Nevada Faculty Alliance
 

NFA News Archive

  • 23 Mar 2011 11:32 AM | Anonymous
    NFA Board member Sondra Cosgrove, College of Southern Nevada, filed this report from yesterday's budget hearing in Carson City.

    On Tuesday, March 22, the joint Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Higher Education Committee met to discuss the state allocation to Nevada's System of Higher Education. Legislators pushed System Chancellor Dan Klaich to provide fuller detail about the System's plans to cut $162 million as proposed by Governor Sandoval. The subcommittee members asked Klaich to provide additional information about the impact on students by prioritizing instructional budgets, which include most faculty positions, over administrative costs and other non-instructional budget lines.

    Although the Board of Regents has constitutional authority over the System, the legislature determines the funding for each campus and other NSHE entities.

    The meeting began with Chair Steven Horsford stating his appreciation for the students, faculty, and community members who visited the legislature Monday, March 21, to express concerns over higher education budget cuts. 

    Senator Horsford began by asking NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich if the Board of Regents had decided to take mergers and closures of campuses and sites off the table for budget cuts at the March 11 meeting. Chancellor Klaich affirmed. Institution presidents then provided a summary of their presentations from the Regents meeting on how each institution would handle budget reductions if the governor’s budget passed without change. 

    The presidents of UNLV and UNR presented specific academic programs that would be cut, including the exact number of faculty and staff to cut and the number of students affected. The colleges, which have different financial structures, focused on reducing access for students rather than eliminating programs.

    The System did not have a complete template available for the hearing to demonstrate the full impact of the Governor's budget. Some committee members wanted to know why there was a different emphasis between the two types of institutions. Assemblyman Marcus Conklin explained that, in general, the universities provide complete degree programs, while the community colleges provide core classes, certificates and other workforce-related services. After this explanation, all the presidents affirmed that their institutions were undergoing program/curricular review to be sure that duplication of programs and other services is eliminated when possible.

    Senator Horsford questioned the wisdom of reviewing programs before discussing workforce needs with the business community and before the Governor’s office has presented an economic development plan. Assemblyman Paul Aizley and Chancellor Klaich both emphasized that the Governor’s office and the legislature need to communicate the state economic development plan to NSHE officials and be ready to fund higher education sufficiently to accommodate those plans.

    Committee members questioned why the budget plans presented did not reduce NSHE’s budget to the level of cuts required by the Governor’s budget. They also wanted to know why mergers and closures had been taken out of the plans at the last Regents meeting if doing so made it impossible for NSHE to meet the Governor’s cuts.

    Committee members were also noticeably concerned about how students would be hurt, whether by eliminating programs at the universities or cutting class sections at the community colleges. Committee members asked Chancellor Klaich to ensure that the System was doing everything it could to move funding from non-instructional areas to academic budgets. Senator Horsford asked Chancellor Klaich to provide a budget reduction template that each institution can complete to show how much money is being allocated to funding in comparable areas.

    At the end of the meeting, Senator Horsford asked Chancellor Klaich to prepare a report due by April 5. First, the System Office needs to use a template for budget cutting for all institutions that shows the true amount that will need to be cut under the Governor’s budget. This must include mergers and closures. Second, the System Office needs to provide a report on reforms that will divert more funding to instruction; streamlining administrative costs is one area to be addressed. Third, the System needs to create a budget report that prioritizes all state funding in the NSHE budget, including non-instructional budgets such as inter-collegiate athletics, statewide programs and the University Press.

    At the end of the meeting, Board of Regents Chair James Dean Leavitt asked that legislators send a clear message on what Nevada values as a state. And he asked that they devote equivalent time to examining how to raise revenues as they have for cutting budgets.

    NFA lobbyist Jim Richardson testified that it was demoralizing for faculty to hear from the Governor that the education system in Nevada has failed. He pointed out that Utah employs two times as many faculty at its public higher education institutions than Nevada, despite the fact that Utah has a population only 100,000 people greater than Nevada.


  • 21 Mar 2011 11:01 AM | Anonymous
    Today's student protest in Carson City is attracting widespread media attention. Click the links below for the latest coverage from news outlets around the state:

  • 18 Mar 2011 3:34 PM | Anonymous
    Students from all over the state will be in Carson City Monday to speak to legislators about the importance of adequate funding for higher education. You can help. Please find time Monday to make eight calls on personal time, using personal phones.

