LETTER: A Heartfelt Cry

This is a cri de coeur on behalf of Henderson State University.

Because of the ghastly ineptitude of a former Henderson State University president and his vice president for administration, Henderson State University has fallen on extremely hard times. And, while the aforementioned have gone on to undeserved greener pastures, the egregious mess they left behind has and will affect the lives of HSU faculty, staff, students, and the Arkadelphia community.

Like a serious earthquake, the tremors from this HSU financial exigency has shaken the entire Arkadelphia and Clark County communities.

HSU board members who’ve allowed this abominable calamity to go from bad to worse should be held accountable.

In 1973, my wife and I moved to Arkadelphia; she was employed by the Arkadelphia school system for some 30 years, and I was employed by Ouachita Baptist University, Henderson’s sister institution, serving for 42 years as a professor of English and Art. We are both retired and have chosen to live in Arkadelphia because Arkadelphia is a very special place.

Having lived here for some 48 years, our lives have been enriched by a squadron of friends from OBU, HSU, the Arkadelphia School System teachers and staff members, local businesses and financial institutions, churches, and proprietors of restaurants, grocery stores, medical staff, city officials, and the outstanding law enforcement and first responders who’ve been an integral part of this small, close-knit community of 10,000+ citizens.

Newly appointed HSU Chancellor Dr. Chuck Ambrose has been tasked with cleaning up the financial mess left by the aforementioned. Unfortunately, the remedy has been a very radical one, a remedy that involves the firing of scores of faculty and staff members, including the phasing out of up to 40 percent of degree programs that will no doubt disrupt students’ academic careers.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of interacting with HSU faculty and staff in academic endeavors (frequently invited to lecture across the street), including studying sculpture under the late Mac Hornecker, who left an indelible impact on the careers and futures of many art majors. The many encounters with HSU faculty and staff at church, at checkout counters, the public square, the hallowed university hallways, concerts, plays, art exhibits, public lectures, athletic events, community volunteer and fundraising activities and so much more will no doubt be curtailed, phased out or, worst, abolished.

Those affected are grandparents, parents, decent, dedicated, and hardworking folks who’ve made our community a very special one. Their lives (and the lives of their family members) will be permanently altered, and the dire financial conditions imposed on their families will no doubt disrupt their lives in myriad traumatic ways.

And, while Dr. Ambrose’s scalpel is an attempt to keep the university solvent, I am distressed that entire programs will be trashed and summarily discontinued.

All this to say the following: Governor Hutchinson, your silence and apathy are disheartening. You’ve bragged about balancing the budget and the surpluses you’ve been stashing in your favorite accounts. How about dipping into these coffers to lend a hand? And you, Arkansas legislators and gubernatorial aspirants (many of whom are anti-intellectual), are more concerned about trivial issues than the future of a university that serves the southwest quadrant of the state.

And finally, our ego-filled congressional delegation running wall-to-wall absolutely meaningless and childish political ads, you rubber-stamp billions of dollars (I repeat, billions) in foreign-aid giveaways and corporate tax-break largesse of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

To all, charity starts at home. And today, home is Henderson State University’s cri de couer (cry from the heart), a university that invests in the lives and futures of Arkansans and others.

Each of you politicians has to decide whether you represent Arkansans or the special domestic and foreign interests at whose coffers you salivate and prostrate yourselves, selling what little dignity you possess.

Raouf J. Halaby of Arkadelphia is a professor emeritus of English and art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist. Email him at halabys7181@outlook.com.

2 replies »

  1. I’m surprised that more people in Arkadelphia have not commented on this. I have already made some comments on previous articles about this situation. It’s very obvious how this situation occurred, but no one wants to admit or call it what it was. An incompetent individual was put in charge and given carte blanche. He, his lackey, and an incompetent board let him run the institution into the ground. That’s pretty much it. If that wasn’t enough, they allowed this guy to “step down” sure, and continued to pay him as a professor for a length of time that I didn’t even attempt to keep up with. This is a very well written article by an individual who seems passionate about Henderson. Too bad no one appeared to have spoken up sooner. I only live in Arkadelphia part time, but recognized the problem early on. I have two semesters at Henderson which I didn’t do very well at because I wasn’t ready for college. After being in the military, I managed to get a BA and Associate along with a few graduate hours from the University of Arkansas. I do have some friends that are proud graduates of Henderson and they are pretty upset over this. It could have all been easily avoided with the right choice.

    Seems like all Arkadelphia wants to do is argue over renaming streets, building parks, and a by pass, trash trucks and a whole lot of things that do not contribute to the local economy. You guys could do better, but I will be amazed if you ever do. You still have about the same population that you did back in 1953 when my parents moved us back here from California and enrolled me in the segregated Arkadelphia Primary School system which was one of the worst experiences of my life. Sure hope it’s better now, but I never liked school after that experience.

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