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  • 28 Oct 2011 2:00 PM | Deleted user
    You might have read recent news coverage of what happened to former University of Nevada, Reno, German professor Valerie Weinstein. Although accurate, it doesn’t include all the details of the story that matter to Nevada faculty members statewide.

    Weinstein, a tenured associate professor in the German studies program (Foreign Language Department), was laid off as part of the closure of the program, for budgetary reasons, and took a non-tenure track position as a visiting professor at Tulane University. At UNR she taught German, but also was the Director of the Gender, Race and Identity (GRI) program the last year she was here. She also taught in the Core Humanities program.

    Unbeknownst to pretty much everyone, right before Weinstein stopped receiving a salary (end of June), one of the lecturers in the GRI program tendered her resignation, and will be leaving in December. The administration then upgraded that position to a tenure-track position, and is offering it as a half-time GRI faculty position with the other half in some other department in the College of Liberal Arts.

    Weinstein found out about this and sent an email to the UNR President and Provost asking how this could happen, since it had been her understanding that such an upgrade from a lectureship was not going to happen. She had been offered a UNR lectureship in foreign languages, but at a reduced salary and higher teaching load. She declined the offer of the lecturer position.

    Thus, a tenure-track position became available that Weinstein could have easily filled, but it was not offered to her, nor was she notified of the position availability. The UNR Faculty Senate and chapter of NFA, both of which Weinstein belonged to when she was here, have gotten involved.

    The Dean of the College of Liberal arts, as well as the Provost, have argued that the tenure-track position is new and has nothing to do with Weinstein. It was created, they say, after she left, meaning it did not qualify as continuous employment. In addition, they claim slight differences between the new position and her previous one, so, they argue, it is not a strict code violation.   

    The UNR Faculty Senate began a vigorous debate on the issue and ultimately asked for a special meeting of the senate, held Thursday, Oct. 13. The UNR President, Provost and Dean of Liberal Arts were present and made their case, followed by questions from the senate. The administrators left after about an hour, and the senate discussed the issue for another 45 minutes, ultimately voting 16 to 9 in favor of requesting that the UNR Administration offer the position to Weinstein at her previous rank and salary. On Monday, Oct. 17, Faculty Senate Chair David Ryfe sent a letter to the administration making this request.

    The majority of the faculty senate basically felt that, at the very least, the spirit of the Nevada System of Higher Education Code was not being followed, and an opportunity to show support for tenure had been missed. Weinstein clearly was qualified for the position, had already gone through tenure and is a high-quality scholar.

    The code requires that, when a faculty member is laid off due to financial reasons, that position cannot be filled for at least two years. Section 5.4.7(c) of the NSHE Code states:
    “If a faculty member is laid off for the above stated reasons, the faculty member's position will not be filled within a period of two years, unless a reasonable attempt to offer reappointment has been unsuccessful or reappointment has been offered in writing and the faculty member has not accepted the same in writing within 20 calendar days of the receipt of the offer."
    The code does not specify what “the position” means, so the administration can simply close one position and open another in order to rehire for that position when it so desires.

    In this case a lecturer in the GRI program had resigned, and the position was upgraded to a tenure-track position, and so it was “different.”  Weinstein was clearly qualified for this tenure-track position, but had left the university for about a month, when this position was opened and a search initiated.

    During these times when faculty are being dismissed, this is an angle most of us failed to imagine. The NSHE Code can be interpreted either way, and, in the absence of a legal fight, the administration gets to make the interpretation.  

    The outcome of this situation was revealed in a memo sent to Faculty Senate Chair David Ryfe at an Oct. 20 faculty senate meeting.The administration denied the request to offer the position to former Associate Professor Valerie Weinstein.

  • 28 Oct 2011 12:00 PM | Anonymous
    Interim presidents have been named for two of the three Nevada System of Higher Education institutions currently seeking new leaders. Last week, the Board of Regents announced their unanimous approval of Lynn Mahlberg as interim president of Great Basin College and Bart Patterson as interim president of Nevada State College. Both will assume their new positions Nov. 1.

    GBC President Carl Diekhans announced his retirement in September. Former NSC President Lesley Di Mare accepted a position as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo. An NSHE spokesman said searches for permanent replacements for both are underway, but no timeframe has been set. A presidential search is also being conducted at University of Nevada, Reno, where Marc Johnson was named interim president in May, following the death of former president Milton Glick.
     
    Mahlberg, who holds a master’s degree in business administration from Golden Gate University, has been GBC’s vice president for student services for 10 years. She joined the college 20 years ago as director of admissions and records, rising steadily through the ranks over the years.

