Monday, March 1, 2010

Special Session: What does it mean for UNLV faculty?

Once you've read the detailed summary of the special session from NFA member-representative Jim Richardson, here's some thoughts about what it means for UNLV faculty moving forward.

1. A 6.9% cut for the System of Higher Education, on top of the 12.5% cut from last spring. Chancellor Klaich said on Saturday this latest could would be passed along "proportionally" to all institutions.

In the short term, for UNLV, this means the Program Review process initiated last week should be expected to go forward as a way to plan strategically for the future, when even steeper budget cuts might be expected.

This program review process will begin next week with the election by the Faculty Senate of 5 faculty representatives and a faculty chair to the Ad Hoc review committee (to be joined by 5 administrative representatives, to be appointed by President Smatresk).

This committee will conduct a review of all academic programs, using all of the criteria drawn up by the administration and faculty jointly in the fall of 2008, and it will follow all provisions of the UNLV bylaws and System Code.

This means that no single department or college or faculty member will be singled out, and no decisions will be made a priori or based on only one criteria.

Finally it is important that the program review process should not be limited to academic programs and should be looking as well at units outside academic departments,

Faculty should rightly be concerned about program review. Faculty should also understand the tremendous role that we will play in it, if we are responsible and thoughtful about it. We must be informed about the process in both a legal and a political dimensions, about the budgetary situation, and about the priorities of the entire university, not just those of any one department, college or faculty member.

Faculty with concerns should contact their Senators and urge them to choose faculty representatives with care and with an eye towards the long-term of the university and its faculty. And faculty should attend the March 9 Senate meeting to hear that discussion.

2. The state legislature implemented no additional pay cut or furlough for state public service workers, . Unless the board of regents takes action otherwise, this includes classified staff, pro-staff and faculty.

We believe that this should mean the Board ought not have to entertain proposals to amend the code to implement a pay cut for 2010-2011. As we have emphasized since last year, the Code protects all professional staff from immediate cuts to pay -- professional staff and untenured faculty are protected by a requirement of one year's notice, and tenured faculty are protected by the terms of the Code from furloughs or pay cuts.

Some in the state, including some in the System believe these protections are too rigid, and there has been and certainly will be continued discussions about permanent Code revisions to remove these protections. The Faculty Alliance, on a statewide level and on campus, has been vigorous in defense of these rights for all faculty -- tenured, untenured and pro-staff -- and will continue to be.

We will not be unreasonable or counter-productive in simply invoking the Code's protections as if they could never be changed. They can be changed by the Board very quickly, and this means we must be responsible and constructive in how we approach any issue involving potential code protections or revisions.

If and when there is a need in the future to address this issue, we will insist that it be done in a way that reaffirms rather than reduces faculty protections, including tenure, notification periods for untenured faculty and professional staff, and above all the avoidance of involuntary terminations of faculty.

These are points we will make to the Board of Regents at its meeting this Thursday and Friday at the West Charleston campus of CSN. Faculty are urged to attend and make their views known, especially on the importance of protecting all faculty rights to the fullest extent possible

3. For now, our health benefits will not be cut further, either for active workers or for retirees. Nor will the state's partial contribution to our retirement be cut, as some had suggested.

More news as it develops, but in the meantime, please continue to consult the UNLV Faculty Alliance blog.

If you are not now a member of NFA, there is no reason not to be. Your rights, your job and your vocation are at stake, and its time for you to be in the fight.

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