The school with a heart attack


HSU Archives

Henderson is facing challenging times once more, as in this Feb. 3, 1914 photo of the university on fire from the HSU Archives.

On Feb. 3, amidst the snow and ice, Henderson State University Chancellor Chuck Ambrose announced new measures the school will be taking to combat its overwhelming indebtedness. All faculty now face a day of furlough a week, effective immediately. In the weeks to come, we will know more about departments and programs that will be cut and who faces a fate worse than furlough.
The announcement came just two days after Henderson celebrated their one year anniversary with the Arkansas State University System, a move that was voted on and approved by both boards of trustees over two years ago as the school first revealed its dire state created by ousted President Glen Jones Jr. and Vice President of Finance and Administration Brett Powell.
All this time, all this work by the System that was to be Henderson’s savior, and what exactly is there to show for it? According to Ambrose, the debt has grown deeper, from an already devastating $14 million dollars to a disastrous $78 million. If the new procedures are so necessary, why are they only now being implemented a year into Henderson’s ASU Systemization?
Has anyone really, honestly done anything to try to fix the mess we have been in? I hate to say it, but it sure seems like nothing has changed in the last two years and that the sinking of Captain Henderson’s ship has only been accelerated.
Meanwhile, Jones and Powell have cushy new jobs at Georgetown University and Baylor University, respectively. The only consequences they faced were a few embarrassing days in front of state lawmakers, not even a slap on the wrist for their reckless gutting of this once great school.
The picture is bleak. Am I going to be in one of the final graduating classes of Reddies? Is this school going to be here at all in ten, even five years?
I remember when I was in high school, here in Arkadelphia, class of 2018. Henderson did not seem to do much recruiting. How, I thought, were out-of-town schools like Southern Arkansas University pushing so much harder to recruit Arkadelphia students than one of the schools in our own backyard? When I was at Arkansas Boys’ State, every University in the state had a table set up in the Capitol building except Henderson. The same thing happened at Arkansas Governor’s School the same summer. Henderson was a no-show. It was not just locally. The whole recruiting situation was a joke.
How can the school combat years of outright neglect, arrogant refusal to even try to bring in new students, especially now with such a great black mark against us? We are synonymous with failure, corruption, and TV’s “Breaking Bad.”
My father died working for this school. There is supposed to be some fundraising effort for a new scoreboard at the swimming pool in the Duke Wells Gym in his honor. I have not heard anything about it since last fall. I have not heard from hardly anyone in the athletic department about anything since my father, who worked so tirelessly for this school for 39 years, died. Personal promises made to my family have not been kept. Nobody cares. It is a symptom, it seems, of the larger disease: the school with a heart has let that heart grow hard.