Four days before a vote is scheduled to take place on the repeal of Fayetteville’s civil rights civil rights ordinance, Daniel J. Pugh, Sr., Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Higher Education at the University of Arkansas, has decided to shut the whole thing down by refusing to disperse funds for the shuttle service.
The graduate student government had planned to run a shuttle bus to the Washington County courthouse for students who wanted to vote in Tuesday’s election on repeal of Fayetteville’s civil rights ordinance, according to The Arkansas Times.
On Friday, December 5, 2014, the ASG Graduate Student Congress received an email from Pugh, stating that the shuttle service for early voting would no longer take place. The email, addressed to Rudy Trejo, Assistant Director for Student Government Leadership, read as follows:
From: Danny Pugh
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2014 3:21 PM
To: Rudy G. Trejo
Cc: Mary L. Skinner; Lori Lynn Lander; Melissa Harwood-Rom Subject: ASG GSC “Motor Voter Appropriation Bill” Importance: High
Mr. Trejo —
The Associated Student Government Graduate Student Congress has approved legislation to fund bus service to the Washington County Courthouse in connection with the special election scheduled for this coming week. ASG has previously funded special bus service to facilitate early voting in the spirit of encouraging student participation in the electoral process, on a completely non-partisan basis. In this instance, proposed and actual communications issued by GSC or its representatives have made it clear that the funding is intended to support voting in favor of a particular side in the referendum. I have concluded that this is an impermissible use of funds that would possibly violate state law (Arkansas Code § 7-1-111(b)), which prohibits the expenditure of public funds to support or oppose a ballot measure. ASG and GSC are free to pass resolutions supporting a particular view on the campaign and to advocate for their views, but the student-fee funded charter bus service planned for next week will not take place. Normal Razorback Transit bus service serving the downtown area will continue to be available.
Daniel J. Pugh, Sr., Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
& Associate Professor of Higher Education
Students say that bus service was open to all, as the Arkansas Times explains,”But you can make an educated guess how the vote would split among UA students. So it can’t be permitted. It’s the UA equivalent of Voter ID legislation. It was adopted with a full understanding of who it would impact.”
They are hoping that somebody will step in and offer to help fund the shuttle service in time for the vote.
Students say that the shuttle was canceled, in part, because of political backlash. The school fell under heavy pressure from far-right groups backing the repeal of the civil rights ordinance because it provides some legal protections for, among others, gay people. Eighteen Republican legislators signed a vaguely threatening letter against the University of Arkansas after a school Chancellor, David Gearhart, voiced his support for its passage.
If the school has funded similar proposals in the past, then they are wrong to refuse this time just because groups are actively working on one side or the other. Either they should support all early voting endeavors or none.