Letter: More to Henderson turmoil than meets the eye

Dear editor,

Thank you for your story about the exit of HSU’s extinguished chancellor.   

That said, it is frustrating that most of the news stories about HSU seem to be Ambrose-approved propaganda about his “accomplishments”.   

For example, while it has been reported that many faculty were laid off, I have not yet read a story that includes the fact that not only degree programs, but entire departments were eliminated.  This included core departments such as English, biology, mathematics, history, chemistry, and art.  Also, the stories do not reflect the deceit involved.  The timeline included in your article is correct that a financial exigency committee formed by the faculty senate (as required by the Faculty Handbook) started working in March 2022 to make recommendations to reduce departments and in some cases, eliminate programs. There is no mention that its recommendations were dismissed by Ambrose.   It is almost a certainty that he had laid his plans to clear-cut most of the departments in the arts and science well before that committee even began its work.   However, the process required by the handbook allowed him to conveniently time his layoffs until the end of the term, so that most faculty and students would soon be off campus and less likely to mount a unified protest.  The Friday before final exams, almost seventy faculty members received calls to let us know our faculty lines had been eliminated.  Needless to say, this upended the lives of these faculty members and their families, as well as the innumerable students with majors in those departments.   

Hard choices had to be made, no doubt.  But deep cuts could have been made and still preserved the essential character of HSU instead of eviscerating it as Ambrose did.   Time will tell if anyone can bring HSU back to a semblance of its former self.  (Maybe Trey Berry could be lured back to Arkadelphia.??) The cleverly spun news releases make it sound like things are rosey at HSU, but there are indications otherwise.  Enrollments have apparently tanked, and accreditation may be in jeopardy.   With few students, the financial “miracle” may have been a mirage.  

Here is another twist. While the ASU system has a policy to pay all retirees for unused sick leave (max $7500), the ASU board created an exception to compensate HSU retirees only if HSU’s financial condition allows.   My application was denied by Ambrose on those grounds, in spite of all the news reports of HSU’s financial come-back. Now that he is resigning, it has come to light through Debra Hale-Shelton’s article in the Arkansas Times that Ambrose’s contract stipulates that he will receive his sick-leave compensation.  The amount is not substantial, but the violation of fundamental principles of fairness is.  I and others forced to retire lost meaningful, productive careers as well as several years of normal income.  This is shabby treatment for people who have given decades of service to Henderson. It is a small side note in the bigger picture of Henderson’s tribulations, but reflective of the nature of this chancellor.   

There is much more to Henderson’s story than what we read in the news or see on TV.  

Thank you for your time and service to the community.   

Carolyn S. Eoff, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Mathematics & Statistics