- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

The Jonesboro Sun, Aug. 1, 2016

Audit shows chancellor violated code of ethics

Scrolling through the hundreds of pages of Arkansas State University’s internal audit of its study abroad program, four themes literally scream out:

Nepotism.

Cronyism.

Unethical behavior.

And disarray.

All four lead directly to Chancellor Tim Hudson and his wife, Dee Dee Hudson, who continues to operate the program as a part-time employee until someone unrelated to the chancellor is hired in August for the newly advertised full-time position.

The audit is disappointing, disheartening and embarrassing to read - and it was produced by people who work for the ASU System. It’s hard to imagine what an independent audit might find, which should be the university’s next step. One has to ask: Are there similar problems with other programs and departments at ASU?

That the chancellor of a major state university would compel his staff to devise a full-time position for his wife is bad enough. When Hudson was told it would be illegal for his wife to hold such a position because of state nepotism rules, he had his staff cancel the job opening - which had been advertised on the university’s job site - so his wife could keep her part-time position. Fourteen people who had applied for the job were notified the job was no longer available.

Can you imagine how those 14 people feel now that the details of the study abroad audit have been released? They applied for a $50,000 a year job that only the chancellor’s wife was qualified to fill because she’s the mother of their children.

They were duped.

Now that the audit has been released, the job has again been posted on the university’s job site. We wonder if any of those 14 people will reapply. Could they work with a chancellor who pulled such an unethical stunt?

It gets worse.

The study abroad program was aligned with a company based in in Lanjaron, Spain - Multisense Espana - which is operated by friends of the Hudsons. The program was charged more than $250,000 by Multisense Espana during the three years Dee Dee Hudson operated it. There were no contracts and no receipts showing what the money had been spent on - just charges.

“All of the charges that we have seen have come after the fact of the activity and have been paid by a wire payment,” the audit states. “Because of this, any requisition that might have been done - are found in the system as deleted with no documentation backing that requisition in the document imaging system.”

It gets juicier.

Last November, Hudson hired Pablo Rubio as the coordinator of special projects for the chancellor. He was paid $70,000 annually. Rubio, who abruptly resigned in June, is the son of the president of Multisense Espana. Do we see a pattern here?

As for the study abroad program itself, the audit shows that is was in disarray, with dozens of deficiencies in how the program was operated. There are simply too many to list here. But you can find the 600-plus pages on our website at https://www.jonesborosun.com/asudocs.php

Dee Dee Hudson may be qualified to fill the position, but the mere fact that she’s the chancellor’s wife gives reason for why there is a nepotism policy in the first place. Perception can, and often does, become reality.

Probably the simplest way to describe the disarray is to point to one routine task: Dee Dee Hudson routinely failed to turn in her work hours in a timely manner and had to be asked repeatedly, month after month, to do so.

The task involved putting the dates and the number of hours worked during the pay period and sending it in an email to administration. She wasn’t required to use the university’s electronic time card system. Magically, the hours always added up to the 28 each week, the maximum allowed for her position.

Perhaps more disappointing than the audit was ASU System President Chuck Welch’s response.

“Definitely, I think we found there were some organizational issues, and some policies and processes not nailed down,” Welch told Sun reporter Sarah Morris. “But if anything, to me, it was 100 percent proof positive that we don’t need to be operating a full-time program such as this with a part-time director. To me, it reinforced that we definitely need a full-time director if we are going to operate a program such as this.”

At $50,000 a year, that’s a steep price to pay for someone to set up study abroad trips for an average of about 100 students a year.

As for whether he had any ethical concerns from the audit, Welch punted, saying he couldn’t speak to individual personnel matters.

“I would say I think we all realize that mistakes were made during this process that perhaps meant the entire process was not communicated as well as it should have been or decisions made in a manner that we would have preferred,” Welch said. “But those are things we will deal with moving forward.”

Let us say it more clearly for Welch: These weren’t mistakes of process or policies or communication. They were intentional unethical decisions and displays of bad judgment made by the chancellor. Hudson repeatedly showed a lack of integrity and character, which should be hallmarks of a university chancellor.

It’s time for Welch and the board of trustees to make some tough decisions to get ASU back to the university we all know and love.

___

Texarkana Gazette, Aug. 1, 2016

Texas Tower: Charles Whitman brought terror to state 50 years ago today

It was 50 years ago today. A day that started early for Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old former U.S. Marine studying engineering at the University of Texas in Austin.

He drove to his mother’s house shortly after midnight. There he stabbed her in the heart and carefully placed her body on her own bed.

He then returned home and stabbed his wife to death.

As morning came Whitman rented a truck, cashed some worthless checks and started hitting local stores, buying guns and ammo.

Back at home he assembled the remainder of his arsenal, along with a number of other provisions, including food, water and personal hygiene items.

Around 11 a.m. he headed for campus. For the UT Tower.

He posed as a deliveryman and wheeled his deadly cargo into the tower and rode the elevator to 27th floor and headed toward the stairs to the observation deck.

But he was not alone on that floor. He attacked the receptionist, Edna Townsley, bludgeoning her severely. A young couple who encountered him after the attack was spared.

