Members of the University of Central Arkansas faculty senate held a champagne celebration at Mike’s Place on Thursday in honor of Dr. Kurt Boniecki, who has received the Shared Governance Award from the Arkansas chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Boniecki was president of the faculty senate during the period before former President Lu Hardin’s resignation last year. Some faculty members were outraged over a $300,000 bonus privately awarded to Hardin and the subsequent news that a memo attributed to three vice presidents was actually written by Hardin without the knowledge of the vice presidents.
Dr. Michael Shaefer of the UCA English Department said of Boniecki, "He was such an effective and courageous spokesman for shared governance for all the things that went on at UCA last year. He spoke up very courageously about what was right and what was not right. He was such a forceful voice in advising the faculty’s role in the process of hiring a new president. I think it’s great he won it. Nobody that I know of in Arkansas did more last year for shared governance than he did."
Boniecki is an associate professor of psychology and has been at the university nine years.
"When I heard about it, I was surprised. I didn’t know I was being considered," Boniecki said. "Certainly I’m very honored."
Boniecki explained his role during the controversy included presenting the faculty view to Hardin regarding the bonus.
"Later, when it was revealed that he had submitted the memo and misrepresented the positions of the vice presidents, during those events I worked with the faculty senate and AAUP to present the disapproval of the faculty, not only to Lu Hardin, but also to the trustees, to demonstrate why this was such a severe violation of academic integrity," he said.
He also noted it was his responsibility to present the faculty position to the media.
"It’s a great honor ..." he continued. "It tells me I’m appreciated by my peers and that I was standing up for what was right."
During the champagne celebration, Jeff Mitchell, president of the Arkansas Chapter of AAUP, said he was pleased to present the award because faculty members are often too timid and apathetic to do what Boniecki did.
Dr. Allen Meadors, president of UCA, said, "We are and should be a community of scholars. We won’t always agree, but we should have balance and respect each other."
He said watching the news coverage from afar, he was most pleased that the faculty "didn’t get into name-throwing."
"Even though we had a lot of question marks thrown out there last year, they were not thrown at faculty," he said.
Boniecki said, "I’m sincerely honored and humbled. I didn’t expect this. I didn’t think something like this would happen.
"When you go through something like this, you don’t do it alone. We have faculty who have been there ... They were there for me. I feel like I share this award with a lot of people."
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)