Economics professor Janet Highfill replaced Amit Sinha as chairperson of the Finance Department following an intradepartmental meeting March 22. The action to replace Sinha came less than a year into his second term as department chair.
Peculiarity of action
Sinha was not present at the March 22 meeting about his removal because he was travelling for a conference.
“I was not at the meeting, so I cannot tell you what went on at the meeting,” Sinha said. “I had to call [Dean Radson]. And if he didn’t hear from me, he was going to send out an email to the other chairs that I was no longer the department chair.”
Sinha said the reason for the change is unclear to him.
“I’m not 100 percent sure [what happened],” Sinha said.
According to finance professor Philip Horvath, the decision to replace Sinha mid-semester is not something he has witnessed at Bradley in the 40 years he’s been a part of the finance faculty.
“It’s unusual,” Horvath said.
Horvath also said the way Sinha was replaced may not have been the best way to approach the situation, and that he, too, is still unsure why Sinha was replaced.
“I considered the process opaque from a faculty perspective … I wouldn’t have done it that way,” Horvath said. “From time-to-time I vent, but I don’t want to go forward guessing why [it happened]. Sometimes, you guess wrong.”
Foster College of Business Dean Darrell Radson refused to provide details about the reasoning behind replacing Sinha but said the decision to replace him was rooted in the college’s commitment to providing the best opportunities to students.
“We in the Foster College [of Business] want every department to deliver the best faculty-student interaction and experiential learning opportunities to enable our students to have the careers and outcomes they desire,” Radson said. “This recent departmental move is based on that commitment to our students.”
However, according to finance professor Bill Funkhouser, Sinha was replaced in order to effectively set up the finance department for the future.
“We have faculty members that are nearing retirement; we need to develop new programs and we need to attract new faculty,” Funkhouser said. “This sets the stage for that.”
Future of the finance department
Following the March 22 meeting, Highfill became the effective chair of the finance department. According to Highfill, the opportunity to meet a greater variety of students and faculty made the position enticing.
“I know some [finance and quantitative methods] students, but I figure I’ll get to know a lot more,” Highfill said. “I know the [finance and quantitative methods] faculty, but only as a colleague from another department. Being in the [Finance] Department, the whole relationship will be a lot different.”
Prior to becoming finance chair, Highfill was a faculty member in the Economics Department. According to Highfill, getting acclimated to the finance curriculum is a looming challenge.
“I only had one finance course in my own education,” Highfill said. “So I’ll be learning about a whole curriculum that I don’t currently know a lot about.”
Despite her lack of experience in finance, Highfill said she is prepared to direct the Finance Department during Bradley’s current strategic planning period.
“I think my role is essentially to help the day-to-day stuff keep going so the department can do some strategic planning,” Highfill said. “That doesn’t happen in any short period of time.”
Highfill also said the opportunity to become the chair of a department is rare, and she is thankful for the chance to be involved in the direction of the Finance Department.
“It’s a really extraordinary opportunity that came into my life completely unexpectedly,” Highfill said. “I’m the sort of person that does have to think about things over a period of time. In some sense, I’m almost even grateful for the chance to think about these larger questions for the next couple of years; it’s an opportunity that was completely unexpected.”
While Sinha said he has fond memories of his time as department chair and he was shocked by the change, he said he intends to continue his work at Bradley.
“There’s the saying of ‘fight or flight,’ but there’s a contrary perspective, as well,” Sinha said. “The opposite of flight is not just fight, it’s ‘tend and friend.’ That means you continue with the friendships you develop and you continue to be an honorable citizen of the institution. That’s what I intend to do.”