Eckhardt fired for creating ‘psychologically abusive’ environment

Amy Eckhardt

Cole Claybourn

Amy Eckhardt, director of Scholar Development for the Honors College, was fired April 1 after numerous complaints about her behavior in the office.

In a letter obtained from WKU by the Herald via a Kentucky Open Records Act request, Honors College Executive Director Craig Cobane said the firing came after careful review of Eckhardt’s employment to that point.

“As a result of a consistent pattern of behavior, I have lost confidence in your ability to lead and supervise the unit for which you are responsible,” Cobane said in the letter.

Cobane said that at Eckhardt’s annual performance review on Feb. 28 and again on March 8, he directed her to promote “positive relationships” with her staff and other colleagues.

Cobane alleges in the letter that Eckhardt created an “emotionally and psychologically abusive and hostile office environment.”

When reached at her home last week, Eckhardt, who is technically under contract with WKU until April 30, declined to comment for this story.

Cobane’s letter states that Eckhardt is not to have contact with any “on-campus entities” or she could be removed from WKU’s payroll before the end of the month.

In addition to the first allegation, Cobane alleges that Eckhardt subjected staff to “personal rants and complaints, thus putting them in an uncomfortable and very stressful situation.”

The letter also states that Eckhardt was “denigrating students and staff in public areas” where other staff and students could hear her “inappropriate” comments.

Performance reviews within Eckhardt’s personal file were not made available in the records request.

The letter states that while the decision to fire Eckhardt was made for cause, WKU reserves the right to fire anyone “at will” under Human Resources Policy No. 20-100.

Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel, said firings for full-time employees at WKU are uncommon.

Including Eckhardt, seven employees have been fired since Jan. 1 of this year. Four of those were building service attendants, one an assistant professor, and another a teacher at the child care center.

Wilkins said Audra Jennings has been appointed interim director of Scholar Development. Jennings also serves as the undergraduate research coordinator for the Honors College.

Eckhardt was officially hired by WKU on July 1, 2008.

She worked closely with students on nationally competitive scholarships such as the Fulbright and Goldwater scholarships.

She also worked with the Chinese Flagship Program.

Eckhardt’s initial salary was $72,000 per year. Her salary was $73,008 per year at the time of her termination.

Cobane said he will be doing a search sometime in the “near future” to find a full-time replacement for Eckhardt’s position.