The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees and President Charles Welch on Friday (Dec. 11) praised the preparedness of its Jonesboro campus employees and students, as well as local law enforcement, in the wake of Thursday’s incident involving a gunman that resulted in a lockdown, but with no shots fired or injuries.
“The first responders were absolutely incredible and did a tremendous job,” Welch said, noting that ASU Chancellor Tim Hudson remained on campus as faculty and students returned Friday for final exams. “There has been a great deal of discussion about the best ways to keep our campuses safe. There’s no perfect scenario, and nothing gives 100 percent assurance. But I’m comfortable with the plans we have in place.”
Continuing, he noted: “Fortunately law enforcement didn’t have to fire any shots yesterday. Campuses processes couldn’t have worked better. We locked down immediately and training kicked in. Ironically our Jonesboro and Searcy campuses were engaged in active shooter training at the time of the incident. They made critical decisions, and the situation ended as well as we could have hoped for. We will continue to look at ways to improve.”
Welch also said there is a great deal of fear in the United States based on rhetoric and hate, but “we should use this opportunity to not just focus on that, but also mental illness in this country.”
Welch told the board that legislative auditors and the Interim Joint Audit Committee gave the ASU System campuses a “squeaky clean” review and report with only two small notes regarding the way assets were labeled.
“It’s a testament to our campuses and the great work of our finance folks,” he added.
The board paid tribute to ASU-Beebe Chancellor Eugene McKay, who will retire in January after nearly 50 years of service to the institution, and voted to name the most prominent building on the campus the Dr. Eugene McKay Student Center.
His successor, Dr. Karla Fisher, will begin Jan. 16.
McKay was also honored Thursday in the U.S. House during a one-minute speech by Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock. Hill said McKay’s career has been dedicated to educating students and preparing them for the future.
“For the past five decades, Chancellor McKay has displayed an unrelenting commitment to education in Arkansas, and has been a beacon for quality higher education at Arkansas State University,” Hill said from the House floor. “First as a professor and then as the Chancellor at the State University, Chancellor McKay was responsible for the University’s recognition for having the highest student success rate in Arkansas among both two-year and four-year institutions.”
In his parting remarks, McKay said that ASU-Beebe John Deere training program had become the largest in the nation with its fall enrollment.
In other business, the Board approved:
• An ASU System Unmanned Aircraft Systems Policy to address and regulate the safe use of drone technology on campuses. Each campus will have a designated UAS coordinator.
• Plans for various cost of living adjustments and one-time merit bonuses for employees at the Jonesboro and Mountain Home campuses, as well as the system office. The salary expenditures plans were delayed when operating budgets were approved in May.
• The naming of the R.M. “Bob” Wood Sales Leadership Center at Arkansas State and the naming of the FedEx Aviation Technology Center at ASU Mid-South.
• Revisions to the System staff handbook to include A-State’s non-discrimination in university practices statement.