Eric Besson and Azia Musa of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette explored in detail this morning a proposal by Ben Hyneman, chair of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees to essentially place a gag order on the 10-member board.

Only the chair of the Board would be allowed under a rule he’s proposed to speak publicly on issues of controversy. Board members would be  required to go through a committee rather than making requests for information individually to the various campuses of the UA system. No board member could talk about subjects discussed in executive session.


This is nuts. It’s antithetical to democratic open government and, arguably unconstitutional by placing a government restraint on speech. A member of the UA Board would have less freedom  to seek information than a member of the public invoking the state Freedom of Information Act. (And the UA already does many things to make such requests difficult.)

You’ll hear no objections from the UA administration. They like secrecy and resent nosy and outspoken trustees, too. They also understand who hires and fires them.


When somebody at the UA says something isn’t about Razorback athletics — as Hyneman did in the D-G  — you can just about bet your bottom dollar that it IS about Razorback athletics, particularly football.

Hyneman, a Jonesboro banker, resisted the Board uprising that resulted in the firing of Athletic Director Jeff Long and football Coach Bret Bielema. That action was preceded by aggressive work, including information gathering, by certain members of the Board to achieve that aim. It also follows Trustee David Pryor’s outspoken opposition to the size of the Razorback stadium expansion devised by Jeff Long, a project Hyneman supported.


The Board considered adopting this rule in January, but delayed action on account of a call for more study from Trustee John Goodson. It will be back. Its allure won’t improve with age.

Today’s irony: UA President Donald Bobbitt has apparently urged the UA Board to consider a similar policy adopted by Arkansas State University. ASU: Not good enough to play in football, but good enough to imitate with an official secrets policy.