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April 23, 2014

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UNLV administrators talk of cutting academic programs

Among topics UNLV administrators covered at a town hall meeting on budget deficits Wednesday was one sure to spark anxiety among faculty and students: slashing academic programs.

Deans at UNLV will begin reviewing programs in their colleges in January to determine which ones are low-, moderate- and high-performing, UNLV President David Ashley said. A program review committee will then use the deans' evaluations to identify programs the school could cut, reduce or suspend.

“This is a process that should have been going on in the ordinary course of events, one that is being jumpstarted now,” Neal Smatresk, UNLV’s executive vice president and provost, said to a crowd of more than 100 people, mostly staff and faculty. “I’m sure it will lead to spirited and sometimes difficult conversations.”

Criteria that could be used in determining which programs should go include programs' placement in national rankings, graduation rates, job placement rates for graduates and faculty members‚ success in bringing competitive grants and other revenue to the university.

Professors often have a personal attachment to academic programs because faculty members are often the ones who draft proposals and fight for funding to launch new areas of study.

Recognizing that, Smatresk and Ashley emphasized that officials will not eliminate programs that contribute to UNLV’s mission until budget reductions force that action, which likely will not happen before July.

Even so, Ashley offered some foreboding words.

“There would be perhaps even healthy programs that would be in jeopardy because if the cut is so severe. We just can’t afford to be doing everything that we have been doing.”

“I apologize for the somber tone,” he said. “I wish we were more entertaining. ... It’s a tough time. The uncertainty’s going to persist for many months in the future."

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