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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Still simmering

by Mike Masterson | April 10, 2022 at 1:41 a.m.


Lest you believe the flap over the recent prohibition on law professor Rob Steinbuch's long-approved use of guest lecturers during absences on Jewish high holidays has passed, think again.

I say that because a committee at the UALR Bowen Law School recently voted to recommend eliminating the school's guest lecturer policy to the full Bowen faculty, keeping the issue alive.

For years, policy has allowed guest lecturers to cover Bowen classes when faculty members were legitimately absent (as on religious holidays).

Steinbuch said the action by four fellow professors on the committee was "clearly personal and aimed at my particular situation during the Jewish holidays when for nearly 20 years I have invited legal professionals and judges to educate classes about our practice in the real world."

A decorated law professor and the state's leading Freedom of Information Act expert, who also is seeking election to the House of Representatives for District 73 in Little Rock, Steinbuch may be on to something, considering the school's visiting-lecturer policy wasn't an issue until challenged by Bowen Dean Theresa Beiner last year. That's after Steinbuch had invited a federal judge to lecture his class during his religious-observance absence, as he had done many times before.

Moreover, Steinbuch said the committee in question hadn't even been assigned to address the issue of preserving guest lecturers. "They appear to have manufactured that issue out of whole cloth."

The faculty had directed committee members to address ambiguities in legitimate circumstances where professors are permitted to miss classes. "Yet the committee chose from the outset to pursue this different agenda on their own," said Steinbuch.

At least two committee members reportedly claimed they were acting under instructions from the "main campus." However, Steinbuch said that claim appears to have since vanished considering the school's response to a related FOIA request "unsurprisingly provided zero support for that assertion."

Steinbuch continued: "The proposal this committee slapped together also prevents Bowen's own highly lauded adjunct professors from covering my class during my religious observances. So does that then mean adjunct professors are good enough to teach an entire course at Bowen, including my own, but somehow are not good enough to cover my class when God dictates my absence for, at the most, two days a semester?"

Strikes me as a logical question. How else can it be interpreted?

Steinbuch told me he believes university leadership outside the law school has been trying to "right the ship" over the matter in favor of logic and fairness. But this committee's action means either he was mistaken or the university's larger message "hasn't trickled down. Either way, it ain't good."

Josh Silverstein, a Jewish Bowen professor on the committee, was the sole vote against the change: "I found every argument made in favor of eliminating the right to use an independent guest speaker to be wholly unpersuasive."

The committee's recommendation now heads to a vote of the full faculty.

Letter from Ila

Ila Campbell with Moms for Liberty, whose victory in a recent FOIA lawsuit against the Fayetteville Public School District over embracing critical race theory, sent a message the other day. I felt readers (particularly parents) would find it both relevant and interesting. It also once again shows the value of our FOIA for citizens seeking truth about what is transpiring in public agencies, including their school districts.

"Mike, I want to thank you for your recent article on the Fayetteville Public School District. Giving the facts concerning the recent FOIA lawsuit is important to help inform the public about the real issues facing our district.

"The [thousands of pages] of documentation provide a picture of the ideological agenda of CRT being embedded into the professional development and curriculum of our district. This includes the component of gender identity.

"The presence of policies and plans on this issue implying the circumventing of parental rights is extremely troubling, as is the presence of graphic and sexually explicit books on our library shelves.

"The Washington County chapter of Moms for Liberty was established this past year as a means to continue and strengthen our efforts to protect our children and the rights of parents. Three more M4L chapters have since been established in Arkansas. More chapters will follow as awareness grows and more is revealed about the move from merit and rigor in our schools to the indoctrination promoted by 'equity' programs now becoming the focus in public education.

"Thank you for helping to bring truth to the public. This is imperative if we are to again see our public schools as educational institutions of excellence providing preparation and opportunity for our children to become successful and productive citizens.

"There is much left to do ... also thank you for providing encouragement and support to continue in our efforts."

No, thank you, Ila, for your courage and tenacity on behalf of the public.


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.


Print Headline: Still simmering

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