Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UNLV updated budget cut projection : 155 faculty lines in 36 programs

Today, in response to the request of the state legislature for more detailed information from the System of Higher Education, UNLV President Smatresk released to the campus an updated projection of the cuts that would be implemented in academic affairs if the Governor's budget is passed and if the System opts not to undertake any strategic reorganizations or administrative streamlining.

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.


  1. Thanks for this, Greg. Just one correction: you characterize the program in professional writing as training "primarily business students." It is true that these faculty teach and oversee sections of business writing, which is a requirement for students in Hotel and Business. But they also teach courses in language and linguistics (such as Grammar) that are required of English and English Education students and graduate courses in the fields of technical communication and rhetoric and composition. The four faculty targeted for elimination in English arguably do more service, teach more core courses, and mentor more graduate students than any comparable group in the department.

  2. So it's pretty much screw the rest of the schools as long as we don't get cut, huh?

  3. Anonymous, this sort of straw-man argument is really not helpful to the general discussion.

    Nowhere does it say that.

    It says preserve instruction and research over administrative costs. If you want to make the case for cuts to instruction over administrative functions, then by all means go ahead.

  4. Its hard to understand, Anonymous, what you are talking about. Since there are serious proposals to lay off over 600 faculty and staff between UNLV and UNR, what is the basis for this claim that this message comes anywhere near saying "we don't get cut."

    I wonder if you have any sympathy or concern for the UNLV faculty, staff or students. But maybe its you who feels like its fine so long as you don't get cut, huh?

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