The University of Arkansas System board of trustees voted on Thursday to extend system President Donald Bobbitt’s contract by two years.
Morril Harriman, chairman of the board, made the announcement after trustees spent two hours in non-public executive session Thursday afternoon.
Bobbitt began his term as UA System president in November 2011. His most recent contract was approved in August 2019 and was set to end on Dec. 31.
The extension keeps his annual compensation at $510,000 and includes $150,000 in deferred annual compensation.
“I’m honored and thrilled to continue to serve in the role of President of the University of Arkansas System,” Bobbitt said in a statement. “I appreciate the confidence the Board has placed in me. I am reminded daily that I work for 10 trustees who each have a unique perspective on the work of our system, and while we may not always agree on every issue, I believe we all want the very best for our campuses, divisions and units across the state. I’m looking forward to continuing that work with each of them.”
In recent weeks, Bobbitt has been embroiled in turmoil with Sheffield Nelson, the board’s vice chair, who publicly accused Bobbitt of hiding information about a proposed deal to affiliate with the University of Phoenix for $500 million. The proposal was rejected by trustees in a 5-4 vote in April.
At a June 26 board meeting, trustees passed a resolution in support of Bobbitt’s handling of the Phoenix proposal by a 7-3 vote. The resolution also addressed Nelson’s allegations, finding that “President Bobbitt did not seek nor was he to receive personal gain from the proposed affiliation” and that he “pursued the project in good faith and with the best interests of the UA System in mind.”
Bobbitt’s contract extension includes a provision for the board of trustees to end the deal with 90 days of notice and for him to leave the deal with six months of notice. It also gives him the option to return to a position as a tenured professor at the U of A when his contract ends.
Before being named system president in 2011, Bobbitt was provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2008-2011. He previously held faculty and administrative roles at the University of Arkansas, including dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
The board of trustees on Thursday also approved a motion to offer associate general counsel David Curran a position as general counsel. Curran joined the general counsel’s office in 2016.