    Targeted legislators phone numbers and emails:www.tinyurl.com/NVLeg2011

    Talking points and script for the calls: www.tinyurl.com/Faculty-calls

    Cuts alone are no solution. We need to let our legislators know that we expect more from them than just simple slogans. All NV legislators should come to the table prepared to find a balanced solution to the economic crisis. We have had enough of boom-and-bust cycles every few years that leave us vulnerable as a state to such crises as the one we are in now. We need broad-based, stable and fair revenue policy so that we can plan a secure future that offers real opportunities for ourselves and our children.

    Higher Education has been part of the solution. We have cut administrative costs and faculty salaries and benefits (with more cuts to come). We have cut low-yield programs and with them more than 100 faculty lines and 500 staff jobs statewide. We have increased class sizes and faculty course loads. Students have paid significantly more in tuition (with more fee hikes likely to come).

    Higher Education is how we get out of this crisis. It's how workers train and retrain for new jobs. It's how we diversify our economy from its current third-world model of resource extraction (i.e., mining) and tourism. Its how we reverse Nevada's currently hostile business environment which drives away innovative employers and talented workers. It's how we improve our quality of life and inform our citizenry that a better future is possible.

    But according to 2010 census data, Nevada currently has the lowest rate of college participation (college degrees plus those enrolled) in the country. We also have the lowest ratio of degree offerings in proportion to college-eligible population in the country. (Note that our neighbor, Arizona, has the highest ratio of degree programs to college-eligible population, and that as a result, it will likely have twice as high a college participation rate as Nevada by 2020.) Cutting more programs and raising tuition, in short, will make it harder to go to college in a state that desperately needs to improve its participation rate to compete in the 21st century.

    Investment in higher education returns at a high rate. A recent study showed that, for every public dollar invested in Nevada's colleges and universities, the state economy grew by $2.50. So by cutting public investment in higher education, we are leaving money on the table at a time when we badly need to find better bets than what we've been laying our money on in the recent past: mining, tourism and real estate development alone.

    Can you give thirty minutes of your own phone time on Monday to make eight calls that can help save higher education – and everything it represents: our hope for a different, better future in this state?

  • 10 Mar 2011 9:30 PM | Deleted user
    Presidents Smatresk and Glick this week released respective plans to cut UNLV's and UNR’s budgets by a combined $57 million in the coming biennium. They will present these plans at Friday's Board of Regents meeting for discussion, though no direct action is expected.
     

    UNR President Milt Glick notified his campus Monday that he will propose a plan to cut $26 million (which is only half of the reduction for UNR in the Governor's proposed budget). This plan, which he described in a letter to the campus, would cut 260 positions, of which 150 layoffs. The academic programs specified in this proposal are the School of Social Work, French, Theater and Dance, whose faculty would be laid off, through a process of curricular review. The remainder of the cut would be achieved through reduction in facilities management, information technology, student services, library and other support functions.

    UNLV President Neal Smatresk sent a letter and a plan to the UNLV campus Wednesday. It proposes to eliminate another 300 positions campus-wide, of which 160 academic positions, including 120 layoffs of full-time instructional lines (almost all of which are tenured or tenure-track). This would involve the elimination of more than 30 degree programs and 12 academic departments. It would reduce our student headcount by several thousand. This plan also includes anticipated across-the-board salary reductions of 5 percent and increases in student fees of greater than 10 percent each year of the biennium (including significantly sharper increases in those programs that will offer market-based tuition).

    These plans – and moreover, the state budget plan on which they are based – represent the end of Nevada's universities as we have known them. Everyone will be impacted – most immediately those whose jobs, livelihoods and careers are at risk; obviously our students; but also, all faculty who would remain would be working in a very different environment. Many were asking yesterday, "Are you safe?" No one should feel "safe" or unaffected.

    Friday the Board of Regents will discuss, but not act on, these plans. There are many questions that the Regents need to ask and much discussion they need to undertake about strategic planning and setting priorities. They also need to take responsibility for difficult decisions about tuition and fees, about whether they intend to preserve faculty rights during the implementation of cuts when they are made and, above all, about whether there are parts of the NSHE budget not yet discussed or potential sources of revenue or reserves that ought to be included in spending reduction plans given this extraordinary moment. It's unlikely that this will all be addressed on Friday, but we ought to at least wait and see.

