by Max Brantley
The UCA Faculty Senate met today. No major decisions, but more controversy.
A committee chaired by sociology professor Ed Powers was appointed to deliberate on the controversy surrounding a pay boost for President Lu Hardin and make a recommendation before the Sept. 9 Senate meeting. The committee could do nothing, commend Hardin, condemn him or choose some alternate course. However, feelings are strong. "There's a great deal of disgust among the liberal arts college," Powers said. He said the actions taken by Hardin in seeking stepped up pay were "not acceptable" and he said he'd heard little support for Hardin among other professors in liberal arts.
Two Faculty Senate members made allegations about an issue long-simmering behind the scenes -- intervention by the administration in academic matters.
John Parrack, a faculty member, said he'd heard allegations about interference in grades and coercion in hiring decisions. He said he'd heard of students who'd had grades changed from WF (withdrawn failing) to W (withdrawn), less of a black mark.
Another faculty member, Lori Isom, said she'd heard allegations of unfair scholarship decisions and preferential housing for university employees (this would be in addition to earlier published reports about preferential housing for, among others, state Sen. Gilbert Baker's son.) She alleged that students who didn't meet requirements for scholarships were moved up on lists and received aid.
We're seeking an administration response.
The faculty committee won't consider these new issues, but be focused on issues surrounding Hardin's pay and unusual circumstances surrounding Board of Trustees deliberations. These included Board secrecy about a pay raise; payment in excess of statutory limits with public money, and a highly controversial memo Hardin wrote in support of a $300,000 bonus payment over the names of three university administrators who've since said they had no knowledge of it.
As expected, Hardin didn't appear. He's been recuperating from treatment for eye cancer. He also is scheduled to be guest of honor at a charity roast-and-toast tonight by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Pulaski County.
UPDATE: In an interview later, Hardin said about grade-changing: "That's a ludicrous and irresposible allegation that surprises me. I would challenge anyone to come forward with that allegation. I would never change a grade under any circumstances period." About scholarships, he said, "We are very fair in granting scholarships. I need specifics. These are very general allegations."
-- By John Williams