The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees meets Friday in Monticello and lobbying was at work to get the Board to name a new system president at the meeting to succeed the retiring B. Alan Sugg.
Trustee John Ed Anthony has been single-handedly talking with potential candidates so that their names can be protected from Freedom of Information Act disclosure. But he has said he has talked with two Arkansas businessmen and two academics from out-of-state.
The Arkansas Times learned this week that the in-state contenders were Marianna farmer and lawyer Stanley Reed, briefly a Republican candidate for Senate in 2010, and Frank Oldham, a Jonesboro banker who holds a Ph.D. from the UA.
A board faction was said to support Reed, who enjoys strong backing from former trustee and real estate titan Jim Lindsey, a business partner with Reed. But there's also strong opposition to his appointment, including some of the same board members who put the brakes on a secret plan some months ago to designate Reed as Sugg's successor without any search.
Reed carries political baggage from his days at the Farm Bureau, when it fought animal cruelty legislation, supported ballot initiatives to discriminate against gay people in adoption and marriage (the university has a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy, and generally held a regressive view of public policy. He also was a supporter of a segregation academy in Lee County, not a stellar mark on a resume of a president of a system with a historically black university in Pine Bluff.
At press time, our sources say a 4-4 split on the Board exists over naming Reed, with Anthony and Jim von Gremp of Rogers viewed as swing votes. A promising candidate from out of state dropped out Monday because his wife, a Ph.D., didn't want to make a move to Arkansas. Some trustees favor extending the search.