    Obviously, the legislature now has a clear choice. Many legislators have said that they have not yet seen "pain" in the System of Higher Education, and especially its universities. There are some, clearly, who want only to inflict pain; there are even some who seem to think the highest priority at this moment is to authorize concealed lethal weapons to be carried on campus. In short, legislators need to take a clear look at what is in front of them. If they have problems with the credibility of the System leadership's claims in the past about budget impacts, then, by all means, address those concerns with those who made them in the past. But it is simply wrong to visit that issue on current and future students and faculty by pretending that unprecedented cuts of this magnitude do not represent "any real pain."

    On campus, the Faculty Advisory Committee has been working on several fronts and will likely become more visible after we get some greater degree of clarification following the Board meeting. The campus and statewide NFA have also been preparing for the political and legal issues that will soon be raised. In the meantime, please stay informed and involved. Many good ideas have been suggested, and in many cases I have urged those suggesting them to follow up – do the budget research, do the logistical planning, communicate the thought publicly. Now is not the time to ask, "What will be done for me?"

    Those who are
    NFA members at the time of an action (such as a layoff notice) would be eligible for legal defense support. But just as there is no angel that is going to solve the state's budget mess, there is no one idea, person or action that is going to solve its awful impact on our campus community. We, the faculty, have long been and remain a big part the solution, through our collective and individual sacrifices.

    We now need to find it in ourselves to respond to the magnitude of this threat. Faculty leadership, the NFA and faculty senates statewide are preoccupied on these issues almost full-time. Speaking for myself, I welcome everyone's involvement in all ways.

    No one else understands better than we do what is at stake.
  • 04 Mar 2011 3:39 PM | Anonymous
    Senator Horsford chaired yesterday’s joint meeting of the Higher Education subcommittees of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways & Means committees. The hearing focused on major issues confronting NSHE and the Legislature as this crucial budget is dealt with.

    Chancellor Klaich’s opening statement stressed that the Executive Budget from the Governor would force dramatic changes in NSHE, erode the breadth and quality of our programs, and limit access for many students. Klaich indicated that there would be entire communities in rural areas with no access to higher education accept for distance ed courses.

    The committee discussed the Governor’s proposal to shift property tax revenues from the counties to the two universities, which Senator Horsford worried would cost jobs that would be funded through the two counties. He asked if some of the proceeds could also be shared with the colleges. Most importantly, he asked (but got no real answer) why the Governor did not ask all counties to participate in this particular “shared sacrifice”?

    Although he stressed that the Board had taken no position, the Chancellor expressedhis opinion that if taxes were diverted from any one county, they should be diverted from all, as the System serves the entire state. He also expressed his opinion that any funds should benefit all teaching institutions in the same way as federal ARRA fund did.

    There also was much discussion of the allocation of money in the NSHE budget, given that NSHE used current enrollments instead of a legislative-directed use of the three-year rolling average. Klaich made the point that the three-year rolling average would have resulted in a distorted budget that would still be dramatically underfunded under the Governor's proposal, resulting in major cuts to NSHE institutions either way. Senator Horsford asked for a revised budget using the three-year average, and the Chancellor agreed to furnish that information.

    The use of current enrollments rather than three-year rolling averages has been criticized by some who believe it undercounts enrollment at the rapidly growing community colleges, especially CSN. The Chancellor responded that using the three year rolling average would result in enrollment projections for community colleges that would be unattainable and unreasonable, since the rapid growth is unlikely to continue, given the scarcity of resources.

    Questions were asked about how salaries in NSHE compare to other institutions and whether NSHE institutions are losing some of their best faculty. (The NFA has addressed that question at length in previous postings.)

    Presidents from DRI, UNLV and UNR spoke to this issue, agreeing that our salaries are regionally competitive, but that we hire in a national and international market, that we are losing ground rapidly and that some top faculty are leaving or looking for other jobs.

    The three areas where some significant policy changes have been proposed by NSHE were also discussed, but it was unclear whether there was support from them among the legislators on the two subcommittees.

    These issues are 1. the retention of tuition and fees by each campus (without this money being reduced from its State General fund allocation); 2. allowing NSHE institutions to retain unspent general fund dollars at the end of a fiscal year; and 3. flexibility to allow moving funds from one budget category to another during this time of crisis.

