LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A resolution to affiliate the University of Arkansas with the University of Phoenix was struck down in a 5-4 vote by the UA System Board of Trustees on Monday.
Trustees Morril Harriman, Sheffield Nelson, Tommy Boyer, Steve Cox and Kevin Crass voted against the resolution, while Nathaniel Todd, Ed Fryar, Ted Dickey and Jeremy Wilson voted for it.
Trustee Kelly Eichler, who had a conflict of interest, recused herself from the vote.
The board discussed the issue during a special meeting April 19, and the board was divided on how to move forward. The board reconvened earlier today, appearing more divided on the issue.
Crass, the newest trustee on the board, was against the deal, saying “We are being asked, as trustees, to take a leap of faith.”
Chair of the Faculty Senate at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Dr. Stephen Caldwell, said he and other faculty had multiple concerns about the deal, including the reputation of the University of Phoenix.
“Many lawsuits over the past decade dealing with deceptive practices and questionable practices by the University of Phoenix,” Caldwell said.
Board vice chairman Sheffield Nelson also opposed the affiliation, saying before the vote that the deal was a disaster and that the University of Phoenix’s reputation was poisonous.
“I think it’s a mess, and it’s a mess we don’t need to get our feet in,” Nelson said.
Nelson also claimed that the deal was kept secret for nearly a year and half. However, Fryar claimed that the board had been made aware of the affiliation talks as soon as June 2021.
Todd, who was in support of the deal, was vocal about the need for the system to adapt to the changing scope of education.
“This base is critical, in my assessment, to learning, and the changing environment where learning is taking place,” Todd said.
“Brick and mortar is going to get more expensive. If the UA System is not in this space, we will be in a less optimal position,” Todd added.
While the board struck down the proposal, President Donald Bobbitt still has the authority to move forward with the deal.
Caldwell said he was glad the board voted the deal down on Monday, but said he understood that it might not be the end yet.
“We’re delighted that the board has voted down the resolution but it’s certainly not the end,” Caldwell said.