12 former UA student body presidents push for Robinson as next chancellor

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 4,746 views 

Photo credit: Michael Barera

Twelve past University of Arkansas student body presidents are asking the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees to hire interim UA Chancellor Dr. Charles Robinson – a request that is not favored by UA System President Dr. Donald Bobbitt.

On Oct. 14, the UA System announced the selection process was down to two candidates because the board could not reach a consensus. The UA System announcement did not name the two candidates, but it was later learned that Dr. Daniel Reed, presidential professor of computational science at the University of Utah, and Robinson were the top two.

Bobbitt announced on Sept. 2 that four finalists for the top job at the state’s flagship university and one of the top research universities in the nation. The finalists were: Robinson; Dr. Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Purdue University; Reed; and Dr. Cynthia Young, founding dean of the College of Sciences, Clemson University.

A Freedom of Information request from Arkansas Times uncovered a message from Robinson to Bobbitt in which it was learned that Bobbitt wanted to hire Reed, with Robinson being promised a return to his former job as provost but with unspecified extra duties and a salary equal to or greater than his interim chancellor pay. Robinson rejected the offer.

“Having served the campus for the past fourteen months as interim chancellor, I am very pleased with the success that my team and I have had in advancing the university. As I understood our conversation, the issue of chancellorship is still unresolved, and it is my hope that the board will support my candidacy,” Robinson noted as part of his response to Bobbitt.

The 12 former student body presidents said in their note made public Wednesday (Oct. 19) the university needs a proven leader, and they believe Robinson is that person.

University of Arkansas Interim Chancellor Dr. Charles Robinson

“The University of Arkansas is now at a critical juncture. As an institution, it cannot afford to extend this period of interim and uncertain leadership – nor can we now ask its students, faculty, and staff to live through the growing pains that an outside hire, with little institutional familiarity or support, would surely bring to campus. We need a Chancellor who has cultivated their career and reputation by working with the range of stakeholders, competing priorities, and unique challenges at the state’s flagship university; and we need a Chancellor with a proven track record right here in our backyard. We collectively endorse the selection of Dr. Charles Robinson as the seventh Chancellor of the University of Arkansas.”

Authors of the note to the UA System, with year as student body president, were: Billy Fleming (2011), Michael Dodd (2012), Tori Pohlner Bogner (2013), Bo Renner (2014), Daniel McFarland (2015), Tanner Bone (2016), Connor Flocks (2017), Andrew Counce (2018), J.P. Gairhan (2019) Jared Pinkerton (2020), Julia Nall (2021), and Coleman Warren (2022).

“Our endorsement is instead rooted in twelve years of working with, and learning from, Dr. Robinson. We know him, we trust him, and we have the utmost confidence in him to lead our home. We appreciate the patience and diligence of the search committee with what is a decision that deserves great care. Sometimes, though, hard questions have easy answers. Dr. Robinson is that answer. Our recommendation to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees – and the recommendation echoed by countless students and young alumni throughout the Razorback community – is simple: in your search for our Chancellor, look no further. He’s already here,” noted the letter’s conclusion.

The UA System did not provide a response to the letter from the former student body presidents but instead referred Talk Business & Politics to Bobbitt’s statement of Oct. 14.

“Today the Board of Trustees continued an ongoing discussion about two very accomplished and qualified finalists for the position of Chancellor of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. We appreciate the interest this process has generated both on campus and from the university’s broad constituencies across the state. A decision of this magnitude involving the future of the flagship campus of the UA System deserves as much continued discussion and deliberation as is necessary, and the Board and I are dedicated to taking our time to ensure we reach an outcome in this process that best serves the university’s continued success.”

The UA System has not said when the board might again convene to consider the two finalists.