By Joel Phelps
The faculty on the chopping block have set out to reverse their employment by trying to fire their head administrator.
On the evening before the Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees was set to consider massive faculty cuts to Henderson State University’s campus, the faculty senate of the “School with a Heart” gave a no-confidence vote in the chancellor making those recommendations to ASU.
In total, some 130 Henderson community members attended a virtual faculty senate meeting Wednesday afternoon. The 29-member senate had a majority vote of no confidence in Chancellor Chuck Ambrose and recommended his termination. Ambrose was hired as chancellor in November.
Dr. Fred Worth, a longtime mathematics professor among those whose programs are being cut, said Wednesday’s decision means the faculty senate wants to remove Ambrose from his position “to give us the opportunity to figure out another way to address the problems” facing Henderson. “There are too many faculty [members]; we get that,” said Worth, who served on the Financial Exigency Committee responsible for making recommendations to the chancellor. “But we’re confident the data we were given were garbage data.”
According to Worth, that data included statistics “that should have added up [but] didn’t, and it wasn’t clear why.” For instance, Worth noted, there were lines of recommended cuts for faculty who had taken jobs elsewhere and hadn’t been teaching this year, and there were lines for faculty who have died since the committee was tasked with making cuts.
The decision came during a meeting that followed an unrelated student march and protest, led by history professor Megan Hickerson, calling for Ambrose’s resignation.
“It was bad data,” said Worth, who has been outspoken on social media since the campus-wide furloughs were announced in February. “We had no choice but to use it.” He said there were three areas of study — aviation, nursing and education — in which administration instructed the committee not to touch. “Those are three of the most expensive areas in the school,” he said. “But since they fit the model that Ambrose wanted to implement for the university we couldn’t take faculty lines away from them.”
Worth said the committee did its best to eliminate faculty positions from every area while keeping the university’s liberal arts core in tact. “And then he came out with his recommendation,” Worth said. “And when asked how he’s going to get a university out of that mess, his response is, ‘Well, I don’t know.’ It does not seem to me like a wise process for re-imagining the university.”
Henderson’s Board of Trustees once received a vote of no confidence in former president Glendell Jones and his administration, but no decision on that recommendation was ever made. Asked if Wednesday’s faculty senate vote would make a difference in Thursday’s meeting, “I sure hope so,” Worth told The Arkadelphian in a telephone interview.