By Lyndsey Peace, Editor-in-Chief
On Feb. 7 the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees sent out an email to students, faculty and staff detailing a new financial plan called The Way Forward. Part of this plan includes organizing schools and departments into five colleges as many programs are being cut while other programs are being added.
Hardin-Simmons University currently has eight colleges and schools: the College of Fine Arts, the College of Health Professions, the College of Human Sciences and Educational Studies, the Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal Arts, the Holland School of Sciences and Mathematics, the Kelley College of Business, the Logsdon School of Theology and the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing.
Beginning the new budget and academic year in June of 2020, the College of Fine Arts and the College of Human Sciences and Educational Studies will no longer be independent colleges. The College of Fine Arts, including art, music and theatre departments, Logsdon School of Theology and the Department of Counseling and Human Development will be grouped under the Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal Arts. The Irvin School of Education and the leadership studies program will move under the renamed Kelley College of Business and Professional Studies. Lastly, the College of Health Professions will include the School of Kinesiology, Health and Recreation.
Dr. Robert Tucker, the dean of the College of Fine Arts and the interim dean of the Kelley College of Business, discussed why the reorganization of colleges could be a positive for the university. “The new structure makes our academic programs pretty efficient. We’ve added more programs under fewer people,” Dr. Tucker said.
The new organization of programs might make students uncomfortable simply because it is human nature to resist change. This may be why students, especially upperclassmen, are inclined to disapprove of the changes because they want the university that they love to provide the same quality education they have experienced in years past. Yet, there are other universities who thrive under the type of system HSU is moving toward next academic year.
“There are a lot of schools that operate with fewer deans. The deans simply have more responsibility. For example, it’s fairly common to have music in a college of liberal arts. It’s strange for Hardin-Simmons because it’s new for us, but it is a pretty efficient academic system,” Dr. Tucker said.
Dr. Tucker wants to remind students that change is not inherently negative. “Nobody likes change, but the world is changing rapidly. [The faculty and staff’s] primary, number one consideration is the students. While the students may feel a certain degree of instability, we want to focus on student learning and success. The [HSU] Trustees believe that this new structure will contribute to that,” Dr. Tucker said.
Although many programs are unfortunately being cut, the university will still provide a valued education for its students through the dedication of the faculty and staff. “We want to be a Christian university who serves our students’ needs as much as possible within our financial parameters,” Dr. Tucker said.
The cuts are understandably a huge concern for students, faculty and staff alike. Some may wonder how the university will recover and move forward. Tucker was reminded of 2016 when the Hardin-Simmons University orchestra program was cut.
“It was negative. It was terrible. We lost really great professors and there was a group of students who transferred and there were students who quit coming. And our string program has floundered at HSU because of it. On the other hand, we have the Civic Orchestra of Abilene that serves our students, ACU’s students, McMurry’s students and community members. Our wind players are getting to play great pieces of music in a wonderful orchestra. So [the orchestra program] is not exactly what it was before, but in many ways it’s even better now for the students. We adapted to provide great student experiences and that’s what we have to do at Hardin-Simmons now,” Dr. Tucker said.
The faculty and staff recognize how tough the cuts are on students and want to encourage students to remain optimistic. “[The faculty and staff] have to be flexible to come up with ways to serve students. And the students have to be a little bit patient as we rework some things. Students and faculty can only survive in this environment through adaptability,” Dr. Tucker said.
Dr. Tucker wants the university to hold true to its Christian roots as the changes continue to stir up high emotions for everyone involved. “I hope to see more Christian practice in place from students, faculty and staff and institutionally being committed to that but it’s going to take everyone working together,” Dr. Tucker said.
Realistically the reductions are going to be a challenge for the university, but Hardin-Simmons University will remain a fine institution that prioritizes an education enlightened by faith. “I don’t think everything is perfect and rosy. We have a lot of work to do. But the students are still getting a great education through this process,” Dr. Tucker said.
Students should continue to pray for the university and its future as the faculty and staff work their hardest to provide the students with a unique and valued educational experience. “I think the restructure is both regrettable but necessary, definitely painful and will take some time for healing. It is an effort to create a financially efficient academic model,” Dr. Tucker said.