Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Further on Gibbons' request for deeper cuts

Some further observations on the meaning for Higher Ed faculty in Governor Gibbons' comments yesterday. He said, in short, that the shortfall in state revenues means there will need to be across-the-board cuts of 1.4 to 3%, which will lead, he was pleased to say, to deeper furloughs and layoffs of public service workers in all agencies.

First of all, what was clearly laid out in the Chancellor's comments at the Board meeting last Friday, that a University can only budget for an academic year. We can't change, midway through the year, student fee levels; we can't change course schedules for spring classes in which students are already enrolled and for which faculty are already contracted to teach.

Which means that in effect, what the Governor is asking for is a plan to cut up to 6% during the 2010-2011 academic year.

That, in turn, would clearly necessitate program terminations and separations (ie layoffs of faculty). Precisely which programs would presumably be based on the currently on-going JET process, which in turn is based on the System Code and the UNLV by-laws. So those recommendations are very serious, and the deliberative process that is now taking place -- including consultations with faculty through the survey being conducted currently -- is the proper, legal and smart way to implement such cuts, if they need to be implemented at all.

(Which, it appears, they do not. The state's line of credit ($160 million), established in the 2009-2011 budget, is three times the currently projected shortfall ($55 million), and using the line of credit is precisely what the state did in its December 2008 special session.)

But the Governor's office comments yesterday suggest that they not only are unaware of this on-going process but seem very eager to jump the gun and propose cuts directly. That would run contrary to the principle of shared governance, to the institutional by-laws and System Code, and to the state constitution which gives that authority to the Board of Regents.

So what does it all mean for faculty? That there's in effect a new angle to the budget problems, which is to defend our role in the shared governance of our institutions.

And it means that faculty will need a strong voice in Carson City for a special session, if we are to avoid deep cuts to our salaries, benefits and employment.

So once again, if you're upset by Governor Gibbons' comments, the appropriate response is to join the NFA.

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