HSU cutbacks affect faculty and staff

(HSU Photo)

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ABILENE—At least 18 tenured faculty at Hardin-Simmons University have expressed interest in a buyout offer, and 22 staff have been offered severance packages, HSU President Eric Bruntmyer announced.

The personnel reductions are part of a larger cost-cutting effort to improve the university’s financial stability that includes closing four Logsdon Seminary extension campuses and other university academic programs.

At the beginning of the fall semester, Hardin-Simmons employed 398 full-time and part-time faculty and staff, a spokesperson for the university reported.

Impact of cuts outlined

In a Nov. 1 email to the “HSU Family,” Bruntmyer addressed the personnel impact of cutbacks.

The 22 staff who received severance package offers “is not inclusive of other staff on our campus who have made decisions to retire or otherwise transition from employment with HSU,” he wrote.

Affected staff will receive 14 to 20 weeks of severance, depending on their length of service to the university, and they will have options for limited continuation of selected benefits, Bruntmyer reported.

“Considerable effort is being made to assist each of these staff members in finding new employment,” he wrote. “I have personally visited with some of those directly impacted and will continue to make myself available to help them in this process.

“These individuals have served as a valuable part of our work together, and my desire is that each will continue to feel welcomed as part of our HSU Family long after their final day of employment on November 1st.”

While “no numbers are definitive” for measuring the impact on faculty, the university is “currently aware” of 18 tenured faculty who expressed interest in buyout offers, Bruntmyer said.

Nontenured faculty will not be offered a contract buyout, but they will be permitted to complete the duration of their current contract, he noted.

“No tenured faculty have been ‘fired’ or otherwise terminated in this process,” he wrote. “Rather, each has been presented a full range of details related to buyout opportunities, and each has the option to accept or reject the offer.

“Because of the numerous dynamics involved in tenured faculty buyouts as well as an expected fluctuation in interest as individuals consider options, a final number of faculty impacted may not be available until the spring.”

‘A challenging time’

Bruntmyer asked HSU alumni and supporters to pray for the university, calling it “a challenging time for both those leaving and those staying.” At the same time, he assured them the actions taken will help the university achieve financial stability and position it for future growth.

“After considering the aggregate financial impact of program and extension closures, staff severance packages, estimated tenured faculty buyouts, retirements, and other currently vacant positions which will be left unfilled, projections indicate this process will meet the necessary financial goals established for this process,” he wrote.

In an email two weeks earlier, Bruntmyer had reported the board trustees voted to close Logsdon Seminary campuses in Coppell, Lubbock, Corpus Christi and McAllen.

HSU’s Logsdon School of Theology began in 1997 offering graduate-level classes at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi, and HSU first offered undergraduate courses at the Corpus Christi campus in 2011. A year later, the South Texas School of Christian Studies purchased another campus site in McAllen and expanded its partnership with HSU by offering classes there.

Tony Celelli, president of South Texas School of Christian Studies, called the news of the HSU trustee action “disheartening,” but he said his school had begun preparing for the possibility by establishing its own undergraduate program.

The HSU board also agreed to drop undergraduate program majors in environmental science, geology, medical illustration, philosophy, physics, political science, sociology, Spanish and the Bachelor of Music in Performance degree, along with graduate programs in English, history, math and environmental management.

In his Oct. 15 email, Bruntmyer noted that “some external revenue sources are evaporating,” pointing particularly to Cooperative Program assistance through the Baptist General Convention of Texas and funds made available from the Texas Equalization Grant, a state program that provides eligible students financial assistance to help them attend private nonprofit universities.

The BGCT had notified Hardin-Simmons it was eliminating pro-rata funding for all partnering universities due to a 6 percent decrease in Cooperative Program receipts, he reported.

 

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