ASU Board of Trustees, Welch Praise Emergency Preparedness of A-State Campus
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees and President Charles L. Welch today praised the preparedness of its Jonesboro campus employees and students, as well as local law enforcement, in the wake of Thursday’s incident involving a gunman that resulted in a lockdown yet no shots fired or injuries.
“The first responders were absolutely incredible and did a tremendous job,” said Welch, noting that A-State Chancellor Tim Hudson remained on campus as faculty and students returned today for final exams. “There has been a great deal of discussion about the best ways to keep our campuses safe. There’s no perfect scenario, and nothing gives 100 percent assurance. But I’m comfortable with the plans we have in place.
“Fortunately law enforcement didn't have to fire any shots yesterday. Campuses processes couldn't have worked better. We locked down immediately and training kicked in. Ironically our Jonesboro and Searcy campuses were engaged in active shooter training at the time of the incident. They made critical decisions, and the situation ended as well as we could have hoped for. We will continue to look at ways to improve.”
Welch also noted that there is a great deal of fear in the United States based on rhetoric and hate, but “we should use this opportunity to not just focus on that, but also mental illness in this country.”
Board Chairman Charles Luter of Paragould said: “I want to commend Dr. Hudson, the police departments and all involved. They tell us they are training and we take them at their word, as you could see yesterday, they have done an excellent job training and preparing. I don’t feel good about the incident, but I feel good about the training.”
Welch told the board that legislative auditors and the Interim Joint Audit Committee gave the ASU System campuses a “squeaky clean” review and report with only two small notes regarding the way assets were labeled. “It’s a testament to our campuses and the great work of our finance folks,” he added.
The board paid tribute to ASU-Beebe Chancellor Eugene McKay, who will retire in January after nearly 50 years of service to the institution, and voted to name the most prominent building on the campus the Dr. Eugene McKay Student Center. His successor, Dr. Karla Fisher, will begin Jan. 16.
In his parting remarks, McKay announced that ASU-Beebe John Deere training program had become the largest in the nation with its fall enrollment.
In other business, the Board approved:
• An ASU System Unmanned Aircraft Systems Policy to address and regulate the safe use of drone technology on campuses. Each campus will have a designated UAS coordinator.
• Plans for various cost of living adjustments and one-time merit bonuses for employees at the Jonesboro and Mountain Home campuses, as well as the system office. The salary expenditures plans were delayed when operating budgets were approved in May.
• The naming of the R.M. “Bob” Wood Sales Leadership Center at Arkansas State and the naming of the FedEx Aviation Technology Center at ASU Mid-South.
• Revisions to the System staff handbook to include A-State’s non-discrimination in university practices statement.
Following an executive session, the Board approved several academic and non-academic appointments.