    Jason Geddes, Board of Regents chair, said: "Throughout her long career at Great Basin College, Lynn Mahlberg has played a critical role in the college's growth and success. Her proven expertise in academic excellence and leadership will ensure that all internal and external initiatives at the college will continue during this transition period."

    Patterson left his 13-year private law practice to join NSHE in March 2001. He served as deputy general counsel and assistant general counsel, as well as general counsel for the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College. In 2006, Patterson became the System’s chief council, and in September 2009 he was appointed vice chancellor of administrative and legal affairs.

    Patterson earned his juris doctorate from Duke University School of Law and is an adjunct instructor in public policy at Nevada State College.

    “Bart Patterson brings a wealth of credibility, intellect and critical thinking to the presidency, as well as his experience as a long-standing advocate for Nevada State College's mission,” Geddes said.
  • 25 Oct 2011 3:56 PM | Scott Huber
    In September the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents received the community college task force report along with its recommendations. Some of these recommendations are obvious and clearly needed, others are novel and still others are untried and controversial.

    The task force was charged by Chancellor Klaich in July 2010 with evaluating whether community colleges were truly aligned with the future employment and learning needs of Nevadans. The task force committee members represented a diverse group of business owners, business executives, K-12 and higher education individuals, and a former regent. The committee was chaired by Bruce James with additional System support by Dr. Magdalena Martinez. The committee visited all of the community colleges plus a number of other entities that either receive or produce students for the workforce.

    The report begins with a number of observations about the status of higher education in Nevada, projected workforce needs within the state, Nevada’s national ranking on these matters, and the character and function of the community colleges. The report then concludes with a number of recommendations. Given the diversity of committee members’ affiliations, and the fact that some of the recommendations represent a fundamental shift in how community colleges are to achieve their mission, there was no consensus on the recommendations by the committee members.

    This lack of consensus, however, should not preclude all of the recommendations from having a fair and detailed hearing. Some of them clearly point to areas that need attention or redress if Nevada is to have an educated citizenry and well-prepared workforce. To date, there is no strategic planning whereby community colleges and employers can comprehensively determine workforce needs now, or for the future. Technology will continue to be a transformational vehicle in all phases of education; this too ought to be implemented strategically and on an ongoing basis.

    Public schools are taking ownership of the fact that a significant number of the high school graduates who attend college for the first time require remedial classes. The System needs to create pathways from K-12 through college to career so that students have clearly defined goals. Avenues for students to gain an associate’s degree while still in high school are novel, as is the concept of variable-tuition pricing. These recommendations need airing, as some are sorely needed.

    Other recommendations in the report are revolutionary. Should public-private partnerships be explored? They should. Should public-private partnerships undermine or compromise the academic integrity of NSHE institutions? They should not.

    As for a Nevada Virtual College, there is arguably a place for it within NSHE. Using the current model, associate’s degrees could be offered online, self-paced. This model would enhance access and flexibility for certain students, reduce duplication of offerings and permit the redirection of resources. A virtual college could also reach out to students beyond our borders – for instance, to those in the military – and conceivably serve as a much-needed resource center for NSHE. Across the country, 22 states have adopted virtual colleges.

    However, the task force’s recommendation that the virtual college be put out to bid undermines the significant amount of work already begun in this area by Truckee Meadows Community College, Nevada State College and College of Southern Nevada. It begs the question of who will assume responsibility for academic integrity. Evidence is mounting that for-profit institutions have significant academic challenges they have yet to recognize, much less address.

    The task force report also recommends that K-12 address remedial issues for recent high school graduates, and that remedial education be outsourced for all others, so that community colleges can focus on preparing students for transfer or certificates. On the surface, this sounds fine… until one recognizes that a significant number of adult students returning to college do not need remedial instruction. These students (and they represent most adult returning students) do not lack specific skills so much as an understanding of the culture of success that is critical for any college student. These adult learners need encouragement, specific explanation and a one-on-one relationship with their professors far more than a basic skill set. For-profit institutions are prepared to offer content, but lack the ability to serve this other, often more important need.  

    While the task force’s recommendations are being discussed, it is imperative to keep the students in mind – not only because it is in their best interest, but also because the training they receive will best serve the needs of Nevada. Revolutionary ideas always contain unintended consequences. Those consequences rarely affect those doing the implementation, but always affect those on the receiving end.
  • 22 Sep 2011 9:29 AM | Anonymous
    Editor's note: Frank Daniels, president of the Great Basin College chapter of NFA, reported the facts of this story from Ely, Nev.

    Great Basin College President Carl Diekhans last week announced his plans to resign in the near future. For more on that, see the Elko Daily Free Press story.

