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October 20, 2014

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UNLV students rally to stave off program cuts

5 engineering majors could be eliminated as state deals with shortfall

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Jennifer Kennedy, engineering student adviser, rallies the crowd while marching through the UNLV campus during an Engineering Department budget rally Friday, March 5.

UNLV Engineering Department Rally

UNLV alumnus Jesse Oakley III fires up the crowd during the Engineering Department budget rally Friday, March 5, outside the student union on the UNLV campus.
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Chants of “save our future” rang out at the UNLV Student Union on Friday as students, alumni, faculty, professors and community members rallied against the elimination of five programs within the College of Engineering.

The group met at the Thomas T. Beam Engineering Complex and walked to the student union to protest the proposed removal of civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering majors, as well as the School of Computer Science and the School of Informatics.

During its recent special session, the Legislature cut education funding by 6.9 percent. The higher education system’s presidents are preparing to eliminate certain programs, services and staff as a result.

Eric Sandgren, dean of the College of Engineering, said the five programs could be on the cutting board because they are some of the most expensive programs on campus.

“There’s nothing we can sacrifice without damaging the university,” Sandgren said. “Changing the economy is going to come from the College of Engineering.”

Staff researcher Rick Hurt, who wore a “Save UNLV Engineering” T-shirt, said he has worked in the Center of Energy Research for four years.

He said the center has made advances in solar energy research and could further Nevada’s lead in alternative energy technology. Cutting programs in the College of Engineering could halt that research, he said.

Mechanical engineering freshman Jack Chaney, 18, said he’s angry that administrators are considering cutting his major. He said he applied to UNLV because the tuition was affordable and the university had a well-respected mechanical engineering program.

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Students, alumni and staff gather in the courtyard of the student union in support of the Engineering Department during a budget rally Friday, March 5, at the UNLV campus.

“I want to be loud and show people we care,” he said.

Alumna Doa Meade said she wanted to show her passion for the College of Engineering.

“I refuse to let my degree become a placemat on my dinner table,” she shouted.

Meade said alumni attended the rally because they have ties to the university and family members who are involved in the college.

Mark Newburn, 50, graduated from UNLV in 1981 with a degree in computer science. He said his son got his degree in computer science at UNLV in 2001.

UNLV’s research centers encourage companies to build around it so they can contact professors for technological problems, Newburn said. Sandgren, the college’s dean, said the programs are expensive but the university should take into consideration that the research centers bring in $1.50 for every $1 given to them.

To prevent losing research centers and forcing students to change their majors, administrators are considering a higher tuition for the five programs.

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