The New NSHE Funding Formula, the Good, the Bad and the Worse

August 30, 2012

This statement was delivered at the Board Of Regents’ Special meeting at DRI South on August 24, 2012

The Good

  •  The plan to retain student fees and tuition on the respective college campuses should promote an entrepreneurial approach to higher education that has worked very successfully in many other states such as Arizona and Oregon.
  • Establishing a base formula in which the funding is tied to local student demand and the cost of content delivery is fair and transparent.
  • The emphasis on number of graduates rather than on enrollment should make institutions more accountable.

The Bad

  • The performance pool is disproportionately weighted in favor of the number of graduates, and is therefore only weakly tied to performance as recognized by students, faculty and organizations involved in ranking colleges and universities. There is much too great an emphasis on numbers and not on quality and efficiency.

The Worse

  • The absence in the performance pool of national benchmarks provides little incentive, particularly for the universities, to become centers of excellence

As you may know, student loan debt has replaced auto loan debt and credit card debt as the top source of debt in the nation. The total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $870 billion. For all borrowers across the nation, the average student debt is $23,000. In this regard, it is important to point out that the longer a student pursues a degree, the greater the debt accrued. That is, there’s a strong relationship between the years to completion and the accumulated debt. Moreover, students who fail to graduate accrue large amounts of debt without any of the considerable economic benefits of obtaining a BS or BA degree.

In Nevada, we cannot just reward institutions for the number of graduates. We also must incentivize our institutions to become better at the efficiency with which we graduate our students. In 2010, approximately 14% of students at UNR and UNLV completed their degrees in four years. The six-year graduate rates, about 40% at UNLV, and approximately 50% at UNR, are much better, but still are not nearly high enough by national standards. In the last two years, graduation rate at UNR has increased to 56%, but only as a result of extensive efforts in advising and other student support services.

To address the low success rate of our students, we need to include graduation rates in the NSHE Performance Pool component of the new Funding Formula. Nevada recently received a failing grade for the “student access and success” component of the recently published “Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (http://icw.uschamber.com/reportcard/nevada/) A major factor in determining Nevada’s failing grade was “The four-year institutions rank in the bottom 10 states in terms of completion rate …” While graduation rate is not a panacea for student success, it is a national and international benchmark by which universities are ranked. Increasing graduation rate at NSHE’s universities will lower the debt burden on our students, improve the rankings of our universities, prevent the brain drain of Nevada’s best students to more prestigious out-of-state universities, and attract businesses to the state seeking a well-educated work force.

Thank you,

David W. Zeh
Chair, Faculty Senate


Funding of Higher Education’s Performance Pool, Economic and Workforce Development, and Research Subcommittee

June 26, 2012

David Zeh provided testimony at a meeting of the Nevada Legislature’s Economic, Workforce Development and Research Committee regarding the Funding of Higher Education’s Performance Pool.   The full testimony can be found below:

Assemblyman Paul Aizley

Chair
Funding of Higher Education’s Performance Pool, Economic and Workforce Development, and Research Subcommittee

Thank you Chairman Aizley for this opportunity for public comment. My name is David Zeh, and I am Chair of the University of Nevada Reno, Faculty Senate. I would like to comment on latest version of NSHE’s Performance Pool Model (version16), specifically with regard to the Nevada universities, that is, UNR and UNLV. First, I suggest that the new model, which now includes a 20% weight for research expenditures, is a step in the right direction. Rewarding research productivity is essential to ensuring that our universities remain centers of learning excellence. Nonetheless, I am disappointed that this new model does not include direct incentives for institutions to become more efficient at graduating their students. Without such
incentives, we will be doing a disservice to our students and also to our institutions of higher learning.

As you may know, student loan debt has replaced auto loan debt and credit card debt as the top source of debt in the nation. The total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $870 billion. For all borrowers across the nation, the average student debt is $23,000. In this regard, it is important to point out that the longer a student pursues a degree, the greater the debt accrued. That is, there’s a strong relationship between the years to completion and the accumulated debt. Moreover, students who fail to graduate accrue large amounts of debt without any of the considerable economic benefits of obtaining a BS or BA degree.

