Friday, February 4, 2011

Campus presidents discuss dire consequences for higher ed

A report and press round up from yesterday's BOR meeting:

The Chancellor, NSHE presidents and many regents spoke forcefully and passionately
about the devastating impact of the proposed cuts on NSHE institutions and educational opportunities for Nevada students. Let’s hope someone is paying attention. Here are the reports from the news that will be of interest.

While there were deeply depressing discussions that suggested an almost unavoidable across-the-board pay cut for all faculty and staff and far too many mentions of the need to prepare for exigency and / or program review (on which more, much more, in future reports), there were also some important aspects that were reassuring.

First, on the pay-cut issue, the Chancellor promptly and correctly pointed out that the change to the Code concerning pay cuts, as negotiated with faculty leadership last spring, does not allow the Board to act unless the legislature acts first and only to the extent the legislature acts. In other words, when one institution president proposed a 6% pay cut, the Chancellor pointed out that the Governor's proposal to the legislature is for a 5% pay cut and if that is enacted, the Board could only pass through that cut, not a deeper one, without declaring exigency. This significant compromise, we believe, illustrates the true principle of shared sacrifice as faculty and staff have been and will continue to do more work for less compensation.

Secondly, the Chancellor pointed out that there are some good things in the Governor's budget for higher ed, including local government support from property tax revenues (which in the long term are likely to increase) and greater autonomy. The problem, of course, is the perception that this autonomy in and of itself will allow the Board to fill the budget hole. Regent Page quickly laid that misperception to rest, telling the campus presidents not to consider it realistic to present any plans that would fill the budget gap entirely on the backs of students or on the backs of faculty.

Most importantly almost all the presidents, especially UNLV President Smatresk, focused on the risk to the state of loss of faculty. Regents demonstrated they understood the seriousness of what is being proposed for not only higher ed but also the state -- with Regent Wixom in particular pointing out what bad business it is for the state to put itself at such risk to lose faculty whose grants and contracts represent not hypothetical business development but "real dollars in real time that will be leaving the state." He also pointed out that it is bad financial practice to monetize a business's essential capital to fund operations and that this is just what the state is proposing to do when it considers cutting higher education and with it our key instrument of human capital development, in order to fund operations that, if the state were considered as a business, would be considered secondary support areas.

Here are some press clips of the day

LV Sun: Higher education officials say Sandoval budget cuts a ‘death sentence’

LV RJ: Presidents say cuts would severely damage universities

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