Less than three weeks after 76% of the faculty at Hardin-Simmons University voted “no confidence” in President Eric Bruntmyer, the West Texas school’s trustees gave him a three-year contract extension.
“The board has full confidence in President Bruntmyer and believes HSU’s future is bright under his leadership,” trustee Chairman Rick Strange told the Baptist Standard.
The new three-year contract extension will begin Jan. 1 and run through the end of 2025.
Faculty and alumni do not share the rosy perspective of the trustees, who often are cited as complicit in the actions and policies for which Bruntmyer has been critiqued.
In its recent — and second — vote of no confidence in the president, faculty cited “serious concerns over the health and future of the university under the current administration.”
Among a laundry list of concerns cited by faculty and some alumni, including a group called Save Hardin-Simmons:
- Controversial closure of Logsdon School of Theology.
- Loss of key faculty members.
- A 24% drop in enrollment in three years.
- Poor fundraising results.
- Failure to engage in shared governance as required by accreditors.
- Unanswered questions regarding reallocating endowment funds.
- Breakdown of recent negotiations for the purchase of the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing resulting in a lawsuit from McMurry University.
- Adoption and implementation of a new University Statement of Faith, which faculty are now required to affirm.
- Reports of “a devastated faculty morale.”
Despite all that, Strange said Bruntmyer has shown excellent leadership: “Over the last few years, the board has assigned President Bruntmyer with several difficult tasks, often resulting in him taking criticism that would be better directed at us. On those occasions, I have personally witnessed his willingness to accept responsibility based on his selfless dedication to the university.”
“The board has assigned President Bruntmyer with several difficult tasks, often resulting in him taking criticism that would be better directed at us.”
Where others see failure, the board sees success, he indicated, contending Hardin-Simmmons has “experienced many positive improvements” during Bruntmyer’s six-and-a-half-year tenure.
- “Overall increased financial stability.”
- “Improved banking relationships.”
- Growth in the university’s endowment and quasi-endowment.
- “New and renewed program accreditations.”
- New degree offerings in mechanical engineering, digital media and other areas.
- Physical improvements such as the restoration and repurposing of Abilene Hall, refurbishing residence halls, improving student dining facilities and remodeling the physician assistant program building.
- A “recently adopted statement of faith to guide and direct every aspect of the university.”
- “An independent, on-campus nursing program starting in 2025.”