A legislative attack on the diversity division at Arkansas Tech University was dropped this morning and that apparently signals a settlement of a dispute with unhappy legislators stemming in part from a student group’s annual campus sex education program
To recap, a sex education program by LGBT students at Tech upset several people, notably Rep. Trevor Drown of Dover and Rep. Mary Bentley of Perryville. They proposed an amendment to the Tech appropriation bill to strip funding for the Department of Diversity and Inclusion. It was listed as a sponsor on a notice of the “Sex on the Lawn” event, but played no part in the event (though it has been supportive of LGBT students as well as many other minorities, including racial and disabled). Other reports indicate this wasn’t the only liberal thing that Drown and others objected to at Tech.
The defunding proposal was withdrawn last week as members of the Board of Arkansas Tech reached out to legislators. The item was on the printed agenda of the special language subcommittee of Joint Budget again this morning, but was lined out and not brought up. Continuing discussions between legislators, members of the Tech board and Tech President Robin Bowen apparently brought an end to the threat on the department. Bowen issued this statement:
Several members of the Arkansas General Assembly have raised concerns about the Arkansas Tech University Department of Diversity and Inclusion. The ATU Board of Trustees and our administration have worked with them to address their concerns. This collaborative effort has resulted in providing a positive path forward to continue the department whose primary focus will be to attract, retain and graduate minority students.
We will continue to work to ensure that all students are provided a safe, respectful institution where they can pursue and achieve their degree.
“The continuation of the Department of Diversity and Inclusion positions Arkansas Tech University to meet the diversity-related components of its accreditation through The Higher Learning Commission and alleviates concerns about accreditation arising in this area.
“On behalf of our 11,894 students, our faculty, our staff, our alumni and our future students, I express my appreciation to the legislators, ATU Board of Trustees members and administrators who worked together to reach this resolution in the best interests of Arkansas Tech University.”
Dr. Robin E. Bowen
Arkansas Tech University
Will there be another “Sex on the Lawn”? We’ll tune in next year. I hope it doesn’t turn into “Sex in the Closet.” This year’s event was the best ever said the sponsor, Spectrum at Arkansas Tech. I suspect all the pre-event publicity stirred by Mary Bentley’s Facebook alarm did not hurt. I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right, goes the old PR cliche.
Said Spectrum on its Facebook page (lots of photos):
Sex on the Lawn 2017 was the best one yet! SPECTRUM would like to thank everyone who came to support the event and especially the organizations that took time to research a variety of topics dealing with all-inclusive safe sex, healthy relationships, sexual orientations and gender identities. Thank you all for the support! Without you, none of this would have been possible.
UPDATE: A statement Wednesday evenings from legislators:
After two years of working to address specific concerns of the Arkansas River Valley community, including students, parents, Arkansas Tech University (ATU) faculty and alumni, we are grateful a resolution has been reached with ATU board members. We celebrate that every ATU student is important and valued, and that the Board recognizes the importance of ensuring no single group is perceived as infringing on the rights of others. With this resolution, we are confident that the Department of Diversity and Inclusion will continue to focus on attracting and on the success of all minority students.
ATU is the pride of the River Valley. We trust its administrators and students recognize the sacrifices and family values of all who choose to call this area their home. We look forward to continuing our work at the legislature to promote the educational opportunities and success of every ATU student.
Senators Gregory B. Standridge, Gary Stubblefield
Representatives Jon Eubanks, Mary Bentley, Trevor Drown, Marcus Richmond, Aaron Pilkington, Rebecca Petty, Rick Beck