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January 29, 2015

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higher education:

UNLV president’s somber warning on budget cuts moves faculty to tears


Steve Marcus

UNLV President Neal Smatresk delivers his State of the University Address in this Sept. 15, 2009 file photo. On Tuesday he proposed a “financial exigency” plan in response to proposed budget cuts.

In what must have been one of his most painful tasks in office, UNLV President Neal Smatresk warned faculty leaders Tuesday to prepare for a budget catastrophe — news that left some in tears.

Smatresk at times sounded almost in mourning as he spoke to the Faculty Senate, saying he had instructed his provosts to start planning for more cuts in staff, departments and programs.

The faculty was angry and indignant.

“I’m sick we are destroying much of what we’ve built,” said Cecilia Maldonado, an educational-leadership professor and chairwoman of the Senate.

“This amounts to foreclosure,” said Greg Brown, a history professor and president of the Nevada Faculty Alliance, a professor group.

Michael Bowers, UNLV’s provost, noted that UNLV is 54 years old and that he has worked there 27 years. “I never thought this day would come, but we have to plan,” he said.

The emotional display was unprecedented, Bowers said after the meeting, “because we’ve never had a situation like this before.”

He has asked five senior officials, including the athletic director, to identify cuts by Feb. 25 because $25 million in cuts have to be planned for by this July and $22.5 million by next July, the start of another fiscal year.

“We have to have a plan in place immediately,” Bowers said.

In an e-mail to deans and vice provosts, Bowers said, “The central teaching and research mission of UNLV should be protected as best as possible.”

He set general goals for cuts at 22 schools, departments and programs, with the larger targets exceeding $2 million.

The biggest target was on the College of Liberal Arts at $3.8 million. Other large targets were $2.9 million for the dental school, $2.8 million for libraries and $2.8 million for the College of Sciences.

Smatresk’s words were the grimmest yet in the agony over how the state’s fiscal crisis will play out within the ranks of higher education. Already, curricula have been slashed and faculty layoffs may be inevitable.

Under what is known as “financial exigency,” lifetime appointments could be broken and tenured professors more easily dismissed. In that case, whole departments and programs could close down with greater speed.

This month, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents said it would be premature to consider such a move until the Legislature approves a final budget.

Smatresk told the Faculty Senate that the cuts at UNLV could total $47.5 million over the next two years. So a plan for financial exigency would have to be prepared, he said. That sum for two years nearly matches the $50 million in cuts over the past four years, mostly in nonacademic areas and mostly avoiding large cuts in professor positions.

The emotion followed soon after Smatresk’s announcement, when Bowers said the cuts would need to come mainly from academic programs as soon as this year.

“These targets will be painful to meet,” Bowers said, his voice beginning to break. “I’ve asked the deans to do the best they can.”

The emotion built again when Maldonado read a list of grievances, each beginning with “I’m sick.”

She said she is sick of politicians caricaturing professors with “our fat salaries and easy living.”

She said she is sick that the public doesn’t seem to understand the importance of higher education.

John Filler, a special-education professor and former chairman of the Faculty Senate, said, “There is nothing that we’ve done to deserve this.” His voice broke, people applauded.

“I can’t believe the taxpayers will let this happen but if they do,” Filler said, “let’s make sure this doesn’t happen without a fight.” More applauded.

In his brief address, Smatresk noted that he had been monitoring the first few days of the legislative session. He added, “I believe the proposed cuts could materialize.”

“It’s very clear our state is approaching a state of fiscal collapse” when it comes to education, Smatresk said.

The cuts, Smatresk said, will lead to a “smaller, more expensive, more selective institution.”

In a voice heavy with sadness, Smatresk said: “A white knight will not come in and dramatically change the situation.”

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  1. Actions such as these will always create an opposite and non-linear reaction without predictability. This is point where forces at a singularity known in the imaginary plane jump out with a wallop and begin to drive real world oscillations without mercy.

  2. This whole catastrophe thing wears a bit thin after a while. We'll work through this whole budget thing.

  3. Its not just faculty this would impact. This plan presumes significant fee increases for students and the loss of at least a dozen departments and all degree programs in those departments. UNLV would be reduced by about 6000 students per year, greatly reducing the range of offerings for students and significantly diminishing the number of educated workers in the region. We're already at the bottom of all states for % of population with degrees or attending college and with UNLV greatly reduced, we'll fall farther behind every other state. For more on what exigency is and what it will mean for southern Nevada, see

  4. One other point to prove this isn't really about simply cuts to faculty but about destroying the future of the state. Only two days ago, advocates for high-tech industries which the state is trying to recruit, called for NV to invest in higher education to produce a better trained workforce.

