ARKADELPHIA, Ark. — Henderson State University (HSU) announced deep cuts to its undergraduate degree programs. They would do away with many of the undergraduate programs and professors to save the school almost $5.5 million through 2024.
HSU merged into the Arkansas State University System (ASUS) in 2019 due to financial issues. ASUS’s board will approve or deny the plan Thursday.
Pending the decision, eliminated tenured professors could work another school year until they must find what’s next. Those without tenure would lose their job soon after this finals week.
Some students are planning a protest Wednesday afternoon where they will march from the quad to the Chancellor’s house. Video sent by student Brooke Burton showed a circle of Henderson State University students who knew only to sing their alma mater when the news came out Monday night.
Michael Ray Taylor has taught in the communications and theatre department for 31 years, and his position is one of the 88 being cut.
“It’s a sad day for the Henderson,” Taylor told our cameras. “The liberal arts are essentially eliminated from what has been Arkansas’s premier public liberal arts university.”
Senior student Ashley Bollman agreed expressing, “Those things that make students feel alive essentially and not just like their academic drones here to pay for and get a degree.”
Both Taylor and Bollman say most of the campus knew cuts were coming, but plenty question the 12 programs and 88 faculty positions that were chosen.
Of the 88 positions proposed for elimination (or 37 percent of the 237 total positions in spring 2022), 21 are currently unfilled positions. Of the remaining 67 positions being cut, 44 are tenured faculty members. 23 professors are without tenure.
Geography, history, political science, public administration, criminal justice, biology, studio art, communication, mass media communication, theatre arts, English and Spanish are recommended to discontinue.
“We didn’t really have many options,” explained Chancellor Chuck Ambrose.
He said in order for University to survive he had to look at primarily three things: which programs cost the most, have the lowest graduation rates, and are in demand for today’s workforce.
It will take time to adjust to the restructuring Ambrose admitted but added, “It actually broadens opportunities for students and does not makes them more narrow.”
Students in the middle of their degrees or starting in the Fall will be able to finish with online or partner programs. The students’ first proposal would leave professors in situations far more dire.
As Bollman put it, “It’s the school with a heart, and I heard a lot of people use the phrase the school with a heart is bleeding out.”
Taylor lamented, “It’s very sad to see it all falling apart like this.”