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July 24, 2009
By John Trent
Now that the dust has settled following a spring and early summer of completed budget reductions, President Milt Glick reassured faculty and staff during a town hall meeting on Thursday in the Jot Travis Building.
“These have been tough times,” Glick told a crowd of close to 200, as well as an online audience of another 210. “But a time we will come through and build upon.”
Glick spent the first half of the hour-long meeting explaining the various budget reductions the University has experienced over the past year, then spent the second half answering questions from the audience.
In his opening remarks, he praised the campus for the way it has handled the $33.1 million budget reduction, which has included the elimination of more than 270 positions on campus, as well as deep cuts in a number of areas, including state budget reductions of more than 20 percent for areas such as statewide programs, research, development and intercollegiate athletics and nearly 20 percent for student services. The University’s overall budget reduction percentage stands at 15.1 percent.
“I will tell you, it has been enormously rewarding to have interaction with faculty, staff and student leadership … leadership that has helped get us through this,” Glick said. “We will continue to offer high-quality programs, and we are prepared to invest in the future … But there is no question we have hurt some programs and we have hurt the (University’s) trajectory in the middle-run, and we have hurt some individuals. I’ve appreciated the support the faculty, staff and students have given us.”
Glick said that the overriding goal has always been protection of the University’s core academic mission, which includes student success. He explained that was why certain areas – such as statewide programs, which saw a reduction of 37 percent, and the Academy for the Environment, which saw a reduction of more than 40 percent – absorbed larger budget cuts.
“It doesn’t mean it isn’t important,” Glick said of statewide programs. “But we needed to protect the students.”
He added later, when talking about the cuts that the various colleges had seen, that, “We really tried to protect the colleges. Everyone else took a larger hit, because that (protecting student academic offerings) was the right thing to do.”
Although the cuts to the colleges were not as great as some areas, they were still substantial. The College of Education – with a higher majority of state-funded centers than other colleges, said Provost Marc Johnson – took a 15.1 percent budget reduction, for example. The Office of the Provost also took a substantial 24.5 percent hit and the Office of the President took a 25 percent hit.
“The colleges in general took an almost 10 percent reduction,” Johnson said. “With teaching resource management (the process by which fulltime faculty will be teaching a larger portion of student credit hours, or student fulltime equivalents, as a result of consolidating some classes into larger sections, or teaching some classes less frequently and with larger sections when they are taught) the colleges are actually operating with about 11 percent less dollars.”
Still, Johnson said, the process was not without some positives that could help the institution down the road. The University’s long-held practice of “sweeping” year-end salary savings from positions held open has been replaced with a new process that Johnson said will “move the locus of decision-making from the Provost’s Office to the dean’s office.” Johnson said that in the future, dollars for replacement of faculty positions as well as budgeting for temporary faculty instruction that may have come through salary savings will now stay within the colleges.
“We have come up with more decentralization for our future,” Johnson said.
Glick reiterated the recent legislation regarding state employee furloughs. Senate Bill 433 mandates classified staff be furloughed one day a month for 24 months of the biennium. For the Nevada System of Higher Education, the bill mandated a comparable 4.6 percent salary budget reduction be taken by the institutions in FY2010. The Board of Regents mandated unpaid leave equaling a 4.6 percent salary cut in the second year (FY2011) for non-tenured faculty, which includes administrative, tenure-track, research and temporary faculty. Although there is no salary reduction for tenured faculty, Glick noted that tenured faculty will be tasked with increased productivity which will be used as a barometer to ensure that all parties have contributed in some way.
Faculty Senate Chair Elliott Parker encouraged tenured faculty to contact the University Foundation about making a donation that could be directed in numerous ways to help different aspects of the campus.
“There is flexibility within the Foundation,” he said. “I encourage you to talk to them.”
Parker, a professor of economics, perhaps summed up the prevailing mood in the room when he noted, “It’s helpful to remember that (the budget cuts) could’ve been much worse.” He said that originally Gov. Jim Gibbons had suggested cutting the University’s budget by a third and implementing salary reductions of 6 percent. The Nevada State Legislature, in its final budget, Parker said, had come up with a budget reduction that “leaves the University standing.”
Glick received several questions from the audience.
Regarding concerns that the University was de-emphasizing academic offerings in environmental fields with the budget reduction of the Academy for the Environment, Glick said, “We are absolutely committed to maintaining our environmental programs. We’ve asked the deans from the Colleges of Science, Engineering, Business and Agriculture to form an executive committee to maximize our programs in renewable energy and the environment.”
Regarding allocation and re-allocation of space on campus, Glick noted that he still gazes at the closed Getchell Library and its more than 170,000 square feet of space with hope – if the University ever finds the money to bring the five-decade old structure up to code. All space allocation and re-allocation, he said, must be done in “a strategic framework on how the University can best realize its goals. We are trying to understand where we have space opportunities.” Vice Provost Jannet Vreeland added, “A lot of this is driven by the new buildings coming online (and the space it will create as classrooms and labs move).” She added that one of Johnson’s priorities is to move the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT) and the Sanford Center back onto campus, and, coupled with the opening of two major buildings in the next two years, “There are just a number of things at play right now.”
Regarding if the campus has seen the last of state-mandated budget cuts, Glick was cautiously optimistic. “It’s my hope that if we can get through the next six months, there will be modest upturn in the economy,” he said. “I’m not planning on another budget cut, but it can happen. Each budget cut becomes more difficult than the previous one, because it cuts further into flesh and bone now.”
Glick said that ultimately, the University’s best hope for the future is to diversify its revenue streams. He noted that a higher fraction of the university’s operating budget is from state funds than is true in many universities and that our future depends on increasing revenue from tuition, grants and gifts.