Faculty calls on trustees to remove Henderson State University president

Decision follows ‘no confidence’ vote

Henderson State University President Glen Jones is shown in this 2017 file photo.

A faculty vote of "no confidence" on Henderson State University President Glen Jones calls for trustees to remove him from his job for reasons related to financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency, according to documents released by the university Tuesday.

"I voted for it because I'm concerned about the future of Henderson. I want this institution to survive, and I just think we need new leadership moving forward," John Hardee, a chemistry professor for more than 30 years at HSU, said Tuesday.

The university's board of trustees last week agreed to meet Friday for the "sole" purpose of considering Jones' contract after recent cash-flow problems that led to the school's request for a $6 million loan from the state Budget Stabilization Trust Fund. Jones has said unpaid student accounts primarily led to the cash shortfall.

The state's top finance officer, Larry Walther, approved the zero-interest loan July 1 based on information from HSU and a recommendation from the state Department of Higher Education. The loan must be repaid by June 30 next year.

Jones -- the university's president since 2012 -- responded in a statement when asked for comment about the faculty resolution by the Democrat-Gazette.

"We are implementing changes for our financial processes in consultation with Faculty Senate and other campus constituencies. We remain committed to our shared mission of serving students and ensuring their success," said Jones, 49, a HSU alumnus who earned a degree in 1992.

The faculty resolution did not come from the university's faculty senate, a group that meets monthly during the fall and spring semesters.

Fred Worth, president of the faculty senate, said the group has not met to discuss Jones' future. Worth said he and other faculty members have met with Jones in the past to talk about ways to steady the university's finances, including a meeting he attended Monday.

"Speaking solely for myself, I do not support the resolution. I do not think creating a leadership void in the university at this point, with the financial issues that we're facing -- I don't think that's a good idea," said Worth, a mathematics professor and faculty member for 28 years.

Hardee said full-time faculty members were asked via their HSU email addresses to consider the resolution and vote on it using an anonymous survey tool.

Out of 135 faculty members who voted for or against the "no confidence" resolution, 106 voted in favor and 29 opposed the measure, Hardee wrote in an email Monday to the seven-member board of trustees that he also provided to the Democrat-Gazette. An additional 13 faculty members abstained from voting, Hardee wrote. The survey was sent to 182 full-time faculty members.

Faculty members have resolved "that the HSU Board of Trustees shall immediately remove President Jones from office 'for cause': mismanagement of the university's financial resources, a lack of transparency to constituencies concerning the university's financial woes, and misleading the Board of Trustees relating to the university's financial crisis," according to the document provided by Hardee.

The board of trustees, a group of volunteers appointed by the governor, in May voted to approve a $68.7 million budget for 2019-20, before Jones announced cost-cutting measures such as a hiring freeze and before the request of the state loan.

Some board members at the meeting Friday expressed frustration at the recent turn of events, stating that they would not have voted for the budget had they known of the financial shortfall.

Brown Hardman, a board member, said in a phone interview that the coming meeting will deal with Jones' future at HSU.

"When we get to that meeting, if I feel like keeping Glen Jones is the proper thing to do with Henderson State, that's how I'm going to vote," Hardman said. If not, he would vote to have Jones removed from the job, he said.

"I'm confident that [the resolution] reflects the feelings of the faculty. I think the faculty is very, very important to any university," Hardman said.

When asked how the faculty resolution will affect board discussions, board chairman Johnny Hudson said in an email "everything will be considered, you can be assured of this."

Other members of the board did not respond to emails requesting comment about the faculty resolution.

In May 2018, faculty members held a similar "no confidence" vote that called for Jones to be placed on a one-year provisional contract and for three vice presidents to be dismissed from their jobs.

Instead, the board of trustees in November 2018 approved a resolution similar to what it has done annually beginning in 2015, extending Jones' contract by one year. His contract now runs through June 30, 2023, according to the board's resolution. He was to receive cash compensation of $230,500 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the resolution.

Hardee said voting on the most recent resolution took place from July 8 through noon Monday and that resolution refers back to the faculty's May 2018 resolution and states that "no current senior administrator be named interim President of the university."

Asked about problems facing the university, Hardee said HSU does face financial concerns.

"We've had problems with enrollment in the past. We've had problems with student debt that we can't collect. We've had problems with deferred maintenance. All of those need to be addressed," Hardee said.

Hardee said faculty members "haven't been really kept informed."

"Shared governing is a really important item for the future. We need to embrace that. Whoever is president of the university, whoever our leaders are need to really let us be involved," said Hardee.

Worth said, however, that Jones "has always wanted to work with the faculty senate." He said he thought any sort of resolution like what was sent on to trustees "should have gone through the Senate."

Documents released by HSU under the state's public disclosure law show some faculty members trading emails questioning the appropriateness of the survey and debating the effectiveness of the faculty senate. Some faculty members criticized university leaders for the school's finances, while others spoke about questions that need to be asked regarding the school's financial future.

The state Department of Higher Education, in recommending the $6 million loan, also recommended that the HSU board consider joining a larger university system.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson took part in discussions about the loan with HSU leaders and state finance officials, according to a July 1 letter from Maria Markham, director of the state Department of Higher Education, to Jones and Walther.

A Section on 07/17/2019