  5. gohugatree...
    Contrarily, educated people may understand that stupid is as stupid does, and that the powers that be can't see the forest for the trees.
    Massive educational cuts in Nevada right now is akin to helping a starving person by witholding their rations...

  6. I wonder what the effect on local business will be by removing $47 million just from UNLV? How much will the total for Las Vegas be? I hope the rurals get to experience the decrease as well to appreciate how state money doesn't go into a black hole.

  7. Ms. Maldonado

    I am sick of the lack of leadership in higher education and whining. Yes, everyone is taking hits, including higher education. 15 Percent of your neighbors are unemployed. The homes in foreclosure. The kids can't read and write, after 12 years of public education. You can't seriously tell me that higher education has suffered more than any of these groups. I am sick of your portrayal as victim. Get over the victimization deal because there a lot of people in front of you in victimization line.

    We will be measured by how we respond to these setbacks in terms of taking positive and proactive to respond to these challenges. Don't make those who follow us sick by a lack of resolve to meet the challenges before us today.

  8. Let's see some positive ideas from the facualty at UNLV. Time for everyone to dig a little deeper.

  9. Curly they are leaving college with no job prospects because they did not choose majors wisely or they didnt understand the magnitude of the situation they were in. The University is a place to learn and network, listen to whats hot and whats not in the creative class world. Yes i agree if you go to college and graduate with a Drama or History degree your not going to be very marketable but if you bust your arse pick up a foreighn language and not spanish(Arabic,Chi,Urudu,Per,Pashto,Rus), grap a couple certs that are not in your field, double major, grab a minor that is worth your while, start a club and do internships while your a Jun or Sen. Better yet. Join the ARMY for the GI BILL then when you get out in a few years you will have all of your school payed for and you will have the mental stamina to get the most out of your College education. That being said College isnt for everyone and i wish everyone a great day.

  10. Meanwhile, Kirk Kerkorian has donated his Lincy Foundation money not to UNLV but to UCLA.

  11. Perhaps one change will call for "professors" teaching more than three classes (9 hours of class time) per week.

  12. The road to recovery is through "financial exigency". There are no sacred cows any more.

    There is an educational leadership program? Now is the time to demonstrate to the world what leadership is about.

    The finacial problems at UNLV are no different than other cities, states, businesses, households and countries.

    You seem to forget that while the population supports government, we still need to support our own families.

  13. John Filler, a special-education professor and former chairman of the Faculty Senate, said, "There is nothing that we've done to deserve this." His voice broke, people applauded.

    "I can't believe the taxpayers will let this happen but if they do," Filler said, "let's make sure this doesn't happen without a fight." More applauded.

    These people do not live in the real world. Do they actually think the university is entitled to unlimited taxpayer funding?

  14. If you plan for tomorrow without investing in your future you are doomed to fail.

  15. Most of the comments on this page show ignorance of how drastic and debilitating the governor's proposed cuts will be to higher education in Nevada. Added to what already has been cut, they amount to 50% over the space of four years -- the most radical budget cuts to any higher education system in the country (and probably in the world). And the posts that cite in-class hours for classroom teaching are the most ignorant: 9 hours in the classroom requires on average 3 hours prep per hour at the college level; then the obligation to research, publish, and mentor graduate student research adds another 20 hours per week; 3 hours per week undergraduate advising; 3 hours per week on committee work or service obligations for the institution; then outside service to the profession in the scholarly fields, 3-5 hours -- add it up, and you get an average 55-65 hour work week for faculty. Toss the research mission into the trash and UNLV will become what it was 40 years ago -- little more than a glamorized Mormon high school (and this crack is meant to compliment members of the LDS church, who have consistently believed in and supported education). But I suppose that's what citizens of Nevada want: a fancy high school, not a real university. And in the end, our students will suffer the most intense pain.

  16. I love it when academics finally have to deal with the real world. Those ivory towers and crumbling and maybe the universities that come out of it intact will actually educate students to cope with the real world. But since academics never had to deal with it, they didn't know how to do that. Maybe now they'll get a clue.

  17. the majority of comments here are disgusting and disheartening. If you think that having an educated workforce would not bring businesses to Nevada you need to have your head examined.

  18. Truly challenging times ahead for educators and students--at all levels in all states. In California, proposed $1.5 billion cuts in state university funding will mean 350,000 students in 112 schools will not have access to a public supported college education.

    Elementary, middle school, high school, and adult education programs are being consolidated or dropped.

    America is reeling to hard times. When times get tough, the tough get tougher. We will emerge as a leaner, meaner nation. We always have.