In Nevada, we cannot just reward institutions for the number of graduates. We also must incentivize our institutions to become better at the efficiency with which we graduate our students. Right now, 14% of students at UNR and UNLV complete their degrees in four years. The six-year graduate rates, about 40% at UNLV, and approximately 53% at UNR, are much better but still are not nearly high enough by national standards. 

To address this problem, we need to include six-year graduation rates in the NSHE Performance Pool component of the new Funding Formula. As a starting point in the discussion, I propose that a 10% weight be applied to six-year graduation rate in the current “University Performance Outcomes and Points” model. To compensate for including this new metric, the weights for number of Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s and Doctoral Degrees should each be reduced by 5%, to 35% and 15%, respectively.

Nevada recently received a failing grade for the “student access and success” component of the recently published “Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (http://icw.uschamber.com/reportcard/nevada/). A major factor in determining Nevada’s “F” grade was “The four-year institutions rank in the bottom 10 states in terms of completion rate …” While graduation rate is not a panacea for student success, it is a national and international benchmark by which universities are ranked. Increasing graduation rate at NSHE’s universities will lower the debt burden on our students, improve the rankings of our universities, and attract businesses to the state seeking a well-educated work force.

 

P.S. Tennessee has recently adopted six-year graduation rate as a significant component of their funding formula for higher education (http://www.state.tn.us/thec/) and it is likely that other states will be following Tennessee’s lead.

Thank you,

David W. Zeh
Professor
Chair, Department of Biology
Chair, Faculty Senate
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557
Tel: (775) 682 5735
Fax: (775) 784-1302
email: zehd@unr.edu

More information regarding this Legislative subcommittee can be found at the following link:
Funding of Higher Education’s Funding Formula Subcommittee

 


Greetings from David Zeh, 2012-13 Faculty Senate Chair

June 14, 2012

Dear Faculty,
 
The Faculty Senate held their scheduled executive board elections at their May 9, 2012 Faculty Senate meeting and we are proud to present the new Faculty Senate Executive Board Members to you:
 
Chair:                         David Zeh (Biology)
Chair-elect:                Swatee Naik (Mathematics and Statistics)
Parliamentarian:        Chuck Price (Joe Crowley Student Union)
At Large:                    Trish Ellison (CABNR)
                                   Glenn Miller (CABNR)
Ex Officio:                    David Ryfe (Journalism)
 
Contact information for the new executive board can be found at the link below:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/profiles/exec-board.html

I encourage all faculty to communicate regularly with their Senators to help identify issues of importance that we may consider in the coming year.

The 2012-13 Senators are listed by the unit they represent at the link below:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/profiles/index12-13.html

Below I provide a brief summary of some of the accomplishments of the 2011-2012 Senate, and I outline goals and challenges for the new Senate.

 

Synopsis of the Activities of the 2011-2012 Senate

The UNR Faculty Senate, in collaboration with faculty, the University Administration and other NSHE institutions, accomplished a great deal over the last year. We reviewed the implementation of curricular review in the College of Education, the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, and the College of Cooperative Extension. We created a University syllabus policy and a new, more coherent policy on S/U and test credit limits. We implemented a University student dismissal policy, and a new policy requiring background checks for academic and administrative faculty. We also assisted in the hiring process for our new President, and held a special Senate meeting to discuss placement of laid off faculty members. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, we established the “Commission for the Future of the University of Nevada” (CFUN), a committee of administrative and academic faculty charged with assisting the administration in the development of a strategic vision for UNR as a top-tier residential campus for the 21st century.

I would especially like to thank Chair David Ryfe for his Senate leadership over the last year. David worked tirelessly to make the Senate a more proactive and visionary institution, and was a key player in soon-to-be implemented revisions to NSHE code regarding curricular review.

