Here’s news of a legislative inquiry led by ultra-conservative Rep. Dan Sullivan of Jonesboro into courses on “diversity” at colleges in Arkansas.
Sullivan didn’t respond to my inquiry about a tip on this. My request to him for information was forwarded to the Bureau of Legislative Research, as custodian of legislative papers. Director Marty Garrity denied my request saying legislators’ unpublished papers are exempt from the FOI. But there were other avenues to discover what Sullivan is up to.
I obtained a copy of an email from the Arkansas Higher Education Department’s Ann Clemmer, acting at the request of Sullivan. It was addressed to representatives of the University of Arkansas System, Arkansas State University, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas’s independent colleges and Black River Tech. It asked them to appear before the Higher Education Subcommittee (Sullivan chairs the House side) Oct. 6. Her note to various officials:
My guess is that Sullivan won’t emerge as a critic of insufficient teaching about diversity, justice, gender identity and racism on Arkansas campuses.
If it turns out he’s a foe of such courses, he’ll look a bit hypocritical.
Remember when he championed legislation to end free speech zones on college campuses because they were supposedly a means of keeping some viewpoints out of the public square? He said:
“People need to realize that there are Arkansas legislators right now crafting language about abortion, about free speech, about the second amendment that would limit our God given rights and let government supersede those,” stated Rep. Dan Sullivan. “People need to stand up for their rights.”
He’s also touted “diversity” in the House of Representatives in one of his district newsletters. No mention there of race, gender or sexual orientation, however.
Sullivan’s inquiry is in keeping with the times and his political leaning. Donald Trump is hard at work to cancel out discussion of unpopular topics in school. He’s called for patriotic teaching and calls teaching about racism “child abuse.”
Sullivan, among other interests, is the leader of a lawsuit to stymie Governor Hutchinson’s issuance of pandemic directives through the Health Department. He claims a legislative power is being abridged, despite a clear power given the governor in times of emergency. How does he fell about abridging academic freedom or the First Amendment? We’ll see Oct. 6.
The topic presents a rare opportunity to pass along a rare kind word about the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Rooting through campaign filings yesterday, I discovered the big business lobby had set up an “independent expenditure committee” that operated below radar during the primary season. It raised and spent about $43,500. I asked Randy Zook, head of the chamber, how the money was spent.
He said it was divided between mailers for Sen. John Cooper, defeated for re-election in the Republican primary by Sullivan, and social media spending for Republican Barbara Webb’s successful candidacy for Arkansas Supreme Court. Cooper is no liberal, but he was at times reasonable, an apparent shortcoming in Jonesboro these days.
So I’ll give the chamber a .500 batting average on this political effort, substantially better than their usual. For Sullivan’s information, here’s where their money came from, not counting a subsequent $1,000 from the Arkansas anesthesiologists PAC. UPDATE: Zook said $23,000 of the spending supported Webb, with $17,600 supporting Cooper and the rest spent on administrative costs.