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The long and arduous road ahead for NSHE faculty

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.

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