Under this revised code, a university administration request for curricular review will:

·       Trigger Faculty Senate review of the budget to provide a recommendation to the Board of Regents (BOR) whether or not faculty support the    

     process of curricular review

·      Require the university administration to provide access to all financial data relied upon in developing a curricular review proposal; this will ensure that the process is objective and data-driven

·      Necessitate a decision to accept or reject the declaration of curricular review by the BOR

 

A key feature of the revised code is that faculty oversight will occur at all four stages of curricular review process:

·      Review of the trigger for curricular review

·      Review of the programs to be affected

·      Review of the reorganization plan

·      Review of the appeal process for faculty threatened with layoffs

 

The Senate believes that effective communication between administration and faculty will lead to better curricular review outcomes and better faculty morale in the face of adversity.

 

2012-2013 Senate: Challenges and Opportunities

In the coming year, the University and the Faculty Senate will be confronted with many challenges but also some significant opportunities. The economy is stagnant, NSHE is proposing a new funding formula for higher education that currently favors high enrollment institutions in the southern part of the state, and higher education faces unprecedented challenges provoked by rising tuition costs, increasing student debt, and technology-driven disruptive innovation (e.g., massive open online courses). The Commission is developing strategies to deal with many of these issues. The new funding formula, if adopted, will retain tuition and fees generated by each campus, and will provide the potential for growth and enhancement of university functions. However, we will increasingly be competing with regional institutions for tuition dollars, and this will require clever and strategic decisions to make our university more competitive and attractive to students both within and outside of the state. The new Senate is also working diligently to convince the Chancellor and Legislature that the new funding formula must reward not only numbers of graduates but also excellence in teaching, research and outreach. We are making some progress on this front.

Finally, as the new Senate Chair, I am committed to opening up lines of communication between the administration and faculty. Beginning in the Fall 2012 semester, we will be holding informal, monthly meetings in which the President, the Provost, and the Senate Chair will be available to discuss any issues of concern to the faculty. We will also charge one of our Senate Committees with soliciting suggestions from both administrative and academic faculty to reduce red tape and improve the functioning of the University.

Best wishes,

 
David
 
David W. Zeh
Professor
Chair, Department of Biology
Chair, Faculty Senate 
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557

Tel: (775) 682 5735 or (775) 784-1648
Fax: (775) 784-1302
email: zehd@unr.edu

 


Letter to Assembly Republicans

February 25, 2010

Dear Members of the Assembly Minority:

Pardon me for sending this e-mail to you all simultaneously, but I just wanted to ask for your support in limiting the budget cuts for higher education to 5%.

I know this is a difficult time, and your choices are not easy ones. In this economy, we are no longer collecting as much in taxes as we had planned for. Nevada already has a very slim state government, and it is important that we continue to provide essential public services. Education is key to helping Nevada become part of the 21st Century economy, and continue to become a better place to live.

As you know, higher education took the deepest cuts in the last session, and we have been trying our best to cope with these cuts and provide a quality education as our student enrollments continue to increase. We have been trying to be good citizens and do our part, and we also recognize the need for supporting K-12 and providing other public services. We have tried to keep our morale high so that we can retain our most productive faculty, and keep them from leaving the state. Like our colleagues in other NSHE institutions, we want to continue to be part of a university that Nevada can be proud of, to help keep our brightest minds in state and attract more business to Nevada. This last month, that effort has sometimes seemed insurmountable, as many faculty have come to think that this state no longer values higher education.

The amount of the shortfall may seem large, but it is much less than 1% of our entire state economy. Our general fund is roughly 2.5% of Gross State Product, which is about half as much as the average state, and as a percentage of our population, our state workforce is the smallest in the country.

I strongly believe in private markets, and in free trade. In general, market economies perform much better than state-controlled ones. Nonetheless, there are limits to how small government should be. Governments provide essential services, and economies which fail to provide these things fail to prosper. Public education is one of those essential services. Our state government does not need to be much bigger, but we cannot afford for it to become even smaller.

I agree that throwing money at problems does not necessarily fix them, and there are many things we could do better. Still, taking state funds away from education will do long-term damage that we will regret for decades.

