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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Conflict continues

by Mike Masterson | September 27, 2022 at 4:13 a.m.


Readers likely recall the very public conflict and charges of discrimination between UALR law professor Rob Steinbuch and Theresa Beiner, dean of the university's Bowen Law School.

Well, the infighting and charges of discrimination are far from over; Steinbuch filed a claim with the Arkansas Claims Commission the other day alleging he was wrongly overlooked for a named professorship at the law school because of their past conflicts.

Those previous issues involved his outspoken concerns with quietly renaming a professorship after former President Bill Clinton without faculty knowledge, as well as Beiner denying Steinbuch's long-standing practice of having guest lecturers of his choosing to teach classes when he observes Jewish high holidays.

Those matters being brought to light in the public arena offered a glimpse of the infighting that occurs in academe that seldom make headlines.

The latest flap, as described in a news account by reporter Ryan Anderson, deals with Beiner excluding him from receiving the Arkansas Bar Foundation professorship, which includes a $10,250 stipend. His claim contends this "was at least an abuse of discretion" by Beiner. He seeks an award in the amount of the stipend.

He says Beiner didn't apply the required donor selection criteria and then "improperly adopted a series of her own created substantive criteria, including arbitrarily limiting the time period of accomplishments considered to five years, which obviously benefits candidates without a long history of accomplishments."

Steinbuch also claims Beiner unilaterally extended the four-year named professorship she holds, the Nadine Baum Distinguished Professor of Law, for a fifth year. In doing so, he contends she violated not only the law school's rules while also creating a conflict of interest.

Named professorships in the law school cover four-year terms, but the dean can extend them beyond four years if "development activities generate sufficient additional named professorships," or if specific terms of a donor in creating a named professorship differ, Steinbuch says.

Named professorships are meant to reflect a career of accomplishments, says Steinbuch.

"Beiner filled the one named professorship she advertised with an applicant," Lindsey Gustafson (a member of the faculty since 1998, appointed associate dean for Academic Affairs in 2020), "who at minimum demonstrably and significantly didn't fulfill the requirements of the Arkansas Bar Foundation Professorship as well as Steinbuch did, if she [did] at all, which does not appear the case," according to Steinbuch's claim.

Had the rules been properly applied, Steinbuch said he would have received the named professorship and the accompanying stipend.

"In his application for the Arkansas Bar Foundation Professorship--which emphasizes excellence in teaching and in scholarship in Arkansas law, as well as 'significant contributions to serving the Bench and Bar of Arkansas'--Steinbuch cited qualifications such as receiving the Faculty Excellence Award in Public Service, being the only Fulbright Scholar (in teaching) on the faculty, routinely advising on and drafting legislation for state legislators, and litigating public-interest lawsuits for free as a practicing attorney in Arkansas," Anderson reports.

"He also practices in both state and federal court, chairs the Arkansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and is a member of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act Task Force, the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act Coalition, and the Arkansas Transparency in Government Group, among several other groups and organizations."

Steinbuch is represented by attorney Chris Corbitt. The Claims Commission will review Steinbuch's filing before sending it to the law school, which will have 30 days to respond.

Benji's healing

A number have inquired about the condition of our little dog Benji two weeks after he and Jeanetta were viciously attacked and injured by an irresponsible owner's unrestrained pit bull mix as they walked together along a neighborhood street.

After Dr. Rob Wilkinson reconnected Benji's dislocated right front leg, he seems to be using it well, although too much activity at this point causes a slight limp. His stitches come out today. The numerous bite wounds have pretty much healed.

The vet explained there's a chance the dislocation could reoccur over his life if he puts too much strain on it, yet another sad part of this avoidable assault considering how happy it has made him to run.

I ordered Jeanetta a pet stroller so they can continue their daily walks. So far he seems to enjoy sitting and watching the world pass by without lifting a paw.

Jeanetta finds herself for the first time reluctant to extend a hand toward any dogs.

"All I can see now are teeth unexpectedly coming at me."


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: Conflict continues

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