August 20, 2021

MORE FROM ARKANSAS LAW: Naming of Little Rock law professorship raises questions: A missing memo led to a Little Rock law school professorship being briefly named for former President Bill Clinton in 2020 and then to questions from lawmakers on Thursday.

The professorship at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law was the subject of a legislative hearing after questions from two professors. Now known as the Distinguished Professorship in Constitutional Law, it was funded by a 1999 donation from the school’s namesake, according to a letter to legislators from UALR Chancellor Christina Drale. . . .

John DiPippa, dean emeritus of the law school, started using Clinton’s name on his position in the summer of 2020, under the guidance of current Dean Terri Beiner. Beiner gave that guidance based on a staff member’s discovery of the 1999 letter giving permission for the professorship to be named for Clinton, having assumed that was “the final word on the matter and that the omission of the Clinton name on the professorship was an oversight,” Drale wrote.

DiPippa retired in January.

In May, one of the law school professors, Tom Sullivan, raised an issue about the substance of the Clinton professorship, and another, Robert Steinbuch, asked how the professorship came about, Beiner told the committee.

Beiner and Steinbuch both testified before the House and Senate Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. Steinbuch had applied for the professorship, which ultimately went to another faculty member.
The Senate committee chairman, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said the rollout of the professorship’s name seemed odd. The name was the subject of several opinion columns by Mike Masterson in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this summer.

“We do have an interest in making sure that things are done appropriately, that fairness is reigning true, and that we don’t overpoliticize things,” he said, adding that he was “just wondering about the timing of it.”
Beiner said it took time for the administrators to go through the relevant documents and didn’t scour all the law school records until receiving an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request from Masterson.
She said it was “absolutely nothing political” and had to do with making sure the intent of the donor was carried out. Neither Bowen nor Smith are still living.

Steinbuch said the name issue was part of a pattern of politicization at the law school, which had he said become an environment of “cryptoleftism wokeism.” He said no other professorships at the school are named for politicians.

After about 45 minutes of discussion, Rapert said the school needed to make a better effort of handling those types of issues in-house.

Who names a professorship for a disbarred, sex-harassing, politician? Well, now we know.

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