Wednesday, May 6, 2009

There are more things in heaven and earth ...than are dreamt of in your philosphy

But there is no such thing as "limited financial exigency."

There was much talk on campus today, coming from some very high places, about a "limited financial exigency" by which the Board of Regents would suspend the code or measures that require a declaration of financial exigency, without following the provisions of the code. This could be a very dangerous idea, and faculty should be very wary of any suggestion that it is in our interest to support hasty action that would suspend the protections offered us in the NSHE code.

Its true that the code offers administrators less flexibility than they would like to handle a budget crisis. But do keep in mind that the flexibility that they are seeking could include the power to terminate professional staff without notice, to cut faculty pay without notice, and to terminate programs without following the provisions laid out in the code. It is by no means yet clear that those things will have to happen.

If we reach a point in which the administration feels it has no choice but to do those things, they have a tool to do it -- and its financial exigency, which gives faculty a much greater degree of involvement in these decisions than does the "normal" state of affairs. It would require, in very specific ways, the Board or Regents and institution presidents to confer with faculty and to justify the need for such actions, before taking these actions.

Given that to this point, we still have no or very little clear idea what sort of budget for NSHE the legislature will enact (though there was an encouraging sign today when key committees of the legislature added back some $200m to the K12 budget), we therefore cannot know if furloughs or pay cuts for faculty would be either necessary or sufficient to enable UNLV or other institutions to balance their books.

It could be that the allocation is sufficient to enable us to continue with the budget planning that has taken place already (which did not anticipate furloughs or terminations) or it could be that the allocation is much lower and that even with a furlough, there will be program terminations and lay-offs. Until such time as this is known, calls for extraordinary and extra-legal action -- and for faculty to support such action -- are premature and rash.

Its important to keep in mind that financial exigency is not "martial law." It is more like a provisional government which guarantees faculty a great deal of rights, including representation on key decision making bodies (about whether to declare an exigency and about what programs to cut and when to end the exigency) and gives faculty the right to appeal a loss of salary or termination during the exigency. Indeed, for this reason a "limited fiscal exigency" which does not provide for those rights would be on very shakey legal ground.

So to answer a question that I was asked by a lot of people today, no there is no such thing as "limited financial exigency" in the NSHE code and no, its not an idea that has been sufficiently thought out, explained or justified as to warrant any expression of support from faculty.

Finally, with respect to calls for actions in solidarity with classified staff, the NFA made its support for classified staff clear through our close collaboration with their advocates all session long on behalf of both our common benefits.

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