Guns on campus, a new funding model, and the introduction of a new chancellor. Those were the highlights from yesterday’s Fall Faculty Conference at Arkansas State University. The topic that has caused a lot of concern from the campus community is a state law that was passed this year that will allow for concealed carry on the state’s colleges and universities. Arkansas State University System President Dr. Charles Welch says many concerns were addressed to state lawmakers about the bill, which led to numerous concessions…however, at the end of the day.
“This is the law,” says Welch. “Whether we like it or not. We were able to get a large number of concessions to this law. I am asking that you abide by this law so we don’t get those concessions rolled back. We will continue to do what he can to make sure that these campuses are as safe as possible.”
Arkansas State University’s General Counsel Brad Phelps says it is unlawful to try to prevent people who conceal carry to enter the campus, buildings, or classrooms. He tells what is required to conceal carry on campus.
“You must be a licensed concealed carry owner in Arkansas and have documentation to prove that,” says Phelps. “Also, you must go through extensive training through the Arkansas State Police. That training will not be ready until 2018. “
He tells about places where this law will be exempt.
“Athletic events, graduation ceremonies, and other events on campus where there is already an approved police plan. Daycares are also exempt, as well as the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine. They are a separate institution that operates on our campus.”
While the law takes effect September first, but with the state police not providing training until next year, Dr. Welch says concealed carry effectively won’t be on campus in the fall semester. In other news, Governor Asa Hutchinson is making ten million dollars available in new higher education dollars. The state’s colleges and universities will not get the money through the enrollment numbers. Now, those dollars will be handed out due to retention and graduation rates. Dr. Charles Welch
“Historically, colleges and universities received money by the numbers of students that were enrolled at those institutions by the 11th day. Now, it is going to how many students we can retain and graduate. If an underperforming school is not doing what it should, that school’s money could be taken away and given to a higher performing school. That is a major change.”
New chancellor at Arkansas State University Dr. Kelly Damphousse says the numbers of incoming freshmen this year are lower than last year and the number of freshmen returning and sophomores has also dropped, which he says is very concerning.
“Our incoming freshman class is significantly smaller than last year’s class,” says Damphousse. “Our returning class from last year is also smaller as we have lost about 30% of those students. That is a problem for revenue, as well as a problem for those students. There is nothing more expensive than starting college and not finishing it.”
He says that is very concerning and will be one of his goals in attracting students and keeping them. He says another vision is to work with the campus community to establish a vision of what Arkansas State University should look like in the future
He says those are some of the many challenges that will be tackled this academic year. Classes start Monday.