Before a packed grand ballroom in the Joe Crowley Student Union, University of Nevada, Reno President Milton Glick met with faculty, staff and students in a town hall meeting on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming round of budget cuts that the University will be facing.
Glick said his intention was not to “sugarcoat” the current budget crisis.
“I don’t know how to tell the story without saying both the positive and the negative,” he said during the meeting, which lasted for more than 90 minutes and included a question-and-answer session.
Glick admitted that he came to the town hall meeting with mixed emotions. On the one hand, there were many positives: continued growth and diversity of the student body, an increasing research profile and new facilities for students, faculty and staff.
“We are in that strange world that Dickens best described as ‘the best of times and the worst of times,’” Glick said. He paused, and pointed to the new student union, which opened in November to much fanfare.
“We are in this magnificent new building,” he continued. “We will open in a month the magnificent Knowledge Center. We broke ground yesterday on what will be a magnificent new math and science center … People would probably be saying, ‘Well, everything (at the University) is fine.”
As Glick quickly noted, though, the latest round of budget cuts requested by the state present the institution with one of its greatest challenges, coming on the heels of a 4.5 percent budget reduction that was already made in January. The new cuts would be for Fiscal Year 2009, which is set to begin in less than two weeks.
“We’ve now been told to plan for an additional two percent or four percent (cut) for the coming year,” he said. “That will be very hard to do. We had planned – full disclosure – for a one percent cut. We were ready to do that – hoping not to do that – but we felt we had taken enough out of the budget to handle a one-percent cut.
“Two percent would be very difficult, and four percent would cause more dislocations.”
Glick added that the prospect of further cuts requested by the state – perhaps reaching as high as 14 percent for FY 2010-2011, would “irrevocably change the future of the University."
"With significant cuts we change the University's trajectory," he said. "I have to say that we would be a less robust University with fewer choices. We’ll still do a good job with what we do; but instead of having ‘x’ degree programs, we would only have ‘y’ degree programs. There will be services that will disappear.
“We will change the trajectory not for the short-term, but for the foreseeable future.”
In order to meet the current budget cut requests, Glick announced that the University will continue the strategic hiring freeze implemented during the first round of budget reductions. Positions currently open or that become open would be filled only if they are sufficiently justified and critical to the mission of the university.
Second, he said the Provost’s Office is developing the framework for a retirement incentive program for tenured faculty which will be announced in late summer or fall. Non-tenure track academic faculty and administrative faculty who are considering retirement sometime in the near future can work with Vice Provost Jannet Vreeland to explore options for early separation incentives on an individual, completely voluntary basis, Glick said.
Glick said these steps are intended to reduce the base budget expenditures of the University in ways that are least disruptive to people’s lives.
Glick also emphasized that the University would not issue mass notices of non-reappointment to all non-tenured faculty or to all administrative faculty. He said such an effort would be disastrous for the University’s future, particularly as it would relate to younger faculty who work to become the teaching and research backbone of the campus in the coming years.
Glick did say, however, that if the University is faced with a possible double-digit budget cut for FY 2010-2011, budget reduction scenarios would involve some notices of non-renewals in certain areas, and that such action could come in the next two weeks.
“What we will not do is the mindless blanket non-renewals,” Glick said. “We will not non-renew all tenure track faculty. Let me say that as clear as I can, because that would be eating your seed corn.”
From the question and answer session:
On the upcoming Nevada State Legislative Session, which will address the question of further delaying or eliminating cost of living adjustments for state employees: “We do not know and won’t know until Sunday what the agenda will be. We do know that re-directing or eliminating the COLA will be discussed … (Eliminating the COLA) would cause a lot of pain, especially for those at lower pay levels.”
On why construction of the Davidson Math and Science Center has continued, instead of diverting the money to operations: Glick noted his appreciation for the question but said it is an often misunderstood topic. He explained that bonds are issued to back the state allocation for construction projects, and that bonded money can’t be applied toward operations.