    The WUE program, whereby residents of some counties close to Nevada get a price break on tuition, came under heavy scrutiny. Some made claims made that this program was costing us millions, since those students pay only 150 percent of resident fees, instead of the full non-resident tuition (which is considerably higher). This issue will have to be addressed by the regents because it has become a focus of concern by some legislators.
  • 02 Mar 2011 10:18 AM | Anonymous

    Frank Daniels (a Nevada Faculty Alliance member from Great Basin College) analyzes the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce study on public service worker compensation and finds that Nevada higher education faculty have fallen farther behind the national average between 2008 and 2010, before the latest round of furloughs (and the anticipated next round of across-the-board salary reductions) are calculated.

    Moreover, Daniels finds, the Chamber of Commerce study does not address benefits, which for Nevada faculty were already a significantly lower percentage of total compensation (21 percent) than the national average for higher ed faculty (27 percent, according to the American Association of University Professors annual report) .

    Daniels crunches the numbers in the study and finds the following:

    • The central result of the study is being reported by the media as Nevada public-sector employees having salaries that rank ninth overall in the nation.

    • This number is rather misleading already, because it is based on raw numerical value, not taking into account purchasing power, i.e., differing standards of living in the different states. (Most people use their salary primarily to buy things – rather than compare the numerical value – so a higher dollar-value salary in a higher-cost state may be a less valuable salary in terms of purchasing power.)

    The details about education are more interesting for our purposes:

    • Whereas the salary for the average K-12 teacher went up during the period of the study (2008-2010), the salary of the average college instructor was diminished by 1.1 percent. While the salary of the typical K-12 instructor in Nevada in 2009 was 96.4 percent of the mean salary across all the states, the salary of the typical college instructor was 90.5 percent of the average professor's salary in the USA.

    • Salaries for Nevada instructional faculty ranked 33rd in the nation in 2009, placing us not only below the mean salary, but also well below the median of state rankings.

    • In fact – and this is disconcerting – of the 32 classifications of public employees in the study, not only are Nevada’s college instructors ranked the lowest of any category of Nevada worker in comparison to national norms, but no other class of public service employee in Nevada is ranked any lower than 19th in the nation.

    • If we look only at state-funded salaries, the numbers for NSHE are even lower. Excluding all faculty paid by sources other than state dollars, average salary for Nevada college instructors falls to 89.8 percent of the average professor's salary in the USA and our national ranking falls to 34th in the nation.

    • And just as Nevada has the lowest percent of government employees (only 4.37 percent of all state employees work in the public sector), Nevada has fewer per capita faculty than most other states.

    • So, NV is spending a significantly lower portion of its public dollars – and of its total state income – on higher education faculty than any other state.

    These statistics raise a very profound question about why the governor is proposing cutting salaries when we already are below national averages. These data, plus the deterioration of the health plan, make it hard to attract and retain faculty. Not to mention, if the Governor’s budget proposal is implemented, hundreds more faculty and staff will be laid off – and the share of state resources invested in higher education will drop even more.

  • 02 Mar 2011 10:04 AM | Anonymous

    The NSHE Task Force that the Chancellor appointed last fall to analyze the impact of the PEBP Board's proposal for a new insurance model has posted its report, which will be discussed by the Regents at the upcoming Board meeting March 10-11.

    The NFA was well represented on the Task Force, by UNR Professor Jim Richardson and UNLV Professor of Health Care Administration Chris Cochran. The full report has been available on the Chancellor's website since late January, and can be found on the NFA website here.

    Because it is rather lengthy, including various appendices, a summary has been prepared by Chris Cochran and is available here. (Note that even this brief summary is six pages single-spaced; this topic is truly not for the faint of heart or the rushed...)

    The key elements of the recommendations follow:

    • NSHE should engage (as NFA already has through the Benefits Coalition) to seek legislative action to ameliorate the impact of the PEBP Board proposal, at a minimum by increasing the amount of money allocated to each individual participant's Health Savings Account.

    • NSHE should explore offering a "flexible benefit option," a supplemental health benefit available to NSHE active employees for FY 12. (This might involve a three-year pilot program of NSHE operating a supplemental, partially separate or fully separate health insurance pool for its professional and classified employees.)

    • NSHE should seek greater flexibility in handling the full array of benefits for its professional and classified employees, just as it currently operates the RPA retirement accounts independently of the state. This might enable NSHE to redirect the anticipated increase of a fraction of a percent of the state match for our RPA retirement accounts towards health benefits. This might also enable NSHE to explore whether we could obtain more cost-effective coverage as a separate insurance pool than PEBP offers currently. (This is not to recommend that NSHE leave PEBP outright, which would require legislative approval and could be costly for both entities; rather, it is to consider becoming a separate, autonomous insurance pool within PEBP.)

