Groups will protest merger plan
Students, faculty, alumni say merger does not reflect shared governace or represent fairness
|Students from the colleges of Communications and Fine Arts said they
will protest the proposal to merge the two colleges at today's Board of
Several student groups have organized to contest Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Bob Fisher's recommendation to combine the two colleges. After Monday's announcement, fine arts and communications students met in the Fine Arts building that night to discuss their plans to protest the decision.
If the board approves the proposal, the two colleges would join, and Dr. Russell Shain would become dean of the new College of Communications and Fine Arts.
The plan also would create schools of Communications and Fine Arts within the college.
At Monday's student forum, Jean Flint, a 1997 graduate from the College of Fine Arts, said she would not accept the merger without protesting.
"I don't want to be a lamb and just follow along," Flint said.
Like Flint, Cara Sullivan, a junior studio art major of Stockton Springs, Maine, said students in both colleges should fight to keep the colleges separate.
"You should aggravate them (administrators and board members); I don't think they expect that," Sullivan said. "I'd just like to see if we could penetrate the conscience of the people making the decision. The fact that you've said something repeatedly means something."
Ron Yager, a senior radio-television major of Pine Bluff, said his former school, Eastern Washington University, combined the radio-television and theater arts colleges to save money.
But the new college lost about $3.3 million in federal aid, he said.
He said he left that university because the loss of money led to equipment that always needed repairs. Arkansas State University's administration is making the same mistake, he said.
"I hear this, and I just cringe," Yager said.
Jennifer Hall, a junior music major of Jonesboro, said the proposal proves administrators do not focus on students' needs.
"They want to continue to put money in pavement and losing football teams," Hall said.
She said the merger would not cause students to interact, as Fisher said his plan intends. Instead, joining the programs would divide students because they would contend for funding, she said.
Bill Rowe, professor of art, also said Fisher has acted without regard for faculty members or students.
"Vice presidents for academic affairs are here
three years. They screw everything up, and they go somewhere else," Rowe said. "There's no such thing as shared governance on this campus. This is a joke."
Several students said they did not think the proposed structure would improve the lack of funding from which the fine arts program has suffered.
"We have no money for ventilation in here (Room 104), and we do oil painting in here," Sullivan said. "We want our own dean for the integrity of both colleges."
Hall said ASU's band receives about half as much funding as Jonesboro High School's band. The ASU band cannot afford uniforms for all its members, she said.
Alumni from the College of Communications also said they oppose Fisher's plan to join the two colleges.
Debbie Miller, a member of the college's Alumni Advisory Board, said she wishes Fisher had not recommended the merger.
"My preference would have been for ASU to hire a dean of fine arts," she said.
Miller, managing editor of the Batesville Daily Guard, said she and other alumni wrote Fisher to tell him ASU should not cease to emphasize communications.
"I'm disappointed," she said. "But if that's the decision that's going to be made, I would continue to support the institution."
Jeff Hankins, Alumni Association president, said the merger would cloud the two colleges' identities.
"The College of Communications has a very strong identity and reputation in Arkansas and in the MidSouth," Hankins, editor and publisher of Arkansas Business, said. "To dilute that attention or focus is not in the best interest of the university. Outside of the savings, I see no benefit to either college."
In addition to Monday's forum and alumni response, the Arts Student Union circulated a petition against the proposal in both colleges.
And several faculty members from the Department of Journalism also have sent a letter to the board. Most board members said they would not reveal their opinions about the merger until Friday's meeting.
Chucki Bradbury of Little Rock did not return phone calls. Harold Perrin of Jonesboro said he had not reviewed the merger proposal, so he did not want to comment.
Velmar Richmond of Jonesboro said Tuesday she would not comment about the merger until after today's meeting. Richard Bell of Stuttgart will not attend because of a business trip, his secretary said.
Jim Pickens of Little Rock, the board's newest member, said he had decided, but he did not wish to comment until after the meeting.
Fisher said Monday he thought the board would approve the merger.
"I hope it will be supported by the board," he said. "It's out there for their review."
The Board of Trustees will meet 10 a.m. today on the eighth floor of the Dean B. Ellis Library.
(Additional reporting by Lance Turner)
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