Tuesday, May 04, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Drop this idea

Here’s the germ of a terrible idea: Put the chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville over all the other campuses of the university system. That apparently is what at least a few members of the university’s board of trustees are talking about doing, at least for a year or so.

B. Alan Sugg, the president of the university system, is retiring and the board hasn’t hired his successor. G. David Gearhart, who has been chancellor of the Fayetteville campus for a little more than a year, would step in and do both jobs for a while, presumably shuttling back and forth between Fayetteville and Sugg’s headquarters in Little Rock.

Gearhart, a smart and accomplished administrator, could do both jobs without breaking a sweat. That is not the issue. Monitoring the system’s far-flung and mostly independent campuses is not a backbreaking task. The chancellors field all the day-to-day issues of running a university, and the president ponders the big picture from the sylvan glades of the Donaghey estate in Cammack Village. His big job is settling the issues that crop up among the campuses, which shouldn’t be but are quite competitive and suspicious of one another.

And you’re going to make the head of the biggest campus the referee? David Gearhart by all accounts is judicious and diplomatic to a fault — much better, by the way, than his predecessor John White. But we don’t think that even he is up to this task. If he is, make it weeks, not months.