by Max Brantley
The line is open. Closing thoughts:
* FREEZE-DRIED PETS: The New York Times has a big feature today on the Romance, Ark., taxidermists who've become stars in a reality TV show about their skill at freeze-drying dead pets.
* FREEZE-DRIED UNIVERSITY: I'm getting the big chill out of Arkansas Tech administration on questions about the future of the school's theater program and cancellation of the spring schedule of drama productions. Supporters of the program think the ax is falling for good. Friends of President Robert Brown have made it clear to me how much he detests the department and the problems it has caused him. (Actually, that he's caused himself by some silly actions, such as attempting to stop a play using a fake pistol.) Some of it's just math. Drama doesn't attract many majors. Colleges like majors that produce a lot of paying students. UPDATE: I hear a news release is coming. I don't think it's going to be a happy ending. UPDATE II: See jump for news release. Cancellation related to continuing administration concerns about safety of workshop for productions; review of program still planned for spring; courses will continue. The long, slow goodbye? Critics will say so. The administration insists it's interested in theater and supports artistic expression.
* JOHN GLASGOW CASE: I have little to add to Channel 4's report about a jailhouse statement suggesting knowledge of what happened to the missing business executive. A tipster says, however, that the Little Rock police are taking the claim seriously enough to keep watch over a bean field that will be gridded and scanned by a device used in archaeology to identify unusual things deep below the earth. The site has been searched previously without success. Roger Glasgow tells Channel 4 today he thinks there may be something to the lead on his missing brother.
* LOTTERY COMMISSONERS E-MAIL: I heard about a roundup of Lottery Commission e-mail related to a search for a new director (by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette it turned out) and got the batch myself. Not a lot there. The notable items include communications between Commissioner Bruce Engstrom and a friend, Richard Knight, former head of racetrack and casino, who's applied for the job. Engstrom also checked to be sure his application had been received. The most interesting aspect of their emails were largely academic mentions of articles about a coming hot topic — Internet gambling and expansion of lottery gambling to expand revenue. A new Justice Department opinion on Internet gambling has spurred the talk. Realistically, that's an obvious topic for discussion in the gambling business, though the likelihood is Arkansas will run far behind the curve. Politically, even mentioning it is a hot potato given opposition from religious groups and the existing racetrack/casinos. Breeze through it all yourself.
ARKANSAS TECH NEWS RELEASE
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (January 12, 2012)—Citing student safety concerns, Arkansas Tech University will not sponsor public performances by the theatre program in the Department of Speech, Theatre and Journalism during the spring 2012 semester.
“Student safety is our No. 1 responsibility as an institution,” said Dr. John W. Watson, vice president for academic affairs at Arkansas Tech. “The conditions that caused the closure of the Techionery theatre workshop in September 2011 demonstrate a failure to ensure safe conditions for our students. Arkansas Tech is supportive of artistic expression and neutral on the content of such expression, but we will not knowingly sponsor activities that put our students in danger.”
Arkansas Tech closed the Techionery theatre workshop on Sept. 15, 2011, after a report by the Russellville Fire Marshal found multiple code violations in the facility.
“Through the efforts of our leadership in the College of Arts and Humanities and the Department of Speech, Theatre and Journalism, we were able to identify alternative performance space and sponsor a theatre production in fall 2011,” said Watson. “It was a temporary solution to a long-term problem. We are now seeking a permanent solution that will ensure our students are not exposed to dangerous conditions such as those that existed in the Techionery workshop. The decision to not sponsor theatre productions during the spring 2012 semester will allow everyone concerned to focus their energies and talents on finding that permanent solution.”
Dr. H. Micheal Tarver, dean of the Arkansas Tech College of Arts and Humanities, said that Arkansas Tech and a team of independent outside reviewers selected by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education will conduct a review of the Bachelor of Arts degree in speech —- which includes a theatre option —- during the spring 2012 semester.
Arkansas Tech does not anticipate that it will receive the results of that review before May 2012.
While public performances will not be conducted, courses for students pursuing the theatre option within the speech degree will be offered during the spring 2012 semester.
A STUDENT, JENNIFER MCNEELY, ISN'T SANGUINE. HER LETTER TO ME
rom the Arkansas Times in October: “There are no plans to discontinue the theatre program at Arkansas Tech,” said Watson. “The program review is not directed toward discontinuing the program. It is a process that is required by law, and it is a deliberate and thorough process. We do not anticipate receiving any report concerning the program review until late in the spring of 2012.” It seems if the University is going back on it's word. Without having shows to perform these students are not being able to fulfill their education. The students are ready to speak out now! They kept calm last semester because things were looking better. They want to fight and they want their voices heard. Won't you help them? We cannot do this without some media help. Helps us raise our voice. I have more than 5 students who are willing to go on camera. Not to mention the Alumni of the Theatre Program. These people are my friends and family. Wouldn't you do anything to help your friends and family?
Direct from a student: "Our Mission: Arkansas Tech University, a state-supported institution of higher education, is dedicated to nurturing scholastic development, integrity, and professionalism."
"WHERE IS THIS NOW?! All year I have been DENIED my education."