    In support of these recommendations, the report includes an evidence-based comparison of PEBP benefits – current and projected under the new CDHP plan being proposed to take effect this summer – with the health benefits offered by leading private employers in Nevada and with those offered by public and private institutions or systems of higher education in the West. The Task Force found that Nevada is already at a "competitive disadvantage" with the current benefits and is likely to be even less competitive with the higher premiums and deductibles, and reduced co-insurance and reduced dental coverage included in the PEBP Board Plan for the coming biennium. (This comparison is based upon the work of an independent consultant retained by NSHE to provide an empirical analysis of PEBP benefits.)

    This data leads to a series of recommendations. The full recommendations are reproduced below for those unable or too short of time to read through to Pages 5-6 of the summary.

    a. The Task Force recommends that NSHE have Gallagher Benefits update and finalize their
    comparative data analysis as soon as the PEBP premium levels are known February).

    b. The Task Force recommends that NSHE be very active in the upcoming legislative
    session regarding health care benefits for its employees. This could include supporting
    improvements in the PEBP health care program over what has been approved by the
    PEBP Board, adjusting the structure to include both a high and low deductible option
    (since the current plan with only a high deductible option and an HMO will be relatively
    unique in comparison to other public and private employers) and/or consideration of
    viable near‐term alternatives for how NSHE provides health care benefits to its
    employees.

    c. It is recommended that NSHE develop a communications plan with an external focus, to
    highlight that NSHE employees do not have high benefits, and are in general not in the
    PERS retirement program (except for classified and a very small percentage of
    faculty/professional staff who came from PERS covered employment).

    d. NSHE should support an implementation year adjustment for spouse or domestic
    partners that are covered under non‐PEBP plans, to allow flexibility for the six (6) month
    period of overlap between those on a calendar year plan schedule.

    e. Consideration should be given to extending the enrollment period, as was done last
    legislative session to allow employees to adjust to the radical changes in the PEBP plan,
    and still have a July 1, 2011 implementation date. It is recognized there is a relatively
    large cost associated with this option.

    f. Phase‐in of the reductions in HMO rates in the North, if in fact these rates drop over
    what exists now. There is a PEBP policy for short‐term/2 ‐year subsidy for large rate
    increases, and this is inserted below. It should be noted that this subsidy policy is
    currently in effect with the Northern HMO program for FY10/FY11, but at their 1/13/11
    meeting the PEBP Board suspended this policy for the FY12/FY13 biennium. This adds
    additional concern since the northern HMO rates have been under this subsidy policy
    for the current biennium, combined with the fact that the pooling of rates north and
    south will clearly lead to reductions in the north and increases in the south. The HMO
    participants in the south will therefore have no advantage of this subsidy policy during a
    biennium when their rates will increase due to higher costs in the north.

    Supplemental subsidy allocation:
    • A supplemental subsidy will be allocated to any tier and plan with participant
    contribution increases:
      * greater than one and a half times the blended medical trend as provided by plan
    actuaries, and
      * greater than $100.
    • The supplemental subsidy will be the amount required to reduce the participant
    contribution percent increase to the average of the unsubsidized participant
    contribution and the blended medical trend, but no lower than the amount required
    to reduce the increase of the participant contribution to $100.

    Other Overall Recommendations:

    a. It is the recommendation of this Task Force that NSHE establish a system‐wide
    standing committee on NSHE benefits overall, to include Health Care Benefits but
    not just limited to this program. This would include a focus on future health care
    coverage (including impacts of federal requirements) and retirement issues. This
    group, while working with System staff, would also focus on how we can effectively
    communicate with legislators and other key groups that NSHE employees have
    major differences in retirement coverage, and that our "compensation" is not
    consistent with the previous reports distributed about overall "public employee
    compensation." The System needs to take immediate action in communicating these
    facts to key constituent groups.

    b. The Task Force recommends that NSHE immediately begin researching future
    options to identify alternative approaches to providing health care benefits for NSHE
    employees that are independent and outside of the current PEBP program, including
    viable options for communications and/or action steps initiated in the 2011
    legislative session. This could include consideration of fully insured programs,
    self‐insured, and/or combining with other large public employee groups.

    c. If the current PEBP plan for FY12 cannot be changed, the Task Force recommends
    that a request be made to the Board of Regents to provide some funding to support
    a Flexible Health Benefits Account for each NSHE employee to offset medical cost
    increases and improve retention and recruitment. The “flexible benefit credit”
    approach to provide employees with additional health care funding seems to be the
    most flexible and easiest to implement of any options reviewed. It is recognized that
    a key factor in implementing this recommendation is identifying funding, especially
    in this financial climate.

    d. As the Chancellor and Board of Regents consider the option of providing
    supplemental benefits for NSHE employees, we would like to highlight several
    potential challenges and key issues that would need to be addressed if supplemental
    benefits are provided. We have attempted to highlight these issues below.

