Friday, December 3, 2010

The UNLV Presidency and the faculty

Yesterday, the Regents voted to extend President Smatresk's contract a to recognize him as "President," rather than "Interim President" of UNLV. Based on the overwhelming majority of the feedback we received from members in response to two requests for feedback, and consistent with the overwhelming opinion of the faculty as expressed in the Faculty Senate-sponsored survey (which found nearly 70% of faculty supported the contract extension, only 19% opposed), the NFA chapter board supported this move in a letter to the Regents.

Among the specific attributes and experiences we highlighted in the letter of support, we focused on his performance with respect to shared governance and consultation and to respect for tenure rights and employment rights of un-tenured and non-tenured faculty. We wrote, in part,

in the most dire moments of the past eighteen months, in announcing a long-feared but nevertheless unexpected exercise of program eliminations and faculty layoffs last spring, President Smatresk made a clear stand in defense of faculty protections notably honoring full notifications periods for untenured and professional staff and honoring tenure rights. Under terms of the Code and the political environment of the Board and public at the time, this was the less easy choice and while we would like to think that forceful advocacy by the NFA and the Faculty Senate helped convince him of the rightness of this decision for the institution as a whole, he was the one who had to make the choice. And he made, by the measure of faculty rights, the correct one.

he has shown a commitment to shared governance, attending and speaking at every Faculty Senate meeting that any of us can recall, consulting regularly with faculty leadership from the Senate and NFA, empowering yet another faculty-led advisory body (the President’s Advisory Council), and never indulging in shows of cynicism or incredulity about concerns of faculty.

in his State of the University address this past September, while acknowledging the highly challenging budget environment expected in the biennium to come, he publicly stated that he was setting as a budget goal the preservation of “current levels” of faculty and staff.

In short, we believe he has earned the respect of the UNLV faculty by showing that he respects the UNLV faculty and takes its concerns – voiced collectively and by individuals – seriously. When we met with the Chancellor and the Chairman in July 2009 to discuss qualifications we sought in a new president, our highest priority was to have someone who came from an academic background and who understood the academic career trajectory. In this respect, we are pleased that you took that recommendation seriously, and we have been well served by it.

We congratulate President Smatresk on the extension of his contract and more importantly on the support he has earned from the majority of the faculty over the past 18 months.

This support and good will is likely to prove necessary given the immensity of the challenges facing the System and UNLV in the coming budget cycle. Those challenges were underscored yesterday, just an hour before the Board voted on his contract, with the release of the first outline of Governor-Elect Sandoval's budget, which calls for a cut of $175 million from the state's allocation to NSHE, for a continuation of the statewide unpaid furlough of public service workers including all faculty, and for state support to PEBP to remain at the level projected by the PEBP Board when it proposed, earlier this fall, to eliminate the PPO model of health care coverage and fundamentally reduce the structure and level of our coverage.

In short, it is not a pretty sight as we look forward to 2011.

The Chancellor, the Regents, the community members, and the student leadership were right to praise President Smatresk's performance yesterday and to reward that performance with greater job security, compensation at the level of market competition, and general public accolades for his hard work and commitment to higher education. As we move into the coming budget, we will continue to call upon those same stakeholders -- Chancellor, Regents, community leaders, student leaders and and the UNLV administration itself -- to similarly support the hard work, efficiency and commitment to higher education of our faculty and to reward those efforts similarly, with commitments to job security, competitive compensation and public statements of recognition.

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