    At Sept. 16 and 20 meetings comprised mainly of faculty members, the group reached a consensus as to how we would like the presidential search to proceed. Our senate chair, Sarah Negrete, also obtained information regarding the desire of certain administrators to be president. Members envisioned several different scenarios for its recommendation.

    The transition to a new president could take place in a few different ways, including an in-house administrator or faculty member taking over as interim president, or an outsider taking over as interim president while a search is being conducted. The former option appears to be the most likely at this time. Two people from GBC have expressed interest in the interim position, but neither wanted the permanent job. Advantages and disadvantages of both options have been debated at meetings.

    Chair Negrete asked about the search process. This is how we expect it to work:
    1. The college would hire an outside agency to oversee the application process, so that applications would remain confidential through the early part of the screening process.
    2. As specified by the Board of Regents Handbook, the presidential search committee will contain five members nominated by the faculty senate. The senate will probably make this selection within a week or so. If the chair adds members to the committee – which the process allows, then the senate will request that an equal number of faculty members be added likewise. This item will be discussed in followup meetings on Tuesday.
  • 22 Sep 2011 9:23 AM | Anonymous
    A story in the Sept. 16 issue of the Las Vegas Sun titled “Census shows big drop in public sector employment” ended on a note that raised many eyebrows in the NFA. The last line of the story read:
    “The silver lining for those who kept their jobs was that payrolls increased by $9 million for public school employees and $1.7 million for those in higher education when comparing March 2010 to March 2009.”
    Anyone employed by or following the Nevada System of Higher Education might have found it hard to believe that payroll went up with the loss of so many positions due to state budget cuts – and they’d be right.

    In fact, according to NSHE’s Fiscal and Operations Office, audited financials for June 2009 to June 2010 indicate that payroll and benefits in higher education actually went down $22.5 million from $950,335,000 to $927,755,000. NSHE began seeing position losses in fiscal year 2010, which was also the first year of the furlough program – both of which would reduce payroll.

    System and university financial analysts are looking into what might have caused the error in the census data.

  • 09 Sep 2011 5:44 PM | Anonymous
    Editor's note: Tracy Sherman, CSN Faculty Senate Chair, made the following statement to the Board of Regents on behalf of the NSHE Council of Faculty Senate Chairs.

    Faculty senate chairs across the state have serious concerns about the "Fresh Look at Community College" Task Force report as it was presented to the Board of Regents  Friday Sept. 9.

    Our faculties will take a great interest in this report and, we are certain, will want to verify the data it contains and to vet the recommendations. Our community college faculty share common goals with the task force and are working hard to achieve the goals outlined in the report: to meaningfully address the problem of remediation, to increase the number of degree holders in Nevada, to focus on student outcomes, and to provide Nevada students the educational pathways they deserve.

    At the same time, we as chairs would like to express skepticism regarding some of the recommendations' means to achieving these common ends. The concept of outsourcing education to entities that have a terrible track record of student success is, frankly, alarming to faculty across the state. We respectfully submit that as this report stands, despite the common goals among faculty and the task force, and despite several ideas worthy of investigation, many of the recommendations as they stand will not be acceptable to the vast majority of our faculty in Nevada, and we look forward to working with the Board of Regents to cull through the recommendations in order to determine the best course of action to achieve our common goals for the benefit of Nevada students, the state of Nevada, and the Nevada System of Higher Education/
  • 07 Sep 2011 11:15 AM | Anonymous
    Editor's note: The Nevada System of Higher Education Faculty Senate chairs delivered the following statement at the Board of Regents meeting Thursday, Sept. 8.

    Dear Chancellor, Chairman, and Regents,

    Over the past three years, we have all experienced great turmoil on our campuses as each institution sought mechanisms to deal with extreme budget cuts. Part of this process has been employment of Curricular Review.

    The Curricular Review process within the code is not well-defined, leaving much to be determined at the institutional level, and thus it has been implemented differently by different institutions. For example, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, used a previously established institutional curricular review process, and tenure rights and contracts were protected. Faculty at Truckee Meadows Community College, who enjoy the protection of a collective bargaining agreement, were involved in the development of an institutional curricular review process, and tenure rights and contracts were protected. And at Western Nevada College faculty were not involved in the development of the curricular review process, and tenured faculty are slated to be terminated – despite adequate class loads to justify their positions and the filling of vacancies in other, administrative positions.

    Such discrepancies have led to real apprehension on our campuses. The Nevada System of Higher Education Code sets forth just one set of contractual rights and due process to protect faculty, including tenured faculty. Any potential breach of those rights of tenured faculty on any campus is therefore a threat to the contractual rights of faculty across the system.