I agree that tax increases are not a good idea in a recession, but spending cuts like these will do even more harm to the economy, not just to state government but also to the private sector which sells products to the state, and to its employees. Such cuts will continue the recession’s downward spiral in spending. If we can borrow to get through this, we should, as long as that borrowing is repaid once the economy recovers.

Nevada has a very undiversified tax base which has declined much more than our overall economy. We were lucky in the past, but that luck is not likely to continue. We need to get through this biennium without doing too much harm, and then we need to take a good look at creating a more efficient tax structure, one that relies on a broad base with low rates that will not be a significant disincentive to private enterprise, one that provides a sufficient rainy day fund and greater stability during bad times like this, and one that will enable us to make investments that help diversify our economy in the future.

I speak for my faculty in saying that we hope you will consider supporting what higher education brings to the state, and help us find a way out of this dilemma.

Sincerely,

Elliott Parker, Ph.D.
Faculty Senate Chair
Professor of Economics /0030
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557-0207 U.S.A.
http://www.business.unr.edu/faculty/parker/


Letter to Assembly Democrats

February 25, 2010

Dear Members of the Assembly Majority:

Pardon me for sending this e-mail to you all simultaneously, but I just wanted to send you a quick “thank you” for your vote today on limiting the budget cuts for higher education to 5%. I know this vote is not binding, but nonetheless it is a bright light in a very dark tunnel.

We know this is a difficult time for you all, as you try to cope with the need to provide an essential level of public services to the state in spite of the fact that we are no longer collecting as many taxes as we had planned for, and in spite of the Governor’s unwillingness to recognize the problem for what it actually is. Nevada has a very small state government, a very undiversified tax base that has declined much more than our overall economy, and a small number of very vocal people that oppose anything government does even though they rely on those services.

As you know, higher education took the deepest cuts in the last session, and we have been trying our best to cope with these cuts and provide a quality education as our student enrollments continue to increase. We have been trying to be good citizens and do our part, and we recognize the need for supporting K-12 and providing other public services. We have tried to keep our morale high so that we can retain our most productive faculty, and keep them from leaving the state. Like our colleagues in other NSHE institutions, we want to continue to be part of a university that Nevada can be proud of, to help keep our brightest minds in state and attract more business to Nevada.

This last month, that effort has sometimes seemed insurmountable, as many faculty have come to think that this state no longer values higher education.

I speak for my faculty in saying that your vote today gives us hope that maybe there is a future for higher education in Nevada. Maybe there is hope that we can help Nevada become part of the 21st Century economy, and Nevada can continue to become a better place to live.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance as you do this difficult work.

Sincerely,

Elliott Parker, Ph.D.
Faculty Senate Chair
Professor of Economics /0030
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557-0207 U.S.A.
http://www.business.unr.edu/faculty/parker/


Budget Reduction Principles

February 5, 2010

Principles for Budget Discussions
Bill Follette, Chair of the Faculty Senate 2008-9

Endorsed by the Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Reno
June 5, 2008

Earlier this year Governor Gibbons required a 4.5% budget reduction for UNR. Following consultation with the Faculty Senate leadership, President Glick introduced strategic cuts that were governed by a set of principles that were largely in agreement with the following paragraph distributed to the senate in a memo from Steve Rock, then Chair of the Faculty Senate:

The Executive Board agrees with the principle that the teaching and research enterprise are the core missions of the university and must be protected. We further agree with the principle endorsed by past faculty senates affected by budget crises, that faculty should take steps to preserve jobs where possible. In fact, the Senate has supported delaying merit raises under similar circumstances in the past. The Executive Board sees the delay of merit as a rational way for the faculty to participate in solving UNR’s short-term budget contraction while minimizing damage to both our core mission and the long-term interests of the faculty.

Using the delay in merit, some strategic administrative restructuring, a giveback by the Board of Regents involving Project Integrate (the NSHE attempt to implement a new computer system), and an increase in tuition, the administration was largely able to achieve the goals of cutting the budget while maintaining the university’s ability to sustain its teaching and research goals. Now it appears that Governor Gibbons intends to implement an additional budget cut amounting to an additional 10-14% reduction for UNR.

