Friday, January 28, 2011

UNLV Town Hall (liveblog) : "Our Future is at stake"

President Smatresk describes impact of proposed budget on UNLV, a cut of nearly 30% in total state support for coming biennium and nearly 50% total accumulated cut over 4-year period. He calls this "unimaginable" if we are to have a better future in the state.

Despite what some say, higher education is not broken. We have been doing our job. Higher work loads, increased classes, improved student success, curricular reforms, and increases in graduation rates over the past few years -- more than 6000 graduates last year join 100,000 UNLV alumni in the regional economy. Research accomplishments including support for economic development; support for sustainability and higher quality of life; support for regional non-profits; legal, dental, nursing and other services to undeserved populations; cultural enrichment, etc.

The process to follow moving forward, a perspective on what will happen: Governor's proposal is to "get our attention." Level of cuts proposed simply cannot be responded to at an institutional level. First step will be for System leadership (Board of Regents) to begin discussion in special meeting on February 3. In the meantime, we must participate in the legislative leadership and communicate to our legislators.  A budget will be developed and sent to Governor; perhaps to be vetoed. Perhaps a special session. The current budget cannot be implemented. If it is, it will impose "the most dire set of circumstances on our university and our region that we have ever seen. Our future is at stake."

This Saturday January 29, a townhall meeting will be held at Grant Sawyer building, at 9am, to tell our legislators "the good story of what we do." Faculty, students, community supporters are asked to attend and lend your voice in support of a different future for our region and state than that which the Governor's budget implies.

Milliken report ranks Nevada 46th in competitiveness for high-tech industry because our rate of college attendance is less than half of regional centers with which we compete, such as Denver and Salt Lake. UNLV graduates are highly qualified but the region and the state do not have enough of them.

Faculty Senate Chair Cecilia Maldonado: Cuts of this magnitude are unimagineable. We are the people behind the Governor's numbers. We impact other people's lives in this state. Cuts this deep would devastate our ability to have that impact for others.

Other states support higher education as an investment in the future. We need to explain to legislators why and how higher education is a good investment. How we work in the classroom to transform lives.

Chairman of Board of Regents JD Leavitt: The Governor's proposed budget for higher education is "outrageous and would have cataclysmic impact on higher education...Shared sacrifice means we invest in what we value most. ...That means the knowledge and intellectual capital of higher education. ...We can't tax that future."

Regent Mark Alden: I'm a "bean counter on budget issues. I'm a conservative republican. I support ... Brian Sandoval. But he's dead wrong on higher education."

Mark Fine, chair of UNLV Foundation, and Mark Angle, president of UNLV Alumni Association, call on Las Vegas business community to "make a difference" and ensure "this university will not be dismantled."

Smatresk: "This is something we'll win together."

Faculty are invited to a meeting of the UNLV Faculty Alliance next Thursday, February 3, at 11:30 am in Law School room 101 (3rd floor).

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