Should those events occur, UNLV would eliminate another 155 faculty lines (PDF) (of which over 100 are currently occupied and would require layoffs of tenure-earning faculty) and another 36 degree programs (PDF), which currently train over 2200 students in fields from Marketing to Social Work to Informatics. Newly added to the expanded list (which already included such core disciplines as Philosophy and such essential fields as Social Work and Construction Management) are the program in professional writing, which is located in English but trains primarily business students, and programs in health, arts and science. In short, the point that we made months ago -- that "No one should feel 'safe' or unaffected" -- is more clear than ever.
Perhaps as significantly, the president's letter to the campus responded to calls made at yesterday's faculty senate meeting for discussion of a broad academic reorganization as necessary to implement this level of budget reduction"
We are in uncharted territory. We can no longer sustain the diversity of programs we have with the resources we receive; thus we need to reorganize in each college and across the university to focus on our core academic and research mission. This is resonant with the concept of being a smaller more focused institution. We also have to consider that we cannot significantly decrease enrollment revenue flow without driving further cuts. Based on this discussion, we have asked deans to continue reviewing the budget cut plans to reorganize the colleges to meet the needs of our students and provide them with strong learning outcomes, while creating a more sustainable university. [Emphasis added]
Clearly, the cost of such deep cuts to the University's students and the state's workforce and economy will be unavoidable and irreversible -- thousands of students will be unable to complete degrees and enter the workforce. Moreover, the cost to the community and the state of simply administering these cuts to the faculty and staff is not yet calculated, in terms of either financial loss to the already battered Las Vegas economy of laying off more than 300 as well as the unbudgeted potential legal liability for the System of terminating tenured faculty.
Yet there is a point that ought not be missed, which is the need not only for UNLV but for the System and the state legislature to take a more strategic approach to the current budget process. The Board of Regents, which meets again on Friday April 8 in Las Vegas, must begin to look at its priorities in terms of balancing administrative costs versus instruction and must find ways to identify potential streamlining not only of business operations but of academic administration.
Factors such as the cost of instruction on a per-student basis must be considered in determining how the impact of this awful process of retrenchment can be mitigated for students.
Hyperbolic rhetoric and questioning of motives must end. Those who want to address "angst and worry" and who want to ensure "productivity" need to base their discussions on actual financial data.
And those who oppose "Closing, breaking up or merging any of our colleges" need to explain why the plans laid out at UNLV, which very much involve closing, breaking up and merging colleges are not their concern. To claim that reorganizations of academic departments and colleges which employ hundreds of faculty and train thousands of students can be "absorbed" while other colleges are to be taken "off the table" is simply indefensible. Not because it favors some parts of the state over others, which it does, but because such thinking is simply no way to run a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. It is simply inefficient and bad for the state to make rushed, emotional and financially unsound decisions such as the board did on March 11. The hundreds of faculty and thousands of students at all our institutions deserve better leadership.
The time for the Board of Regents to engage in an informed discussion of a broad, strategic, curricularly defensible and financially viable reorganization of the Nevada System of Higher Education has come. This does not mean unsubtle closures of campuses; it means thoughtful retrenchment, which focuses the System on its academic mission, on the students who are served by that mission and on the faculty who fulfill that mission.
The Board has its chance to do so on April 8. Its clear that if the Board does not engage in such a discussion, the state legislature is prepared to do that.