Mary and Deborah Zimmerman sent a letter to Emporia State president, Ken Hush, on Oct. 19 urging him to reconsider the dismissal of 33 faculty members in September and the discontinuance of academic programs across campus.
“You have tarnished the reputation of the university nationally and in the eyes of future students and faculty members whom you may want to recruit,” the sisters wrote.
Gwen Larson, director of media relations, said she does not know if Hush has received the letter or will be responding to it.
The letter was in response to the Kansas Board of Regents passing a framework that allowed for the layoffs of 33 faculty members and the suspension of several university programs including the nationally renowned debate team.
Along with the letter, the Zimmermans sent a copy of their mother’s book about the early years of ESU in order to show Hush their deep roots in Emporia and their genuine concern for the university, according to the letter.
Mary Zimmerman moved to Emporia when she was nine and attended Butcher School on campus before graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1963. She is a professor emerita in sociology and health at the University of Kansas and lives in OverlandPark.
Zimmerman, a once tenured faculty member of KU, said in an interview she was “in total shock” when she heard of the dismissal of 33 faculty regardless of their tenured status.
“The idea of firing tenured faculty when there was not clear financial exigency was hard to put into words,” Zimmerman said. “It broke fundamental rules of academia that, as far as I know, are obeyed by institutions all over the United States.”
“Ghosts in the Sunken Garden” by Gwendolyn Zimmerman, the book accompanying the letter to Hush, was compiled by the sisters after they found 400 pages of research their mother did before she died, according to Mary Zimmerman.
Gwendolyn Zimmerman researched and documented the history of ESU from 1855-1877,which includes the story of how Lyman Kellogg, the first president of Kansas State Normal School, traveled to the school over a frozen lake and roomed with a gun-handling stranger, the 1865 start of the debate program and more.
Gwendolyn and John Zimmerman met at ESU and graduated in 1939, according to the letter, and they both worked on campus while Mary grew up. After showing the deep roots they have with ESU, the Zimmermans close the letter asking Hush to reconsider the recent administration announcements.
“Please remedy your actions,” the Zimmermans said in the letter. “Clarify your support for the liberal arts, restore tenured faculty and salvage what you can before more time passes.”
Sarah Spicer advises The Bulletin on stories about Emporia State’s framework to dismiss employees.
Sam Bailey is writing stories from the faculty perspective. Advocacy journalism upholds all other ethics and standards of journalism, including accuracy, fairness and independence, while accommodating dissenting views and creating an inclusive platform for debate.