Throughout the many public gatherings of his tenure as president of the University, Milton Glick has shown a knack for balancing the serious information with the light, for knowing when to talk to budgets and when to insert a well-timed quip for levity's sake.
Monday was a first, though.
During a town hall meeting with classified staff in the Joe Crowley Student Union's third-floor theater, Glick and a group of about 50 attendees were busily discussing the possibility of state budget reductions when lo and behold, another administrator of higher education happened to stroll into the room.
Just as Glick was noting that Gov. Jim Gibbons' request to cut higher education in the state of Nevada has grown to about 8 percent, making it over the biennium a 16 percent cut—"There is nobody that could be held harmless from that kind of reduction," Glick said of the campus-wide impact such a cut would have—Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the California State University System, waved and smiled.
Reed was accompanied by former Nevada President Joe Crowley, who was giving Reed a tour of the new union, which was opened in Crowley's honor on Nov. 15.
Budget cut talk is never enjoyable, and it was time to lighten the moment.
Glick quickly obliged.
Glick, who has known Reed for several years, grinned and took the opportunity to note that the California State system has about 500,000 students, and that, "We're willing to take some of them from you, Charlie."
"OK, we'll send them across the border to you, Milt," Reed, a good-natured native of Harrisburg, Pa., said with equal humor.
As the conversation between the two education leaders continued, Reed noted that California, just like Nevada, is currently in a budget crunch and faces a cut of up to $10 billion, out of a budget of about $115 billion.
"That's about 8 percent," Glick said. "Funny, isn't that about the same number we were just talking about?"
The audience seemed to appreciate the unique, un-orchestrated—but nonetheless informative—give-and-take between Glick and Reed. Their impromptu words seemed to momentarily hold a mirror to the tenuous foothold higher education is experiencing not only in Nevada, but throughout the country.
They applauded as Reed exited.
Earlier in the meeting, Glick gave an update of what might transpire in the coming days. Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers and Board of Regents Chairman Michael Wixom were scheduled to meet with Gov. Gibbons Monday to further discuss the situation, Glick said.
"I'm hopeful wise counsel will win out," Glick said of Rogers and Wixom's mission to dissuade Gibbons from asking for 8 percent cuts from higher education.
Glick said the University, already facing a $6 million budget shortfall before state revenues began to sag—"We made all the cuts we thought we could conceivably make," he said—was not in the position to make further cuts without doing profound damage.
"The chancellor on Thursday (during the Board of Regents meeting in Las Vegas) distributed a document that describes if we just took all the money that's available, what it would mean to take this kind of money out of our budget," he said. "The Board unanimously concurred that this would have a devastating effect."
Glick said he is still holding out hope that an alternative means can be found to handle the state's budget crunch.
One plan that holds promise, he said, came during last week's Regents meeting. Regent Ron Knecht and a former state Assemblyman, suggested several strategies, including: 1) Taking $36 million in funds that would normally be added to the state's "Rainy Day" fund; 2) Delay construction contracts; 3) Spreading the budget cuts evenly across all state agencies, a move that would reduce higher education's cut from 8 percent to about 2 percent, Glick said.
Whatever method is found, Glick said, the University's priority will always be, "Protecting students and protecting jobs. No one has breathed the word ‘layoffs,' and I'm not going to breathe it today."
Glick was asked a number of questions from the audience, and the discussion was lively and constructive.
Important points included:
- Glick said he was willing to listen to plans that would give classified staff a tuition break for their dependents. "If we could do it in a reasonable way, I would love to have the dependents of classified staff get some kind of tuition break," he said.
- Glick will continue his policy of keeping the historic University Quadrangle open, for the most part, during the school year, though he did note that soon the Quad will need a short period of roped-off rest. "By the time next semester opens, we'll try to make sure that they take down the ropes," he said.
- Timelines for possible budget cut scenarios. "The governor says he needs (all state plans) by Wednesday. My sense is, January is when they will make their decisions and candidly, every day they wait, we have even less flexibility."
- The creation of a "red tape committee," to help make certain campus paper procedures more nimble. He assured Melanie England, chair of the Staff Employees Council and in the audience Monday, that there would be a classified representative on the committee once it has been convened.
- A promise from Glick that the University would do a better job, as it continues to grow and continues to open new buildings, of updating interactive and electronic campus maps to help for easier navigation of the campus.