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University Assembly elects new president

Submitted by Ricky Harris on June 2, 2011 – 2:38 pmNo Comment

After the announcement that the current president of the University Assembly will be leaving for a position at another institution, the group met on Thursday, April 28, to elect a replacement.

In a vote of 128 to 23, Dr. Laura Smith-Olinde, associate professor of audiology and speech pathology and vice-president of the Faculty Senate, was elected to replace Dr. Andrew Eshleman, associate professor of philosophy.  She defeated Dr. Steven F. Jennings, professor of information science.

Speaking about the two candidates, Dr. C. Earl Ramsey, professor of English, said “we cannot lose with these two candidates…I hope whoever does not win will be in the wings waiting to run next time…I value them both; I trust them both.”

Smith-Olinde, after her victory, said that there are “big changes on the agenda” for her term.

The position of University Assembly President also doubles as the president of the Faculty Senate.  The membership of the assembly consists of the university administration officials, deans and directors, professors and instructors, members of the Staff Senate and “one student for every 400 students enrolled in the fall term of each academic year,” according the organization’s constitution.

Eshleman, outgoing University Assembly President, announced recently that he will be transferring to the University of Portland, where he will be their new philosophy department chairman.

“This is a great institution, and what makes it great is all of you (the assembly) and the fact that you have committed yourselves to the mission of this place,” Eshleman said in his remarks to the group.

Chancellor Joel Anderson and Provost David Belcher also spoke at the meeting.  Anderson thanked Belcher, who is leaving in July for the chancellor position at the University of Western Carolina, for his service to the campus.  Anderson joked about naming a building after Belcher, and used the idea of “Belcher’s Grill.”  Anderson showed, to the crowd’s amusement, a rendering of the future Trojan Grill, which had Belcher’s face on a sign that had been superimposed on the rendering.

Belcher thanked UALR for allowing him to serve since 2003 as the Provost.  He also listed, in part, accomplishments that have taken place during his time at UALR.  These included raising $92 million for the capital campaign, NCAA tournament visits by the basketball team, the new engineer and information technology building, among many others.  He stressed that he wasn’t taking credit for the progress, but rather showing how far UALR has come in such a short period of time.

“Now is not the time to slow down…we must keep [our] focus on the [future],” said Belcher.

Not to be outdone humor-wise, Belcher presented Anderson with the first ever “Joel” award.  “Hollywood has the Oscar – television has the Emmy – Broadway has the Tony, and UALR has the Joel,” said Belcher.  The award, instead of a trophy or certificate, was a bobble head version of Anderson.  Anderson remarked on the excessive amount of hair on the figurine and said to Belcher, who has not been immune to balding, “You may want to get in touch [with the people who made it.]”

Anderson went on to discuss the university budget for the upcoming year and that the University of Arkansas Board Of Trustees will be meeting on May 20 to vote on a tuition increase.  He also stated that employees will not receive cost of living raises in the upcoming fiscal year.

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