  19. From the New York Times:
    "The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976." Certainly the same for Nevada.

    Sun Headline: "51% of all home sales are now made with cash". That means there are more investors in Las Vegas with $120,000-$150,000 liquid cash to pick up an investment then real home owners that need to borrow.

    It's tough taking money away from those who need to support their families during these tough times - especially while their families are vacationing in the Caribbean, Bermuda, Kathmandu or Australia.

  20. As a recent graduate of UNLV that dealt with the constant bombardment of budget cuts and rising tuition, I can say I am sick of it all!

    Too many people here say get rid of UNLV and UNR, let students go out-of-state, etc. I'll tell you first off I wanted to go out of state. If states removed out-of-state tuition then you would see students leave in droves.

    I can look back and say that I wished my parents hadn't moved us to Las Vegas and stayed in VA. We lived in one of the top counties for education in the U.S. to come to one of the worst! VA has a massive amount of great schools and I would have received in-state tuition.

    I can say now that I will look for a career in a state that cherishes education both K-12 and Higher. So that when I have children and they are ready to go to a University they will have more options (more than two at least), better schools, a state that supports higher education rather than dismantling it and a far more diverse economy!!!

  21. These things are not adequately funded. UNLV and UNR should suspend operation and fund the junior college student so there is some opportunity even though it is inadequate. Oh, impeach the governor and install Rory - the man with a plan.

  22. Mr. Smatresk the $47.5 million cut represents a 7.6% reduction of the schools $625,000,000 annual budget.

    I'm confident in your faculty's leadership. Economic recovery may be down the road of financial exigency.

  23. @sfnowina, what do you expect, when the state gets little to no support and funding compared to other states. For the record, national average graduation rate is 55%, and only 3 west coast states are above the average according to the NCES (CA, OR, WA). Let's ask this question, do you like having doctors, dentists, nurses, IT specialists, physical therapists, engineers, architects, teachers, financial advisers, accountants, etc, etc? Cause no one is going to want to head to NV because there are no jobs, no community support, no water, low wage jobs, no growth, no business, high foreclosure, terrible public transit, extreme summer heat, expensive utility usage, poor communal services.

    Every great city has a great University producing graduates into the local work force. There is little incentive to keep graduates from moving.

  24. Sofakingbored,

    Sorry, but its not just UNLV. Many public universities have similar or worse 6-year graduation rates, irrespective of the availability of jobs or quality of the campus.

    University of Houston - 42% - this is a city with high employment in science, technology arts etc.

    Cal State Chico - 56%

    Texas A&M (highly selective admission) - 80%

    So either students are unprepared, unmotivated or unsuitable. Doesn't say much for K-12 preparation. But people who cant graduate in 6 years don't belong in university.

    So, become much more selective in enrollment (reduce student population to those most likely to benefit), eliminate useless programs.. gender studies and the like, which prepare students for nothing useful. That would significantly reduce costs without reducing output of qualified, skilled graduates. Half the students, double the graduation rates. Same skilled output, 1/2 the cost.

  25. I love it, Maldonado says "we've built". Who's that ?You?It's the taxpayers of NV lady, not you or anyone on UNLV.Listening to the pro tax crowd on these posts and the lie that a blank check for higher education brings jobs to a state then why are all the Democrat high tax states have the highest unemployment in the US and losing businesses and population? CA, NY, MA, PA, OH losing congressional seats at DC cause of the POPULATION they lost.NV lost Chase bank when Guinn sounded like a Democrat and they went to ND.NV is a great place again, with REALISTIC property values and low taxes.In the next 10 yrs lets see where CA is v NV with the Democrats running CA, which lost lots of biz and people 2000-10.Academia is left wing, well now you get to pay for your wrong headed policies for our country's economy. How about letting us drill for our own oil? Lots of tax revenues could be generated there and would lower cost of fuel and food to consumers. How about nuclear power? How about gas? Academia can pay and like everyone else. Maybe they should all take progressive pay cuts since they are so caring and giving as they claim. You make 250K now its 150K\, you make 150K now its 100K, academia show us you care and volunteer for some pay cuts then you can save other people's jobs there and programs.If you all cut your salaries you can save jobs and programs in a city where a house in 2006 was 325K now is 115K.90K a yr goes a long way in Las Vegas.Maybe academia and the Democrat can explain why cost of education has gone up triple the inflation rate in the last 30 years while they complain about not getting enough of everyone else's money. the days that academia and the Democrats thinking challenging education costs is political suicide and can simply say " republicans hate children" are OVER.CHANGE HAS COME TO AMERICA!