    1) A major issue relates to identifying funding to provide additional health care
    support, which will be challenging in this fiscal environment.

    2) Another major issue that would have to be discussed relative to
    supplemental benefits is a legal one relative to the Board authority over
    NSHE state classified staff. It is the view of the Task Force that any
    supplemental benefits authorized by the Board cover ALL NSHE employees
    including state classified staff employed by NSHE.

    3) The supplemental benefit approach recommended by this Task Force would
    not be applicable for retirees under the current administrative structure. In
    fact, we have not been able to identify any supplemental option for retirees
    that would not require the development of an administrative solution.
    Retirees interact directly with PEBP for health care, and this information
    does not come through NSHE.

    4) The Task Force recommends the Board of Regents consider the option for a
    graduated rate/premium structure based on income levels (or allocation of
    supplemental benefits from NSHE based on the same).

    5) The Task Force recommends NSHE seek additional flexibility in managing all
    “benefits,” specifically, the option to consider retirement and health care
    programs as a package within all benefits, given they are the two largest
    benefit programs by far. Additionally, there will be an added opportunity this
    coming legislative session, with the projected significant increase required
    for the PERS employee/employer contributions (moving from the current
    11.25% for employee and employer to 12.25%). Most NSHE
    professional/faculty do not participate in PERS, therefore does do not
    contribute to any future state retirement liability. If NSHE received the
    normal funding for retirement, health care and all other benefits, but was
    given the flexibility to manage them as needed, we would be able to
    consider a total compensation review of our competitiveness for
    recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, with no increase in funding
    from the state over what they provide to all other agencies.

    6) Continue the analysis of the data from PEBP on actual claims experience for
    NSHE employees in a form appropriate to compare the revenue and
    expenses from NSHE (net costs), along with utilization trends relative to the
    NSHE population. This will help foresee the longer range options and
    opportunities for NSHE relative to health care programs.

    7) NSHE should argue for alternative approaches to what exists now relative to
    how PEBP negotiates rates for medical procedures (and including overhead
    and profit costs). More transparency is needed regarding this process to
    assure that PEBP members and taxpayers are getting the best prices
    available.

    8) NSHE should consider developing specific health care options for NSHE
    employees for the following biennium (2013‐2015). These
    options/alternatives should consider ways that NSHE resources of health
    professionals, health programs (med school, dental school, nursing
    programs, etc.), and health and wellness centers might be used as part of an
    overall plan to provide health care benefits to our employees.

  • 24 Feb 2011 8:58 AM | Deleted user
    It',s been a long week since last Tuesday, when UNLV President Neal Smatresk took the first step towards a declaration of financial exigency. A lot has been written in the press about the financial crisis at UNLV, which you've been able to follow if you are receiving our daily bulletins and weekly updates. (If not, or if there are colleagues who would like to receive them, there's a simple sign-up box on the NFA website.)

    I think the most important thing for us all to keep in mind is that this will be, as it has been for at least the past three years, a long and arduous road for everyone, and there is no simple solution or silver bullet that will make our situation go away. Nor is there any inevitable, irreversible outcome that is pre-ordained. The situation is just as unpredictable this week as it has been for the past several months or years. And no one at any level is entirely able to understand, or control, the entire outcome. It was remarked to me today "I don't know what to believe so I believe anything." I responded that "I don't know what to believe either, but I'm least likely to believe those things that are simple or easy."

    So that means we need to be smart and keep our heads. It is, I believe, important that the faculty remind the community, the state government and the Regents not only what irreversible and deeply detrimental damage financial exigency, and the budget that would induce it, would do to the future of the region and the state. We must also remind them of the seriousness with which faculty have and continue to approach the state's structural budget crisis. This article  on our blog is my best effort to make that case by reviewing not only the specific sacrifices we have made, but also the measures we have supported to avert exigency over the past three years.

