by Max Brantley
John Lyon of Stephens Media reports on concerns expressed in an unsigned letter to University of Arkansas President Alan Sugg about the Clinton School of Public Service and leadership of Dean Skip Rutherford.
Lyon identified two former students who said they supported the letter, which reached Sugg without signatures and which was widely circulated among Little Rock media, including the Times. We had been unable to find anyone who'd discuss issues addressed in it and couldn't determine the extent of its support among current or former students.
As the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service observed its fifth anniversary this week, some former students questioned whether “leadership issues” — mainly involving the dean, Skip Rutherford — threaten the school’s future.
In a letter to UA President B. Alan Sugg this summer, a group of former students expressed concerns about long-range planning for the school that bears former President Clinton’s name.
They also questioned whether the focus on developing the school’s public program was jeopardizing its public service degree program, and complained that Rutherford was prone to lavish spending and favored a select group of students.
The article indicates Sugg has addressed issues raised in the letter and the two former students who indicated support for it seem satisfied with university response. Complaints about spending revolve around entertaining related to appearances in the school's busy public lecture series.
Rutherford acknowledged that he spends more time with students who attend the school’s public programs than with students who don’t, but he said he also maintains an open-door policy toward students.
Asked if spending more time with students who attend public programs is fair, Rutherford said it is “when you have the open-door policy,” but he conceded that some may not see it that way.
“What I consider to be dinner meetings may not be acceptable in the world of higher ed,” he said. “It just may not work, and people view it differently. I respect that, and I’ll refrain from doing that in the future. I’ll figure out another way to work with students.”