While the earlier reduction was significant, the impact of this additional reduction is inestimable if it were to go forward as proposed. If this level of reduction is implemented, the core missions of the university are destined to be profoundly affected. Teaching and research will suffer, adversely impacting faculty, students, and the citizens of Nevada.

During earlier budget discussions Steve Rock and I were comfortable with asserting a position we thought would be consistent with faculty values. During those discussions it was possible to foresee a set of principles that could guide us through the budget travails. However, the principles that guided earlier budget planning cannot address the level of budget cuts now being contemplated. Thus, it is important that we engage in a discussion about triaging additional cuts if we actually must endure the reductions currently under discussion.

One of the most promising features of the way budget cuts were handled earlier in the year was that the Board of Regents adopted the plans put forth by individual campuses in the NSHE system. UNR’s proposalntailed strategic cuts that minimized impact on students and faculty. If we are to receive a similar response from the Board of Regents, any proposal put forth by the university must be thoughtful, and an approach that has the support of the faculty would likely be better received than one without our support. Here are the broad principles that should guide our input into the budget discussion that affect our campus.

Budget adjustments should be made with two strategic principles in mind:

* The first principle is to protect the teaching and research missions of the university to the fullest extent possible. This principle implies that elimination of programs that impact students and termination of faculty are measures of last resort. The success of students and the welfare of faculty and staff who are affected by class reductions or the elimination of programs in teaching, research, or service shall be protected to the fullest extent possible.

* Should it be necessary to impact personnel or programs, the second principle is to preserve the overall functioning of those elements of the university that have achieved national prominence and provide the most value to university constituencies.

The first principle continues to emphasize that the primary missions of the university be preserved as fully as possible. It also recognizes that people will be impacted by the governor’s choice of how to deal with the budget shortfall. Jobs and learning opportunities may well be lost and lives disrupted. This reality requires us to be creative in finding methods of helping people permanently or temporarily alter their role at the university. There are many ways to address this possibility should it come to that. Some options may involve proposals for revisions to the NSHE Code. The point is not to list all possibilities here but to state the importance of protecting the well-being of students, staff, and colleagues through whatever creative means are possible. The teaching and research missions of the university cannot be sacrificed. Given the importance of preserving enrollment to the greatest extent possible, the faculty senate will strongly advocate that the Chancellor and the Regents fully consider the elimination or delay
of system level initiatives that have minimal, immediate direct impact on the teaching mission of the system.

The second principle explicitly states that some cuts would not be evenly distributed but strategically implemented. This means that rather than damaging all programs to the point they cannot function effectively, some would be considered for reduction or elimination so that others can maintain high levels of quality or even enhance their functioning. UNR will suffer irreparable harm if, at the end of this process, the only result is that all programs are diminished. This alternative strategy is to maintain or cultivate success in selected programs. Unexamined, across the board cuts are not the means by which our campus should address a financial crisis. The ability to attract and retain excellent faculty and students is crucial. This depends on critical elements of the university maintaining high, positive visibility. This is certainly applicable to activities that enhance our national and international reputation through scholarly publication or other creative activity. The university has only recently achieved Carnegie Research Extensive status and is the only institution in the state with that designation. This status cannot be jeopardized.

It should be stated that before any thoughtful evaluation of programs can occur, reliable, relevant data on costs and value must be available. The costs are relatively easy to identify. The value may not be as clear. Certainly FTEs, extramural funding, publications, creative activities, donations and patronage can be identified. There may be other less tangible values of programs that should be highlighted. Part of any discussion about change requires that those involved agree upon the data to be used in the evaluation process.

We can get much more detailed and specific once we agree on the larger principles and more fully understand the magnitude of actual cuts. The proposed principles allow the broadest dialogue between our faculty leadership, the administration and the Board of Regents.

Note that outlining these principles does not in any way suggest that we believe cuts of this magnitude are ise or defensible. The senate opposes such budget reductions. There is no set of principles that can successfully protect the teaching and research missions of the university if cuts even remotely near those being discussed are imposed. However, if discussions of budget cuts go forward, these principles will help shape our position.


