Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Words fail

Dear UNLV NFA members and colleagues,

I'm sure everyone has read the proposal released yesterday by President Smatresk to cut UNLV's budget by $49 in the coming biennium, by eliminating over 300 positions campus-wide, 160 academic positions, including 120 currently occupied full-time instructional lines (almost all of which are tenured or tenure-track). This would involve the elimination of over 30 degree programs and 12 academic departments. It would reduce our student headcount by several thousand. This plan also includes anticipated across the board salary reductions of 5% and increases in student fees of greater than 10% each year of the biennium (including significantly sharper increases in those programs that will offer market-based tuition).

This follows the news of a plan released by UNR President Glick on Monday to cut 120 currently occupied positions, 250 positions total, and four academic departments plus severe cuts in support areas on that campus.

In short, these plans -- and moreover ,the state budget plan it is based upon -- represent the end of Nevada's universities as we have known them. Everyone will be impacted -- most immediately those whose jobs, livelihoods and careers are at risk; obviously our students; but all faculty who would remain would be working in a very different environment. Many were asking yesterday "are you safe?" No one should feel "safe" or unaffected.

Friday the Board of Regents will discuss, but not act, on these plans. There are many many questions that the Regents need to ask and much discussion they need to undertake about strategic planning, setting of priorities, and taking responsibility for difficult decisions about tuition and fees, about whether or no they intend to preserve faculty rights during the implementation of cuts when they are made, and above all about whether or not there are parts of the NSHE budget not yet discussed or potential sources of revenue or reserves that ought to be included in spending reduction plans given this extraordinary moment. Its unlikely that this will all be addressed on Friday but we ought to at least wait and see.

Obviously the legislature now has a clear choice. Many legislators have said that they have not yet seen "pain" in the System of Higher Education and especially its universities. There are some, clearly, who want only to inflict pain; there are even some who seem to think the highest priority in this moment is to authorize concealed lethal weapons to be carried on campus. In short, legislators need to take a clear look at what is in front of them. If they have problems with the credibility of the System leadership's claims in the past about budget impacts, then by all means address those concerns with those who made them in the past. But it is simply wrong to visit that issue on current and future students and faculty by pretending that unprecedented cuts of this magnitude do not represent "any real pain."

On campus, the Faculty Advisory Committee has been working on several fronts and will likely become more visible after we get some greater degree of clarification following the Board meeting. The campus and statewide NFA have also been preparing for the political and legal issues that will soon be raised. In the meantime, please stay informed and involved. Many good ideas have been suggested, and in many cases I have urged those suggesting them to follow up -- do the budget research, do the logistical planning, communicate the thought publicly. Now is not the time to ask "what will be done for me?"

Obviously those who are members at the time of an action (such as a layoff notice) would be eligible for legal defense support, but what I mean is that just as there is no angel who is going to solve the state's budget mess, there is no one idea, person or action that is going to solve its awful impact on our campus community. We, the faculty, are the solution, in some way. We need to find it in ourselves to respond to the magnitude of this threat. I am personally occupied on these issues almost full time as are many other committed faculty leaders. But on behalf of the campus and state NFA I welcome everyone's involvement in all ways. No one else understands better than we do what is at stake.

In solidarity.

Gregory Brown
Professor, Department of History, UNLV

President, UNLV Faculty Alliance
Vice-President, Nevada Faculty Alliance
Co-chair, NFA PAC

PH (702) 580 - 7798
FAX (702) 458 - 4290


  1. Question: Are cuts proposed yesterday by the president assuming that exigency be declared, or can these cuts go forward without exigency? I discussed this with a number of colleagues, and no one seems to know...

    Wolfgang Bein
    Professor, Computer Science, UNLV

  2. If UNLV really does eliminate the entire Philosophy department then it should no longer have the right to call itself a university, but merely a trade school.

  3. Here's hoping the events in Wisconsin tonight don't further escalate the situation here. The cuts proposed are sad, but in reality it doesn't seem like it will be enough if this state continues down the same path. Sandoval and the GOP probably are all for any proposal that eliminates logic courses from the curriculum in this state.