KELLY EICHLER: Not happy about diversity proposal.

Thanks to Emily Walkenhorst, new to the higher education beat at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, for coverage of a University of Arkansas Board of Trustees meeting Thursday at which trustee Kelly Eichler of Little Rock went off on a diversity program.

The Fayetteville campus had proposed to establish a research wing in its office of diversity, with outside private funding expected. Said the proposal: “A mere glance at headlines points to the fact that our society has much work to do to combat racism, sexism, ageism, and other prejudicial views at home, in school, and in the workplace,” It’s good for business to understand such issues and broaden the employment base, or so this thinking goes.

I’d heard from a spectator yesterday that Eichler had objected to the proposal. I Tweeted about her unhappiness and the report that she’d mentioned her son. Her son doesn’t go to UA, it turns out, as my Tweet implied, but she used her son as an example of why UA doesn’t need a diversity institute. Reported Walkenhorst:

Trustee Kelly Eichler of Little Rock said she believes the public is concerned that universities are becoming “values institutions” and she isn’t sure that advocacy always aligns with the state’s conservative residents.

“As far as I am concerned, my son thinks right and speaks right and knows how to treat everyone with respect,” she said. “And it’s my job to tell him when he’s messed up and not the university’s.”

Only a Republican shill could love this from Eichler, a former staffer for Mike Huckabee and Asa Hutchinson.  And love it they did, insisting my Tweet had gotten her all wrong. Fake news!

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There is so much wrong with this. Universities must teach only things in line with what Kelly Eichler (and not the Arkansas Poll at the UA, by the way) believes are majority views of this state?”

You do wonder what “values” being presented at UA she finds objectionable. Equal treatment based on race? On religion? On gender? On sexual orientation?

If parents are the be-all, end-all of what their children believe, why send them off to university at all? This kind of thinking isn’t unique. But I’d hope for more  from a UA-educated lawyer who oversees a vast higher education system.

It was left to Trustee John Goodson to rise in defense of the proposal, tepid though the defense was. He said he agreed with a lot of what Eichler said — no specifics mentioned in the report — but he said diversity is “a part of life.”

Every day, the Arkansas legislature and other politicians send signals that they’re not buying. Consider: Legal discrimination against LGBT people; limits on women’s medical rights; school discipline and other policies that have a disproportionately negative impact on minorities; overt discrimination against immigrants and religious minorities; racial gaps in education.

To the extent the state’s major university could do research to show the benefits of a more inclusive approach, it sounds good to me.

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Happily, Eichler was the only “no” vote.

In loco parentis lives.

By the way, UA Board business also included a resolution in praise of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, created by a gift to UA from the late governor’s trust. Among the words praising the institute were those referencing the institute’s commitment to “bringing constituents with diverse viewpoints together to solve problems collaboratively through respectful dialogue in order to create lasting change and positive impact.”

Or I guess they could save the time and trouble and just ask Eichler.