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July 7, 2008
By John Trent
University of Nevada, Reno President Milton Glick admitted Wednesday before a crowd of more than 500 in the grand ballroom of the Joe Crowley Student Union that he was experiencing a case of “cognitive dissonance” regarding the University’s latest round of budget reduction measures.
During a more than two hour town meeting with faculty, staff and students – with an additional 130 watching via webcast on the Internet – Glick said that late June’s announcement that 36 employees had received notices of non-reappointment (NNRs) effective July 1, 2009 in an effort to meet the ongoing budget reductions requested by the State of Nevada, had been difficult news for the campus.
“This is a difficult time for higher education in Nevada and it will take our best thinking,” Glick said. “There have been only hard cuts, and no easy cuts, and as we continue with this process, the cuts will get even harder.”
Glick was referring to further cuts requested by the state that could reach as much as 14 percent for Fiscal Year 2009-2010. Given the challenging context, Glick said that the NNRs issued were only a first step in a painful period for the University.
“It is important to remember that the issuance of NNR’s was only part of the University’s response to the state’s budget request,” he said. “The 4.5 percent cuts did not alter the trajectory of our institution. The cuts that we make for 2009-2010 will be far more difficult. The proposed reduction will encroach on our academic programs and change the long-term trajectory and our ability to serve the state. We will be a narrower University with far fewer choices. Nothing is certain at this point but we need to plan now in order to protect our core programs and ensure the viability of our teaching and research enterprise.”
At the same time, though, Glick emphasized at the conclusion of his 36-minute opening remarks, that he believed the University, though changed, must remain a viable educational and economic force for the state.
“It’s easy to look at a 14 percent cut and feel the loss,” he said of the University’s current task, which is to devise further budget reduction scenarios to meet the state’s proposed $31.2 million cut to the University for 2009-2010. “But we have a cup that is 86 percent full and we need to maximize what we have.
“Our commitment is that our students will have degree programs available to them that are a suitable match for their educational and career goals. Even in the face of these difficult cuts, we remain an economic force in the region. We will still work to produce cutting-edge research and participate in creative endeavors. …“Nevada needs more education, not less.”
Further, Glick said, the University must control its own destiny during the budget cutting process.
“What is most important is that we insist on being masters of our fate,” he said about the University’s relationship with the state. “We can best prioritize through open consultation. I will and we must continue to advocate for three items: revenue, empowerment and accountability.”
Glick’s case for the three items centered on the University’s unique ability to best understand its strengths, weaknesses and aspirations for the future.
“Even with these draconian budget cuts, we, as a community, must continue to work to make the University better,” he said. “Even in difficult times, we must learn how to do that.”
Glick said that even with budget cuts, the University must “build on the excellence of the University when opportunities avail themselves.”
He promised that the University will continue to recruit excellent and promising faculty in targeted areas to improve the University’s research and teaching. He noted that nurturing new ideas and innovative research through such efforts are at the core of any quality University, bringing further value to a degree earned from such an institution.
At the beginning of his remarks, Glick expressed his appreciation to the University community for its “collegiality and concern for the University, and for your concern and for your colleagues and our students.”
“I want to express concern for those colleagues who received notices of non-renewal or NNR’s and those who had to make difficult choices,” he said. “For those here who received an NNR, know that I sincerely appreciate your service to our University.
“Our focus will be on helping to place staff who received NNR’s either inside or outside the University.”
Following Glick’s remarks and before the audience was engaged in a question-and-answer session, Faculty Senate Chair William Follette addressed the audience.
Although he admitted he was no expert regarding the state’s future economic fortunes, Follette said he was confident that tenured faculty positions are not in danger, and that he was also “relatively” confident that the same comment could be made for non-tenured tenure track faculty who by most measures are meeting the traditional benchmarks in their attainment of tenure.
“But be aware that the state’s economic future is uncertain, so I can be incorrect in any and all assessments,” he said.
Follette also noted that in addition to working in a “consultative” effort with University Provost Marc Johnson in upcoming budgetary program assessment, Faculty Senate would also be scrutinizing future teaching loads, particularly given future cutbacks that could threaten the University’s teaching mission.
“If the teaching mission is to be fulfilled, and be sure that it will be, it will entail some of us teaching materials and classes formerly offered by LOA’s and lecturers,” he said. “Some of us will see specialty programs dear to us disappear in our efforts to redistribute our resources.”
Glick said that over the next six weeks, the Office of the Provost and the Academic Leadership Council (which includes deans, Faculty Senate Chair, Vice Provosts and other senior leaders) would be looking at which academic programs would be examined.
“Several possibilities will be explored,” Glick said. “They include securing alternative funding sources, downsizing, and program phase-out. Obviously, I like the first option much more than the other two, and we will explore all options with all the programs that will be examined.”
From that point, Glick said, the University’s administration will work with Faculty Senate on a process for review.
“In general, our criteria will be: centrality to mission, quality, state needs and access, cost-effectiveness,” Glick said. “We want to maximize the availability of programs for students and maintain the value of a Nevada degree.”
Also, Glick announced that the University was continuing with its plans for a buyout plan for longtime University employees (see link to related story below), as well as the institution’s strategic hiring freeze, travel reduction, energy conservation measures and other cost-cutting options.
“I have received many constructive emails with ideas we will be following up on,” he said.
Before the Q&A portion of the program began, Glick made clear that “we will not issue blanket non-renewals to faculty. We will not terminate all classified staff either. I’d also like to address a rumor that is completely without basis. I’ve heard that many classified staff with less than three years of experience are worried that there will be mindless, blanket dismissal. Let me be clear about this: This is not going to happen.”
Other points made during the Q&A:
When asked via webcast by members of the faculty of the School of Medicine, Glick said that about $5 million of the $31 million cut would come from the School of Medicine.
When asked if the current search for the dean of the College of Science would continue, Glick said that it depended on the final pool of candidates. He said that if the pool was exceptional and that the candidates for the position showed “transformative” capabilities, then the search would probably continue.
Glick acknowledged the poignancy of one of the comments made concerning the human impact of the NNR’s. Barbara King, a longtime coordinator in Student Advocacy Services, noted that she and several of her colleagues had recently received notices of non-renewal. “If faculty are considered the heart of the institution, then I consider student services the soul of the institution,” King said, noting how essential student service programs are to directing students’ majors, and their “life’s purpose.” Glick, clearly moved by King’s remarks, said the work was indeed important, and thanked King for her career at the University.
Dozens of supporters of the University’s marching band were in attendance on Wednesday, with several members and alumni making comments to Glick about the band’s value to the University. Glick noted that he had met with one of the band’s student leaders on Tuesday, July 1, for a 90-minute conversation about the band’s future, and its place in the hierarchy of University offerings. “We brainstormed constructively about how to reduce the cost of the marching band, how to continue it and integrate it more effectively into the University,” Glick said, adding that he was optimistic that the band would continue in some form in the future.