OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: The beat goes on

The discordant beat at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Bowen School of Law in Little Rock unfortunately continues.

Two UALR law professors who questioned the way an endowed professorship had its title quietly changed to attach the name of William J. Clinton have found their lives and careers significantly altered since a legislative hearing on the name change not long ago.

Professor Tom Sullivan, who earlier this summer sent an open email to the faculty about the Clinton name change, has left the school on his own volition within the past two weeks.

Professor Robert Steinbuch, who publicly questioned the change, has seen both seminar classes he's taught for nearly 20 years yanked away and canceled, and he's been reassigned to teach an unfamiliar class vacated by Sullivan's departure.

Asked about these developments, Bowen Law School Dean Theresa "Terri" Beiner told me in an email exchange that she "cannot comment on personnel matters. Generally, courses are assigned by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs based on the needs of the law school. Any recent decisions had nothing to do with the Aug. 19th legislative hearing or any events leading up to that hearing."

Well, OK then, Dean Beiner. Yet these changes sure seem to me like interesting timing.

My understanding of the fallout at Bowen following that state Senate hearing into this months-long flap are as follows:

Steinbuch and Sullivan's questions and concerns over the change were validated during the hearing.

UALR's chancellor also interceded to remove Clinton's name from the endowed professorship based on the valid concerns by these professors. The chair of the Senate's State Agencies Committee characterized the outcome as a "capitulation" by the Bowen School in a matter that should never have gone as far as it did.

Steinbuch said he was denied his seniority to teach the now-open Constitutional Law class where the veteran professor has both professional and personal expertise. "Despite applying to teach this class, I was denied. No Jew or conservative has ever taught this critical course," he said.

Instead of his traditional seminars featuring free-market components, Steinbuch said the school is mandating he head a course in criminal law that he's never taught, or even expressed interest in teaching. "Apparently I'm not qualified for the class on our Constitution used by the left for political indoctrination of law students. But I am somehow qualified to teach criminal law in which I have no interest or teaching background?"

Known statewide as a legal champion for transparency and freedom of information in governmental actions, Steinbuch said he believes the school also is forcing him into "an overloaded schedule in the spring because it chose to cancel my regular seminars."

"The school also refused to split my 114-person class, resulting in an overloaded classroom that concerns me, especially regarding the ongoing spread of covid." The dean did split another professor's class, he said.

Understandably perturbed by these developments since he raised the issue of Clinton's name being quietly attached to the Constitutional Law endowed chair, Steinbuch said he's informed Sen. Jason Rapert, the chair of the State Agencies Committee, of his treatment and is waiting to see whether the situation necessitates yet another hearing.

Public legislative hearings on contentious and controversial issues involving state institutions provide valuable oversight and an incentive not to wind up being summoned to testify at one.

I certainly recall the low-stakes pettiness of academia I've witnessed. The results I've written about after these two UALR law professors publicly raised legitimate and validated issues reminds me of those years.

In the news

Several items in the news have captured my attention.

I was more sobered than surprised to read a report by an ABC affiliate in North Carolina that said those in that state who chose not be be vaccinated proved 15.4 times (or 1,540 percent) more likely to die from a covid-19 infection during the four weeks ending Aug. 21 than those who took the shots, according to a weekly surveillance report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Seniors may one day be able to include certain aspects of dental care in their Medicare coverage. One story said America has huge numbers of older citizens with untreated health-threatening dental conditions who would benefit. Nearly half of those 65 and older supposedly don't visit a dentist and as many as one of every five have lost all their natural teeth.

Sure makes this septuagenarian even more thankful for my caring dentist, Dr. Derrick Johnson at Integrated Dentistry in Bentonville.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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