The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette got the jump on various efforts to dislodge public documents relative to Joe Steinmetz’s sudden departure as chancellor of the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville after five years in a job paying $714,000 a year.

He left amid a swirl of rumors about potentially unflattering photos of him on social media, but none has surfaced publicly. Before his departure, he issued a denial through a university spokesman that the photos were real. He moderated that position somewhat in a brief interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, saying only that anybody could put anything on social media and people would believe it.


The Democrat-Gazette document request turned up an interesting item: An initial news release draft circulated June 17 about Steinmetz’s resignation as chancellor indicated he’d be remaining as a UAF faculty member. The final version of that news release stripped any mention of a faculty position.

One possible headline for the news release suggested by spokesman Mark Rushing during an exchange of staff e-mails between 2 and 3 p.m., when the UA Board of Trustees was in a closed session:


Steinmetz to Conclude Service as Chancellor; Will Continue to Teach.

The D-G added:


Bill Kincaid, a campus attorney last week named by UA System President Donald Bobbitt as acting chancellor for the university, in response to Rushing wrote: “I would be inclined to stop after “Chancellor” given the stated duration.”

Documents don’t indicate if Rushing’s original account was written as Steinmetz directed or, if perhaps, he was only surmising how things might play out. Previous chancellors at Fayetteville and elsewhere have departed under various types of pressure and moved into faculty slots.

Eventually, the publicly released letter from Steinmetz and letter from Donald Bobbitt made no mention of continuing employment. He resigned effective Friday, June 18 and said he’d be clearing out of the chancellor’s university house quickly.

I’m still waiting for completion of an FOI  request I made to the UA System office, though it’s likely to be unproductive. I have, belatedly, received communications System President Donald Bobbitt sent to the Board of Trustees after a closed Board meeting at which his coming departure apparently was discussed. What Bobbitt may have told them additionally in the meeting isn’t known. I believe they had indications of the nature of the precipitating factors. The UAF staff already was aware, because of inquiries from KNWA, of the potential for problem photos — “a gross Twitter account using Joe’s face,” was how one staff communication put it, according to the D-G.

The following note was sent to the Board at 5:33 p.m. Thursday, June 17 by Donald Bobbitt. Steinmetz’s announcement to the campus soon followed. His pay ended June 18. He claimed 240 hours of leave time. His whereabouts haven’t been disclosed.


UPDATE: The UA belatedly provided under FOI materials provided to various media on the Steinmetz situation and other conversations he’s had in recent days. Interesting reading in spots.