And then a group of tourists, including members of the Gabour family from Texarkana, attempted to use the stairs to get to the observation deck. Whitman opened fire, killing Mark Gabour, just 16, and his aunt, Marguerite Lamport. Mark’s older brother Michael and their mother Mary were wounded. Whitman then finished off the receptionist.

Whitman ascended to the observation deck, took up position and for 96 minutes brought unimaginable horror to the UT campus.

Thankfully, three law enforcement officers and a civilian volunteer managed to make it to the observation deck. The horror ended with Whitman’s life. In the end, 15 innocent victims, including an unborn child, were dead and another 32 wounded. One of those wounded would die seven days later. Another’s death in 2001 was directly attributed to his injuries from that day in Austin.

An autopsy later found Whitman suffered from a brain tumor. Notes he left behind revealed a troubled mind, driven by forces he did not understand. He asked that a postmortem be performed to see if there could be a physical cause.

Did the tumor cause Whitman’s murderous spree? It’s possible though no one can say for sure.

Back in 1966 mass shootings in public spaces were rare. We wish we could say the same today.

Our thoughts go out to the victims, the survivors and their loved ones on this grim anniversary.

___

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 29, 2016

Staff it, and they’ll vote?

Who doesn’t want convenience?

We carry around phones that put practically the knowledge of mankind at everyone’s fingertips, so much so educators are convincing themselves that knowledge isn’t nearly as important as a learned ability to think. Why should kids know who the presidents were, what states they came from and when they served? It’s all on Wikipedia, right?

We’re ordering soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee and pizza and paying for them with our phones. Don’t have time to shop? One particular retailer Arkansans are familiar with allows customers to shop online, then pull up in a store parking lot so an employee can load the trunk, letting customers bypass the need to even step inside the store.

College students want convenience as much as anyone else. If there’s a Starbucks a mile from campus, why shouldn’t there be one on campus, too, so those caffeine cravings can be immediately fed? Forget those old-timey days of walking down the hall to take a shower. Yuck! Put one close enough where the student can roll out of bed to a hot shower just a few feet away. No furry slippers needed.

So it makes perfect sense that students and others at the University of Arkansas might want the Washington County Election Commission to install an early voting center on campus. The Associated Student Government along with some faculty and staff are pushing the issue for the November general election, but 2016 isn’t the first time opening a polling place on campus was a hot topic.

It’s different these days, though. Washington County has adopted the “voting center” concept made possible by electronic poll books. Because those poll books are continuously and immediately updated from a centralized voting database, poll workers can know whether a resident has already voted elsewhere. That permits voters to cast ballots at any vote center, the one most convenient to their daily routine. It’s quite a change from the old days of early voting only at the county courthouse and voting only at an assigned precinct on Election Day.

When we’re talking convenience, voters - the ones on campus and the ones in Washington County who rarely, if ever, set foot on campus - have it pretty easy nowadays already. First, early voting lasts a week for many elections and two entire weeks for the general election. If someone says they don’t have time to vote, they’re just wrong.

And in past recent elections, getting to a vote center has also been incredibly easy, with one in Prairie Grove, two in Springdale and three in Fayetteville. To the west, one has traditionally been at the Donald W. Reynolds Boys and Girls Club, about 3.5 miles from Old Main on campus. To the east, the vote center at the Washington County Courthouse is one mile from campus. That’s just a little more than 2,000 steps for you Fitbit aficionados, about as many steps it takes to get from the campus’ Maple Hill residence halls to Bud Walton Arena for a basketball game. Surely casting a ballot, participating in our republic’s political process, is as important to the people on campus as the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.”

But we get it. Students, faculty and staff long for convenience. Why walk, bike or drive a mile if you can walk a quarter-mile, right?

“More than anything, we are excited about engaging young people in voting,” said Conner Flocks, student government president, at a recent Election Commission meeting.

We get what he’s saying and appreciate the sentiment behind it. Young people should be engaged in our elections. Kudos to Flocks for his involvement and advocacy. Everyone older than 18 should be voting, for that matter. Yet we’re skeptical an on-campus voting center will produce a crush of new voting. There’s little doubt people on campus would use it, but most are probably already casting ballots at those other convenient locations.

Here’s a key point those on campus should keep in mind: There’s no excuse for not voting even if there’s not a vote center on campus. If that has been a barrier to anyone’s participation in the past, to borrow a phrase from the great political philosopher Sarah Silverman, “you’re being ridiculous.”

But back to the request from the students, who have offered to pay the approximately $8,000 in costs for the vote center and additionally the costs of about a dozen parking spaces for poll workers, because they apparently know failure to make poll worker parking on the UA campus easy would be a deal killer.

The Election Commission will decide at an Aug. 19 meeting whether to provide the on-campus option. Here’s our advice: If the student government and/or university want to cover all the additional costs and if the commission can provide the vote center without cutting back on the existing vote centers around Washington County, then why not?

The commission has a duty to the voters of Washington County, all of whom have fairly convenient access to existing vote centers. Nobody with much common sense would drive onto campus solely to vote, so it’s important that the existing vote centers and the convenience they represent to all voters should be maintained.

Otherwise, if the UA student government has the money to spend for the added convenience, why not? It wouldn’t be the first time money was spent on the UA campus for something wanted more than needed.

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