LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Faculty at Arkansas Baptist College have not been paid since November 1 and now the faculty senate wants the college's president and chief executive officer out.
"It's an institution that pretty much relies in terms of its resources upon that financial aid payment," said Shane Broadway with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Broadway serves as temporary spokesperson for the college.
He said the college is waiting to be reimbursed for federal funds. Those funds come from student loan tuition. Students went without books, grants, scholarships and federal loan proceeds for months. The college took out a temporary loan to pay students.
"Well I admire them (faculty) number one for staying there for their students. The ones I've talked to care deeply about the institution, care deeply about their students," said Broadway.
The faculty senate issued the following letter:
Greetings Dr. Manning, President, Higher Learning Commission, and Board of Trustees Members:
We the Arkansas Baptist College (ABC) Faculty Senate are submitting this letter to the Higher Learning Commission. Recent events precipitated a convening of the ABC Administrative Confidence Committee. At the conclusion of the meeting, the attached documentation was presented to the Faculty Senate. Documentation lays out deficiencies in the performance of Dr. Fitz Hill, president, and Mr. Billy Owens, Chief Financial Officer/Executive Vice President. The documentation goes further to identify concerns faculty have regarding the detrimental effect his continued performance may have for our institution. Dr. Hill and Mr. Owens' administration can best be characterized as one of "crisis" in fiscal management and oversight, including a lack of transparency relating to the following:
• Shared governance relating to financial operations is none existent
• Projected budgets with promises of hard copy distribution being made but not followed through and
• Intimidation and threats of retaliation are commonplace.
The Faculty Senate is gravely concerned that the college is in violation of the HLC's criteria for accreditation and core components. Most of the faculty's concerns reflect long-lingering problems that have largely from the faculty's point of view been continuously ignored by the current executive administration and by the College's Board of Directors. Faulty concerns herein addressed include:
1. The unsatisfactory condition of the college library: it is really a matter of great distress that the books are in a very bad condition. Most of the books which are required by us, are either unavailable or have very few copies, insufficient for us. Even the text books are not available, thus depriving economically weaker students from getting assistance. Sufficient seating and proper reading facilities are also absent (Crit. 3D).
2. Problem with Access to Electronic and Information Technology (Crit. 3D.4).
3. Students and traveling family members are being left standing outside of the business office with a heat index on some days of over 95 degrees. We are often reminded as faculty members that our students are customers. Have we failed to relay this message to the business office? If appropriate and courteous service is not forthcoming to students and their families in this location and frustrations arise, often their awkward emotions trickle into the learning environment which in turn disrupts the learning process. (Crit. 5A. 4.)
4. Along with an extended delay in student financial aid refunds, ABC students' fees and tuition costs were raised as with area institutions; however, in contrast, ABC students have remained absent of imperative educational resources, such as computer and Internet access that would allow ABC students to be in contact with the most indispensable systems (e.g., financial aid, ledger, etc.) on this campus as on other campuses, as well as the course management system. . (Crit. 5A.5 )
5. Faculty members are using their own personal funds in efforts to help meet the undelivered necessities of students in order to retain those who are enrolled.
6. Under Mr. Owens' leadership, there have been numerous fraudulent incidents of double-billing student general ledgers and countless scholarship awards not being immediately applied to students' accounts (Crit. 2A & 2B).
7. The unprofessional demeanor and tone used by Mr. Billy Owens, such as sarcastically addressing a faculty member's concern regarding his financial situation due to his lack of contracted funds that were not being directly deposited. Also, when asked about the lack of payment for insurance carriers, he viciously quipped, "Don't get sick." When told that we had a pregnant faculty member, his uncompassionate, mean spirited response was ''I'm sorry you're pregnant."
8. During Mr. Owens' administration, we have experienced intimidation and threats of retaliation (Crit. 2D).
9. Dr. Hill often speaks of transparency. As faculty members, we were not seeing this transparency during this critical time. Faculty members were still arriving at this institution daily to educate as promised, funds were being taken from their families in hope of remaining employed and to receive the contracted paycheck. At that point, we were the only ones holding up our part of the ABC instructional contract, formally teaching and keeping routine office hours. At that time, we were working with no compensation, broken promises of pay dates, and added stress due to our personal non-payment of personal financial obligations. Not only were we not being paid, but our insurance carriers were not being paid although the money was deducted from our monthly salaries.
10. The lack of shared governance contributes to the abusive and ineffective practices in Dr. Hill leadership and management (Crit. 1D)
11. Faculty compensation, board approved raises during the 20 10 academic year that were never delivered with no explanation. In fact, when the college raises tuition and fees, it is standard practice for colleges to also pay faculty at least a 2% increase in salary. Also, in May 2012, faculty and staff salaries were cut 25% and they were to be reinstated in August 20 13 but salary cuts were not reinstated.
12. Countless payroll inaccuracies have repeatedly occurred during this administration leadership. Faculty members frequently have received paychecks for salaries but were not compensated for earned adjunct wages. This unexplainable, random pattern of inaccuracies appears to have extended into the current belated pay cycle-some faculty overpaid, some faculty underpaid.
13. Under this administration there has not been any fiscal checks and balances established. They have not produced an actual budget for the faculty or staff to review. They have not implemented the use of departmental or operational budgets. As faculty, we have not seen any documentation from an audit review.
14. Dr. Hill and Mr. Billy Owens have NOT conducted themself or the affairs of the college with integrity. There has not been a telltale sense of urgency for traditional academic standards or academic enhancements. In addition, the college is not administered with the ABC mission or a student centered focus in mind.
15. The governing board of the institution is NOT sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and to assure its integrity (Crit. 2C).
Ms. Diann Parker, President Arkansas Baptist College Faculty Senate
Arkansas Baptist College issued the following statement in response to the Faculty Senate's allegations:
Administration has been made aware of the allegations and this is not the first time we have received such information. We have been working with the Department of Education over the past four months and currently have a recommended consultant that is assisting us through our challenges. We are confident there are no basis to the allegations.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @dan_wilkerson.