to President Hardin from Conway business and government officials. The head of the faculty Senate repeated earlier criticism that Hardin's actions on the self-written memo wouldn't have been tolerated from a faculty member. A student praised Hardin's openness. Barbara Anderson, a UCA official whose name was on the memo Hardin wrote and presented to the Board, said she didn't disagree with most of what was written except for the portion about evading the FOI in not disclosing his deferred compensation. Then the Board went into executive session.
UPDATE: The Board reconvened in public and said no action would be taken. They said they'd meet again in September. Hmmm. An uneducated guess is that the Board is willing to give Hardin time to attempt to repair the self-inflicted damage. Clearly, both at the meeting and here on the blog, the friends he's accumulated over the years, are rising to his defense.
Several trustees said after the meeting that they'd be listening very carefully to the faculty in the days ahead. Hardin has a meeting scheduled with the faculty Senate Aug. 28.
JOE WHITE NEWS RELEASE
Conway, AR – The Joe White for State Senate campaign today strongly criticized incumbent Senator Gilbert Baker over his lack of leadership during the recent events surrounding the University of Central Arkansas. After more than a month of allegations of impropriety at UCA, Senator Baker has yet to publicly comment on the single largest issue facing his constituents.
Allegations of improper payments to college administrators amidst pay raise freezes for faculty and tuition hikes for students have dominated discussions in the media and at the dinner tables of District 30, yet Baker still has not addressed these concerns or promised to find answers for the problems facing the University of Central Arkansas.
"UCA is the most important educational institution and economic asset in our county, and I am saddened by the controversy that has surrounded this important pillar in our community. However, I am even more deeply saddened by the lack of leadership shown by our State Senator Gilbert Baker in addressing these controversies," said Joe White.
Today new information has come to light concerning UCA staff involved in partisan fundraising efforts and preferential treatment for the families of those close to UCA administrators. These developments further beg the question as to why Baker has refrained from commenting on the current crisis at UCA.
"I find it hard to believe that on a campus that supplies only two stand-alone houses for students of UCA, that the two inhabitants of those houses are the grandson of a former Republican candidate for governor and the son of our current State Senator. The odds are truly amazing and I congratulate them on being so lucky to be chosen out of a 12,000 member student body," said Alex Bissell, campaign manager for White for Senate.
"I find it extremely interesting that a tent rented for use at a Baker for Senate fundraiser on June 5, was only paid for on July 22, a full forty-seven days after the first stories regarding improprieties at the University of Central Arkansas," said Bissell.
Senator Baker has remained silent for months on the issues facing Faulkner County and the University of Central Arkansas. Recent revelations beg the question why he remained quiet for so long. It is time to return real leadership to the state senate in Faulkner County and restore confidence in our community institutions.
"I am a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas and a lifelong Faulkner County resident who is proud of my alma mater and the significant positive impact it has had on our community," said White. "It is time to address the issues that have plagued this great institution, find answers to these problems, and build a stronger university that will continue to benefit our community and state. As your state senator, I promise to never stand silent about the issues facing District 30. I promise to stand up for the values that we believe in, and I promise I will always put Faulkner County first."