The budget crunch at UA Little Rock has hit a high-profile part of the university — the Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity, founded in 2011 by former chancellor Joel Anderson as something of a passion project.
It’s provided regular polling on racial attitudes, convened meetings on the often fraught racial politics of Arkansas and provided research on the history of the civil rights movement in Arkansas. The initiative reflected Anderson’s own long interest in civil rights.
John Kirk, the history professor and frequent Arkansas Times contributor on history topics, told associates in an email that Wednesday would be his last day as director of the institute. His email said:
Chancellor Andrew Rogerson writes: “I would like to stress this has nothing to do with your performance, it is driven entirely by financial reality.”
I have no information about what will happen to the Anderson Institute moving forward.
I thank you for your support in my role as Institute director over the past four years.
Rogerson confirmed the change to me. Kirk won’t be replaced. He said the move is purely a budget decision to cut the cost of the Institute’s $85,000 operating budget for one year. Kirk will return full time to his role as a Donaghey distinguished professor of history. He had leave to devote part of his time to the institute, Rogerson said.
“When times are right, we have to make some strategic decisions,” Rogerson said. “We haven’t done away with the Institute. It just doesn’t have an operating budget. We do have a multicultural center that it will be rolled into for the time being.” Rogerson said it will be up to the director of that center, Mia Phillips, to decide whether to use her own operating budget for continuing some Anderson Institute projects, such as the surveys on racial attitudes. Rogerson said the university remains committed to continuing installations on the civil rights heritage trail of markers about significant events in Little Rock’s past. He acknowledged fund-raising will be necessary for the continuation.
Rogerson emphasized the decision was no reflection on Kirk’s work or the value of the Institute. “It’s not going away,” he said. “It’s just on hiatus. We still value diversity and the multicultural center is a perfect umbrella for the institute.”
Because of an enrollment drop and a financially damaging state funding formula for colleges, UA Little Rock recently had to cut its operating budget by $6 million.