Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Program Review begins at UNLV

At today's Faculty Senate meeting, two important announcements were made signaling the beginning of a curricular review process at UNLV that could -- indeed is likely to -- lead to the phasing out of several degree programs. This step represents the first step beyond across-the-board horizontal cuts towards vertical cuts, indicating the depth of the impact of the state budget crisis on our institution.

First, President Smatresk announced that he had forwarded to the academic deans a list of programs with high cost-per-student ratios which will be reviewed for possible termination. Although he did not release the list until Deans have received it and informed potentially impacted Departments, he did say that this list included some excellent Departments in various colleges which have high cost-per-student ratios. (The full criteria for the review will include a range of factors including performance measures, centrality of the program to UNLV mission, diversity, and many other factors, were established jointly by the administration and the Senate in the fall of 2008, at the outset of the first round of program review, which has recently been completed under the auspices of the Joint Evaluation Team).

This review, he confirmed, will be conducted according to the procedures set forth in article 19 of the UNLV by-laws (PDF). That is, although no formal declaration of financial exigency has been made by the Board (a topic broached by Regent Wixom who also spoke to the Senate), this curricular review -- because it could conceivably result in the termination of faculty -- will be conducted under the provisions of the by-laws set forth for an exigency : that is, by a committee composed of 5 administrators appointed by the President and 5 faculty, including one pro-staff representative, and chaired by a tenured faculty member.

Thus, the second announcement, made by Vice-Chair Cecilia Maldonado, that the Senate will elect, in a special meeting scheduled for March 9, the six faculty representatives to this committee -- a chair, four academic faculty members, and one administrative faculty (ie, pro-staff) member.

Curricular review may, under the provisions of the System Code (sections 5.4.6 and 5.4.7 [PDF]) result in the termination of faculty, including tenured faculty, although no sooner than June 20, 2011, although "if possible," a "reasonable attempt" shall be made "to offer [a faculty member in a terminated program] reappointment" at the same rank and pay "in an appropriate qualified professional capacity" at the same institution.

This portion of the program review, to address academic degree programs, is expected to account for roughly half of the next round of budget cuts. The other half will, presumably, be taken from non-teaching/ non-research administrative units.

Needless to say this is not good news nor a welcome development. It is however not unexpected given the magnitude of the cuts by the state to NSHE and UNLV budgets that have been administered and are expected (totalling over 30% over the last 3 years). The only silver lining here is that the process is one that has been carefully negotiated by the administration and the Senate leadership in accordance with the System Code and UNLV bylaws -- and not, as many have feared, according to an opaque process or by administrative fiat.

It is important that faculty remain informed and follow closely developments in Carson City, at the Board of Regents, and on campus. The UNLV Faculty Alliance will continue to provide updates via email to members and via this blog.

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