OPINION | WOODY BASSETT: Trustees should select Robinson as the next UA chancellor

His leadership as interim, and before, recommends him

Charles Robinson should be the next chancellor at the University of Arkansas's flagship campus in Fayetteville.

Robinson is a friend. I know him well and have seen for myself all the good that others see in him. The motivation for today's column springs purely from my deep respect and admiration for Robinson as a person and because I want what's best for the university.

The decision on who will be the next chancellor has been narrowed to two candidates: Robinson, who has served the past 14 months as interim chancellor, and Daniel Reed, presently employed at the University of Utah.

Robinson, whose time at the university spans more than 20 years, was appointed to serve as interim chancellor in August 2021. In announcing Robinson's appointment, University of Arkansas System President Don Bobbitt wrote this: "Dr. Robinson has a unique skill set, having led the university's efforts in academics, student affairs and diversity affairs during his tenure. He has a strong connection not only with our students and faculty, but also with the university's external constituencies. During a transition period, it's imperative to have a leader in place who has the trust and confidence of all stakeholder groups ... Dr. Robinson has the background, personality and temperament to work with everyone ... "

For over a year as interim chancellor, Robinson has done an outstanding job leading the university, clearly demonstrating every single day the right person for the chancellorship is already sitting behind the desk in the chancellor's office. The Fayetteville campus has met every challenge and has flourished under Robinson's guidance.

Robinson is a born leader and a difference-maker in everything he does. He possesses exceptional leadership skills and is a polished and effective administrator. Through a series of very important positions of responsibility during his career at the university, Robinson's performance has been exemplary every step of the way. He is the epitome of homegrown campus talent and leadership.

Robinson's personal attributes make him ideally suited for the chancellorship. He's smart and has sound judgment. He's honest and trustworthy. His character and integrity are impeccable. He's an excellent communicator with superb people skills. He's an inspiring speaker and an attentive listener.

Robinson is well-liked and widely respected, both on and off campus. That's why his candidacy for the chancellorship is broadly supported by university students, faculty and staff, plus university alumni from every walk of life.

Based on his professional credentials and his extensive experience at the university, naming Robinson to the chancellorship should be a slam-dunk at this point. He has proven himself in every manner that counts in being chancellor, a post for which he has the gravitas to be highly successful.

People should take note of how Robinson has conducted himself in recent months because it's a window into his strength of character and the kind of person he is. Despite the pressure and uncertainty caused by a lengthy selection process, he has calmly gone about doing his job with dignity and class, and doing it extremely well.

Bobbitt, who recommended Reed to the university trustees, recently suggested to Robinson he could step aside and return to the provost position he previously held and be paid a salary equal to or greater than he currently earns as interim chancellor. But Robinson doesn't want his last job back. In politely but firmly rejecting Bobbitt's overture, Robinson wrote: "Having served the campus for the past fourteen months as interim chancellor, I am pleased with the success that my team and I have had in advancing the university ... and it is my hope that the board will support my candidacy."

Isn't that the type of person and leader we want as chancellor?

Robinson is a Black man but that's not a reason he should or shouldn't get the job. He deserves to get it because he has earned it. He's the best and most uniquely qualified candidate for this Arkansas job and would be exactly the kind of chancellor the university and state need at this time in our nation's life.

Robinson stands his ground but also knows how to find common ground. After what has been a difficult and trying selection process for all concerned, there's no one better suited than Robinson to bring the university and its many stakeholders together. Making him chancellor would be a proud and unifying moment for all.

The University of Arkansas belongs to everyone in this state so it matters a lot who is chancellor of its flagship campus. It's one of the most important positions of public trust in Arkansas. Robinson has earned the opportunity to live up to that trust.

The time is always right to do what is right. It's time for the university to do the right thing by naming Charles Robinson as the next chancellor.

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