University of Arkansas System schools will be able to adjust their spring semester calendars to accommodate needs posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, trustees decided Friday.
This fall, chancellors modified their academic calendars to eliminate fall break or start earlier to end the semester before Thanksgiving. The moves were designed to limit students' travel and their potential to return to campus infected with covid-19.
The resolution -- approved without opposition -- allows chancellors to make similar changes to the spring calendar, if desired.
The move would allow the cancellation of spring breaks, if campus leaders determined that was necessary to protect public health, System President Donald Bobbitt told trustees.
"We thought it would be prudent for campuses to have this flexibility," he said.
Policy sought on commercialization
University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt has asked trustees to consider including "commercialization" of research as a factor in faculty tenure, promotion and evaluation.
Bobbitt said he and Ben Beaumont, senior director of policy and public affairs, looked at some universities with similar policies and found the number of patents awarded to faculty at those universities rose. Bobbitt said that was related to a redirection in research conducted at the universities and did not decrease research overall.
At Texas A&M University, one of the institutions Bobbitt and Beaumont examined, the commercialization policy gives faculty credit for obtaining patents and bringing products to market. But it doesn't punish faculty for not doing those things.
Bobbitt said increased sabbatical leave may be necessary for some faculty, who may have young families, to pursue commercialization.
The practice is seen as a potential economic boon for universities' bottom lines if sufficient revenue is generated and for their communities' economies, though many patented technologies don't generate profits.
Bobbitt asked the board of trustees' Academic and Student Affairs Committee to explore a commercialization policy to bring back to the board as early as the November meeting. He asked that they work with campuses across the system in creating a potential resolution.
Bobbitt's request was only an information item, not requiring a vote. But committee chairman Ed Fryar, a former University of Arkansas, Fayetteville professor, and committee member Cliff Gibson both expressed favor for the proposal.
Gibson called it a move "in the right direction."
ASU receives honor for diversity efforts
Arkansas State University received a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for the third year in a row.
The award recognizes colleges and universities that "demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion," according to the award website. Arkansas State was the only Arkansas college or university to receive the award this year, and it was among 90 recipients nationally.
Last year, the university started a program, called First in the Pack, to help first-generation college students navigate their first years, according to the university's announcement on receiving the HEED award. The university also has a program, called the HOWL Transition Program, to help students with intellectual disabilities or autism transition into college and young adulthood.
In the announcement, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said he was proud of the work the university has done.
"That said, we know we have miles to go in addressing change for our students of color and promoting a positive living, learning, and working environment at A-State," he added.