HSU cuts faculty and programs to address $4 million deficit

(HSU Photo)

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ABILENE—A week after its board of trustees meeting, Hardin-Simmons University announced at least 17 faculty cuts due to the elimination of multiple programs to address a more than $4 million operating deficit.

A news release distributed at 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, stated the university is eliminating 11 graduate degree programs, five undergraduate majors, four undergraduate minors and two certificate programs.

“During this week, we have been working hard to communicate the specific actions that must be taken to implement the board’s decisions, making sure that we are complying with all applicable legal and accreditation standards, and to provide individual notification to those on campus most directly affected,” the release stated.

“We are now able to release additional information about the board’s decisions, information that puts the closing of Logsdon Seminary into the context of The Way Forward, a larger financial plan to close our operating deficit by more than $4 million.”

The university is being reorganized into five colleges and schools: the Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal Arts, the Holland School of Science and Mathematics, the Kelley College of Business and Professional Studies, the College of Health Professions and the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing.

Impact on Logsdon School of Theology noted

The Logsdon School of Theology will become part of the Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal and Fine Arts, which also will include the School of Music, the Department of Counseling and Human Development, and the Department of Fine Arts.

Graduate programs HSU is closing include those leading to the following degrees: Doctor of Ministry, Master of Arts in Family Ministry, Master of Arts in Religion, Master of Divinity and Master of Music in Church Music, along with six others in education and music.

“There will be 17 faculty reductions associated with the program closings, as well as some additional reductions in faculty to reduce costs in several remaining programs. Fourteen positions have been eliminated in administration and staff through attrition, and additional reductions will be communicated as soon as we are able,” the release stated.

The Logsdon School of Theology faculty will develop Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Christian studies to replace existing majors in biblical studies, ministry, theological studies and worship ministry.

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The news release ended with a statement from HSU President Eric Bruntmyer: “Before its February 2020 meeting, the board of trustees held a called meeting to discuss resolutions recently passed by the university faculty. That discussion continued at the February meeting. Though aware of the faculty’s concerns, ultimately the board’s primary discussion focused on the Way Forward financial plan.

“The board’s decisions were difficult, all of them made in continuous awareness of their direct impact on personnel and students,” Bruntmyer continued.

“The board recognizes, as do we in administration, the heavy burden that many are carrying. All of us are dedicated to walk alongside and to assist anyone affected by these campus changes. As we continue to position the university for long-term success, please join me in constant prayer for the entire HSU community.”

Biblical language minor eliminated

The undergraduate minors being eliminated include one in biblical languages, which directly affected Susan Pigott, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew.

Pigott, who began teaching in the Logsdon School of theology in fall 1993, noted she was “the first woman to teach full time in biblical studies at Logsdon.”

“This was, at the time, a rather controversial decision by the dean, H. K. Neely, because few Baptist schools allowed female professors to teach Bible. But Logsdon has always been a place that welcomes the voiceless, and I was given a voice,” she wrote in an email to the Baptist Standard.

“Over the years, I have taught many young women and men Old Testament and Hebrew,” she continued. “One of my favorite courses to teach is Old Testament Survey because it’s my opportunity to convince freshmen and sophomores that the Old Testament is exciting, dramatic, and relevant. Although I don’t convince everyone, many students leave the course with new enthusiasm for studying the Bible for themselves. Some even decide to major in Logsdon because of this experience.”

Loss of a female mentor a ‘devastating repercussion’

Pigott noted she considered the opportunity to mentor young women who felt called to ministry “one of my most important roles at Logsdon.”

“I did not have a female professor to provide such mentorship through all my years of undergraduate and graduate education—and how desperately I needed one,” she wrote. “This, for me, is the most devastating repercussion of HSU’s decision to fire me. Young women will no longer see someone like themselves teaching and ministering at the Logsdon School of Theology. They will not have a woman to confide in when they are discouraged from becoming ministers because they are female. They will miss an opportunity to learn from a trained biblical scholar who focuses on presenting overlooked stories of women in the Old Testament. So many young women feel God’s call on their lives. Eliminating the only female teaching in the School of Theology sends a message: ‘You are not valued as women.'”

Pigott said she is “deeply grieved over the loss of Logsdon Seminary” and the colleagues with whom she has worked more than 15 years. She also addressed the reorganization at HSU.

“I am grieved that the Logsdon School of Theology will be folded under Liberal Arts—the Logsdons established the School of Theology expressly as a separate entity apart from Liberal Arts,” she wrote.

“I am grieved at the loss of the Biblical Languages minor, one of the most popular minors in Logsdon. I am grieved over the loss of my dear school—the place that nurtured me, gave me the foundational tools I needed to earn an M.Div. and Ph.D., and offered a very green and frightened young woman a teaching position in Old Testament. Most of all, I am grieved for the students who will be left with only a shell of the school Logsdon once was.”

‘Leap into Action’ initiative announced

Administrators of the “Save Logsdon Seminary” Facebook Group specifically noted her job loss, pointing out it also meant the undergraduate Logsdon School of Theology also lost its only female professor.

“The dismissal of Dr. Pigott shows an outright dismissal, not only of a loyal and senior faculty member, but in our view, communicates disdain for women in theological teaching positions,” the group’s administrators wrote in a news release distributed about a half hour before the HSU press release. “This leaves us with little doubt that the closure of Logsdon was in large part, theologically motivated.”

The group announced an initiative, “Leap Into Action: 32 Days of Prayer and Advocacy.”

“Beginning on February 29, alums will host a prayer vigil, and invite everyone who is heartbroken over this situation to join us as we raise our voices and witness in prayer,” the group stated. “We pray God would bring justice out of injustice, and that light will be shed where there is darkness. We hope to host simultaneous vigils both in Abilene and San Antonio.”

The article, originally posted Friday evening, Feb. 14, was updated on Saturday evening, Feb. 15, to include remarks received from Susan Pigott.  

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