Henderson State University trustees on Thursday approved a merger and transition plan that will make the Arkadelphia institution part of the Arkansas State University system.

CLICK THE PDF to see the 16-page agreement.

The agreement is subject to approval of the ASU Board of Trustees and the Higher Learning Commission, as well as action by the Arkansas General Assembly.

The ASU System Board will be asked to approve the agreement at its regular meeting on December 6 in Little Rock. The transition is timed for completion on January 1, 2021.

Provisions of the agreement include:

Requesting an expansion of ASU board membership from five trustees to seven, with the two new appointees by Gov. Asa Hutchinson having “specific familiarity with Henderson State.”

Creation of a Henderson Board of Visitors to be appointed by the governor of Arkansas pursuant to legislative enactment. The Board of Visitors would have an advisory function and serve as a liaison to the ASU president and board.

Giving the ASU System the right to retain a third party to review Henderson’s operations and financial standing. The ASU System has issued a request for proposals for third-party audit services.

Providing ASU System with ongoing management compensation that is consistent with the current Henderson Memorandum of Understanding and the formula used by other ASU System institutions.

“The ASU System agrees to maintain and oversee operations of Henderson State University as an institution of higher learning in the state of Arkansas and in the ASU System. This agreement is entered into so that both parties can provide for sound growth of and sustain Henderson as a first-class university according to a plan of transition calling for specific action by the ASU System and Henderson,” the agreement said.

The agreement stipulates that several Henderson traditions will be preserved.

“These traditions include, but are not limited to, the ‘Reddie’ mascot, ‘The School With A Heart’ motto, institutional colors and logos, the institutional alma mater and spirit fight song, and the ‘Pine Tree Speech.’ The ASU System realizes both the importance of the institution’s rich history and the significant interest in allowing the university to establish and continue its own customs and rituals,” the agreement said.

Henderson trustees voted last month to retain the name of Henderson State University.

“Where appropriate, the name will be followed by language indicating the university is a member of the ASU System. The ASU System recognizes the importance to the Henderson State community that the name Henderson State University be retained. The ASU System shall at all times use reasonable efforts to maintain the name Henderson State University. The name Henderson State University shall not be changed by the ASU System unless it is required to be changed by law or unless the Henderson State University Board of Visitors and the ASU System Board of Trustees jointly agree to a change,” the agreement said.

As part of the transition plan, the Henderson acting president will report to Dr. Chuck Welch, ASU System President, as part of an interim management process. Dr. Welch also will chair the search committee for a new Henderson president, who would become chancellor of the university following the merger. Advertisement for that position is expected to begin in January.

Henderson would become the second four-year institution in the ASU System and the third higher education institution to join the system in four years. Mid-South Community College in West Memphis became Arkansas State University Mid-South in July 2015, and College of the Ouachitas in Malvern will become Arkansas State University Three Rivers effective January 1, pending approval of the Higher Learning Commission.

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