    Actions of the faculty senates have already begun to take place on some of our campuses this year – such as resolutions passed at WNC demanding tenure contracts be honored and requesting a new curricular review process be jointly developed by senate and administration – and more faculty senates are expected to take action this fall.  

    We, the faculty senate chairs, request continued diligence in the repair of the code, Title 2 Chapter 5, section 4.6, such that explicit instructions can facilitate a more consistent process. We also once more urge the Board and System leadership to give the potential termination of tenured faculty without a declaration of financial exigency the full and careful scrutiny that such a grave development for higher education warrants.

    Robin Herlands
    Faculty Senate Chair, Nevada State College
    On behalf of the NSHE Council of Faculty Senate Chairs

  • 01 Sep 2011 3:10 PM | Deleted user
    Advocating for quality public higher education, and the faculty who deliver it, is a difficult duty at this point in our history. Across the country, and especially in Nevada, these are hard times which require us in the NFA to take some hard looks and face some hard truths.

    Last year, the NFA state board began that hard reckoning. We acknowledged that the Alliance had not kept up with the times and needed to become both more professional and more adept. We took significant first strides in that direction by establishing a new media presence – a new website (nevadafacultyalliance.org), a widely read blog, Facebook, Twitter and a weekly e-newsletter that reached thousands of faculty, lawmakers, press and general interest readers. This year we will continue that work by integrating the Alliance more closely with our electronic communications. To make the most of this tool, we will rely on our members, and our colleagues, to contribute thoughtful content on the wide range of issues of concern to higher education faculty.

    But that is really the easy part.

    We also began last year taking an even harder look at our relationship with the AAUP, of which we have been the Nevada state affiliate for more than 30 years. Many of us have been disappointed that the AAUP has not been more responsive to our calls for help during the state financial crisis that has led to threats of program cuts and faculty terminations (including tenured faculty); and we have been outright indignant about the AAUP’s decision not only to raise member dues on some income bands but also to charge us at the highest income band for all our members – and to charge us at the collective bargaining rates.

    That bill to Washington would, if paid, consume more than 60 percent of NFA member dues – at a time when the need for member services in this state is the greatest in our history. So the NFA state board made a hard decision in January to withhold any further dues payments to the AAUP until we have resolved what sort of relationship the NFA and AAUP should have going forward. We have proposed to the AAUP that we would pay the dues in full but the national office would retain only enough to pay for services actually rendered – the magazine to our members and our members’ grants to travel to summer institutions and other leadership training. NFA would be immediately rebated the rest of our members dues, with 100 percent of that rebate being devoted to recruitment and member services in Nevada. This reasonable proposal remains on the table, but the time will come soon when the NFA membership – as a block, by campus chapters, or as individuals – will have to make a hard choice about whether the AAUP affiliation is in our best interest.

    In these times, we must take a hard look as well at our relationship to the System and Board of Regents. The NFA has long prided itself on being a constructive partner with the Regents and Chancellor’s office, but we must ensure this year that this partnership works both ways. Faculty leadership was rarely, if ever, called upon to speak during Regents’ discussions of the budget crisis; while students were regularly solicited to speak to the board on matters of concern such as fees, and while the impact on the community was given hours of public comment, the faculty perspective on degree program eliminations and the curricular review process was too often glossed over. As we look forward, and the System begins a new phase of strategic planning, we note with regret a near-total absence of faculty from the preliminary documents. The System, and its institutions, will never find a successful path out of the current crisis without its faculty taking a leading role, and it is our task and responsibility not only to the faculty but to the students, the System and the state, to stand firm when need be to ensure our classroom perspective guides the planning. And when faculty contract and due process rights are not respected, we will provide legal support to members with valid cases to bring.

    In our government relations, we must take a hard look at our allies. The NFA Political Action Committee – which has generally sought to lend our good name and precious treasure to the better candidate in nearly every race – will now have to make hard decisions and focus our efforts on a few candidates with a demonstrated commitment to quality, public higher education. We can no longer afford to support candidates merely due to party affiliation or a statement of support for “education.” We may well focus our attention in the coming cycle on the few elected officials in the state legislature and on the board of regents who demonstrate a real commitment to the concerns of higher ed faculty – ensuring adequate and fair funding for all our institutions, addressing the loss of competitive compensation and health benefits, and protecting what is best for our students, including contract rights and due process for faculty in hard times.