    As I see it, we are in the first of what promises to be many phases of the long and arduous road we'll have to travel this year as an institution and as a faculty. The current phase is not the phase in which an actual declaration of exigency will or will not be made, nor in which an actual exigency plan would be implemented. The current phase, it seems to me, involves two issues that are really much larger: discussions towards a budget plan for implementing cuts in the case of an exigency and discussions towards a budget plan that would avert exigency. By no means is the latter an alternative that holds no pain for faculty, students or UNLV. But also by no means is the former an unavoidable outcome. That is, we should be seeking all measures to avert exigency, but we should not expect that merely averting exigency would avert crushing cuts to our programs.

    The current phase, it seems to me, will run through at least March 10 as the Provost compiles a budget plan, which may or may not be presented to the Board of Regents on that date. In reality, it will run through the end of the legislative session in June (or later).

    In the meantime, rumors are, of course, running rampant about what will be in that plan, and published news reports may begin soon to appear reporting on one or another aspect of it. My personal view is not to put a lot of stock in such reports. As I told one reporter who called today for a comment on the plans in one particular college, "Any plan that has been leaked to you is obviously being leaked for a reason and not because the Provost has already adopted that idea."

    For the faculty leadership, then, this is a time to ask questions about that plan's outlines and intentions and to inform ourselves about what sort of choices can be made in developing budget plans under normal circumstances and under exigency.
  • 24 Feb 2011 8:51 AM | Anonymous
    Andrew Doughman of the Nevada News Bureau filed this extensive story on how the state is losing, and has been for some time, not only leading faculty but also the grants, contracts and research enterprises they generate. As Michael Wixom has said, "we're losing real dollars in real time" by not supporting higher education faculty.

    A former DRI researcher made this point quite directly: “It turns out, ironically, that the state of Texas has big economic problems as well,” Young said in a phone interview. “But there’s a very fundamentally different level of understanding in terms of what the university does for the economy and for the future of the state [in Texas]. You don’t really hear that a lot in Nevada.”

    The hearing described in the story was held by the Senate Select Committee on Economic Diversification and Employment, chaired by Senator Rubin Kihuen. It heard testimony about programs in other states to invest public dollars in building areas of research focus at institutions of higher education to jumpstart economic development. Such programs have been successful in Virginia, Utah and elsewhere, in part because the state committed adequate resources not only to "steal top faculty" from other states but also to build a strong all-around faculty to provide a solid basis for advanced research and training.
  • 24 Feb 2011 8:41 AM | Anonymous
    by Sandra Cosgrove
    College of Southern Nevada

    On Feb. 23 the joint Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee listened to a report by PEBP Executive Officer Jim Wells on proposed changes to the Public Employees Benefits Program. These are the changes we in NFA have been following since July, 2010. Three legislators specifically asked very probing questions regarding the impact these changes will have on participants. Senator Mo Denis, Assemblyman Marcus Conklin and Assemblyman Paul Aizley asked questions that indicate their serious unease with the proposed changes. Issues raised included:

    1.  Why is the state shifting healthcare costs to individual PEBP participants when the state agreed to pay these costs when participants were hired?

    2.  Why are public employees being subjected to pay reductions and substantial increases in healthcare costs?  This seems to be a disproportionate level of sacrifice to be asked of one group of Nevadans.

    3.  Will these disproportionate sacrifices drive lower income state workers on to the welfare rolls?

    4.  Will these higher healthcare costs keep participants from going to the doctor and will this reluctance cause disease to go undiscovered until treatment options are very expensive?

    5.  Do higher utilization costs discriminate against participants with health issues?

    6.  Will healthy participants leave the program and opt to buy better private insurance?

    7.  Is there any guarantee that HSA and HRA monies rolled over from year to year won’t be taken back at some future date?

    NFA Lobbyist Jim Richardson spoke about the impact on NSHE faculty and staff and asked the Committee to please consider adding more money to the PEBP budget. He reiterated the fear that low income employees will not be able to afford even basic healthcare for themselves and their families.

    An AFSCME representative asked if healthcare providers will be required to provide price information to PEBP participants to allow them to really make consumer-driven choices. If we are expected to change our behavior based on knowing how much healthcare costs, then we need the actual dollar amounts charged for services.  

    Due to the many questions asked, the committee actually had to roll over the presentations scheduled after the PEBP report.
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