Wyatt postpones merger proposal
|University President Dr. Les Wyatt announced today the Board of Trustees
will not vote on the plan to merge the colleges of Communications and Fine
Wyatt said the proposal needs more study before the university submits it to the board.
"We decided we should allow more time for everyone involved to understand and consider the proposal," Wyatt said. "This will give us an opportunity to explain the idea in greater detail, which should be helpful."
Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Bob Fisher said Monday he would recommend merging the colleges at Friday's Board of Trustees meeting. The new college would become the College of Communications and Fine Arts.
"After further consideration, Bob and I both agreed that there was no urgent need to seek a board decision Friday," Wyatt said. "We were impressed with the outpouring of interest in the reorganization."
Dr. Russell Shain, dean of the colleges of Communications and Fine Arts, said many students, faculty members and alumni have questioned the merger, which probably led to Wyatt's decision.
"Both colleges have constituents who are very interested," Shain said. "I suspect these constituents are making their concerns known."
In Fisher's proposal Shain would become dean of the College of Communications and Fine Arts, which also would have schools of Communications and Fine Arts.The new college would become effective July 1.
Several students and faculty members from both colleges said they agree with Wyatt's decision to take the merger off the agenda for Friday's board meeting.
Cara Sullivan, a junior studio art major of Stockton Springs, Maine, said the delay shows the students' concerns about the merger have affected the administration.
"I hope that's what we'll continue to do," Sullivan said.
Joe Bonner, instructor in music, said he thought Wyatt made the right decision.
"I think that it's an excellent thing that the administration has allowed for more time, so students and faculty can get answers to questions we've not gotten satisfactory answers for," Bonner said. "If this is a better way of doing things, I want to know about that. It's hard to see the whole picture from where I stand."
Dr. Marlin Shipman, professor of journalism, said he thought the delay was appropriate.
"Now they'll be able to defend the reasons and benefits of the merger," Shipman said. "I hope the results will be to keep independent colleges."
Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of theater arts, said he did not understand Wyatt's decision.
"I'm not really sure whether it's a postponement or a whole reevaluation of the proposal," Gilbert said.
Student Government Association President Adam Harris said he agreed with Wyatt's decision not to bring the merger plan before the board Friday.
"I think it was very prudent that the administration delayed the action," Harris, a senior political science major of Sherwood, said.
He said the SGA will organize a student, faculty and alumni task force to investigate the proposal. At its Tuesday meeting, the SGA passed a resolution stating the board should not vote on the proposed merger Friday. Senators said they thought the plan needed more input from students and faculty.
Shaila Dailey, a junior photojournalism major of Little Rock, said the board did need more time to decide about the proposal. Dailey, however, said she questioned the intent of the delay.
"My concern is that they'll table it till June, when all the students are gone," she said.
Dailey also said she feared the administration would move a later board meeting to Mountain Home, where students might not be able to attend.
Miles Ray, a freshman theater arts major of Rector, said he thought Wyatt's decision was correct.
"I think it's good," Ray said. "We'll have more time to think about it and get more information."
Jason Henry, a junior radio-television and speech communication major of Malvern, said students' alarm about the merger warranted Wyatt's decision.
"I'm proud that Dr. Wyatt has realized the concern of students and will work out discrepancies the students may have at this time," Henry said.
Dr. Gregory Pitts, associate professor of radio-television, said he did not think the delay was necessary. He said the university really combined the two colleges three years ago when Shain became dean of both.
"It surprises me we haven't talked more about this the last four years. I would rather they make the vote one way or another," Pitts said. "It would legitimize a Band-Aid situation."
Jean Flint, a 1997 graduate from the College of Fine Arts, said she and other fine arts students still would protest the merger plan at Friday's board meeting.
Wyatt said he appreciated the comments from students, faculty, alumni and others about the proposal. He said the administration would present the proposal to the board after more deliberation.
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