    Most of all, though, we must each take a hard look in the mirror at ourselves. NFA campus chapters and members cannot simply rely on the state board to address all concerns. All of us need to be involved this fall in developing active and effective strategies, suited to the situation on each campus, to recruit new members, mobilize existing members, and establish sustainable, effective models of advocacy. If you have not heard from your campus chapter president, contact him or her and volunteer your time and your energy.

    These are hard times for public higher education. For the NFA, this means it is a time for a hard look around.

  • 29 Aug 2011 3:18 PM | Anonymous
    Friday, Aug. 26, Jeffrey Downs, professor of mathematics at Western Nevada College, reported that the Faculty Senate he chairs had passed the following resolutions:

    Whereas CSN (College of Southern Nevada), GBC (Great Basin College), and TMCC (Truckee Meadows Community College) have not terminated tenured faculty in the 2011-2013 biennium due to Curricular Review, the WNC Academic Faculty Senate resolves that no WNC tenured faculty be terminated due to Curricular Review 2011-2013 and that no new faculty be hired during that period until those tenured faculty positions have been secured. Faculty are encouraged to refrain from serving on search committees until those tenured positions under curricular review are maintained or reassigned with tenure.

    Whereas WNC has no Curricular Review process established in its institutional bylaws, the Academic Faculty Senate resolves that the current Curricular Review process be rejected and a valid curricular review process be jointly developed by the administration and the Academic Faculty Senate.
  • 28 Aug 2011 1:40 PM | Anonymous
    The Western Nevada College Academic Faculty was summoned to a meeting on March 4, 2011 and informed of the pending Curricular Review process.This meeting was presented as an informational meeting and faculty were informed that the determinations for the cuts would be made by April 4. Faculty were asked if there were questions, but not invited to participate in developing the curricular review process outside the setting of this one-hour informational meeting.

    On April 4, the entire college was informed that seven faculty were being cut, but no specific reasons for the cuts were given. General justifications were that some had low enrollment, some had low program completions, and some taught developmental classes.  The WNC Academic Faculty Senate was informed that they must respond to the cuts proposed by the administration by May 4. The president was to make final cut decisions (pre-Reconsideration process) by May 13 to allow notices of termination to be issued by June 30, 2011.

    The WNC Academic Faculty Senate formed a Curricular Review Response Group (CRRG) to address the proposed cuts. The CRRG determined the seven affected faculty could be saved with the cuts being placed elsewhere in the institution. This finding was fully shared with the administration.

    The WNC Academic Faculty Senate voted in April 2011 for the WNC Administration to abandon the current Curricular Review Process and restart the process to include meaningful and substantial Academic Faculty input. The WNC Administration rejected this response and requested a meeting with the Curricular Review Response Group.

    May 2, 2011 The WNC Administration met with the Curricular Review Response Group.  The president asked if she could delay her decisions until Fall 2011, after the budget is decided by the legislature. The Curricular Review Response Group agreed.

    June 2011, the WNC administration offered five of the seven affected faculty a “super buyout” in the form of 150% of their salary. Two faculty accepted this. Two administrative vacancies are filled: A new director of the foundation via a search committee and a coordinator of work force development is appointed without a search committee.

    August 22, 2011, the administration meets with the Curricular Review Response Group. The funding shortfall for WNC was 18% rather than 31%.  Several of the administrative and classified employees who were slated to be cut are retained. Two of the remaining five faculty members have a potential  reassignment. As stated by VP of Human Resources, one of the reassigned faculty members would not retain her tenure in her new assignment.

    August 26, 2011, the WNC Academic Faculty Senate passes another resolution again rejecting the Curricular Review process and requesting the process be restarted with faculty involvement. Another resolution is passed encouraging faculty to not serve on search committees until the five faculty affected by Curricular Review are retained.

    August 30, 2011, the president and VP Human Resources/Legal Counsel meet the the Academic Faculty Senate chair and former chair/NFA Chapter President to discuss the resolution. The president and VP take the position that the March 4 meeting was the time the Academic Faculty were supposed to give input to the VP of Academic and Student Affairs prior to her making the decisions for the cuts. The meeting ends with the two sides disagreeing as to the content of the March 4 meeting.

    September 5, 2011, the five remaining tenured faculty members stand to undergo the Reconsideration Process at WNC with two having potential reassignments, pending funds.

    September 6, 2011, no letters of termination have been sent to the affected faculty.  The affected faculty have no written declaration citing cause for their termination.

    The Academic Faculty Senate approved two facutly members for the Reconsideration Committee. The president appointed the VP of Academic and Student affairs and another faculty member to the reconsideration committee. The president appointed a former administrator for the college as the chair for this committee. This person is paid as a consultant to the college. The chair has a vote only in the case of a tie.

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