Les Wyatt, former president of Arkansas State University and more recently a professor of art and higher education, has asked for and received an unpaid leave of absence from the university. Wyatt was on paid leave when controversy broke out over his working for private on-line education firms. One of the companies had listed ASU as a client and Wyatt as the company’s president on the company’s website.
In a letter to Dan Howard, chancellor of Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, Wyatt said he was disturbed to hear that his work with American University System and Academic Partnerships, was perceived by some to be a conflict of interest. He wrote:
“I know that ASU legal counsel has determined that it is not a conflict … [M] any university employees, faculty and staff, are also gainfully employed elsewhere, sometimes with companies with which the university does business, so my situation is not different from other current practices.”
Wyatt had been scheduled to begin teaching at Jonesboro on Jan. 1. He asked to postpone indefinitely the date of his joining the fulltime ASU faculty and to take an unpaid leave of absence beginning Jan. 1, to “avoid jeopardizing the relationship between ASU and Academic Partnerships.” Academic Partnerships has helped market ASU on-line education programs.
Replying to Wyatt, Howard expressed “heartfelt appreciation” for Wyatt’s service to ASU, granted the unpaid leave of absence and asked Wyatt to provide “reasonable notice” if and when he decided to return to ASU. He said that if Wyatt wanted to continue his family health benefits under ASU insurance, Wyatt should arrange “to cover your portion of the associated costs.”
— Doug Smith