Sense of the Senate, September 24, 2009

September 25, 2009

The Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Reno supports the following recommendations for the Board of Regents:

1) We ask that the Board of Regents modify the current policy on furloughs, and extend exemption from mandatory furloughs to those professional employees paid with grants, contracts, fees or other non-state sources if the revenues lost are greater than the salary savings, as long as these revenues cannot be captured in other ways.

2) We ask that the Board of Regents delegate the implementation of this policy to the presidents. The presidents should then be required to report back to the Board of Regents on all such exemptions, detailing why their decisions to exempt certain faculty meet the above conditions.

This sense of the senate was adopted by unanimous vote.

Our rationale is as follows:

It is clear that the Legislature’s primary intent in SB 433 was to reduce Nevada’s general fund expenditures for the current biennium. As much as possible, the Legislature also wanted to be fair, to have the burden shared equally, to expect less work in return for less pay, and to save as many jobs for state employees as possible during the budget crisis.

Second, the Legislature clearly understood that the Nevada System of Higher Education was a special and complicated case, and gave the Board of Regents the flexibility to institute pay cuts in other ways if necessary. The Regents are doing their best to support the legislative intent while making adjustments for the differences in faculty contracts, tenure and notice requirements, and this is in the best interest of NSHE in the future.

Third, the Governor also made clear that part of the reason he thought higher education should receive the lion’s share of the budget cuts was because NSHE had more options for seeking outside funding, through tuition, grants and contracts. DRI is one example, but not the only one, of this entrepreneurial model. While the Governor’s budget proposal was not feasible in the short-run, we do agree with the long-run goal of becoming more reliant on grants and other non-state funds.

Thus, we support the current emergency policy of the Board of Regents as long as we remember that the first priority of furloughs is to save the state and the system money. Some furloughs, however, do not accomplish this goal.

We strongly oppose mandatory furloughs for faculty who are entirely grant-funded, unless the funds used to pay their salaries can be used for other purposes without putting the grant or contract at risk. We also oppose mandatory furloughs for other faculty who bring in direct revenues to the institution that at least equal the cost of their associated salaries, even if some portion of their salary is paid with state funds. Such furloughs cost us money that could be used for other purposes. We believe that such furloughs also undermine the goal of becoming less reliant on the state general fund.

The Regents have already agreed that grant-funded faculty at the Desert Research Institute should be exempted because furloughs would be costly to the institution and the system. The University of Nevada School of Medicine is also prepared to request their own exemption based on the health and welfare clause of SB 433, since a furlough means fewer patients will be seen, and lost practice plan revenues will far exceed any salary savings. The state’s universities both have units, and individuals, who work on the exact same business model as DRI and UNSOM. The best solution is to have one simple exemption that fits DRI, UNSOM, and all other cases, something that we can easily explain to the public and the legislature, instead of two or more different exemptions.

The principle is simple, and any citizen or legislator can understand it. The purpose of a furlough is to save the state money, and the budget crisis is driving it. If there are specific and defensible cases in which a furlough will actually cost the state money, then a furlough should not be required regardless. System presidents should be given the authority to make those calls, and be accountable to the Regents for making them.


Faculty Senate Chair Remarks, UNR Town Hall, July 16, 2009

July 23, 2009

[Note: The town hall was actually on July 23. I looked at the wrong week on my calendar. Summer is passing so quickly!]

When the Governor proposed cutting the university’s budget by more than a third, he also proposed a 6% pay cut for all state employees. The budget reductions the Legislature actually adopted are still painful, and have cost us good people, but they leave the university standing. The pay cuts are supposed to be in the form of 4% furloughs, though to leave our benefits intact these cuts actually work out to 4.6%, one day a month.

In essence, furloughs are the Legislature’s way of saying that state employees are worth what we pay them, and not overpaid, but we still can’t afford them right now. The taxpayers and the students have also been asked to pony up, so we are not bearing the cost alone.

There is no way to make the financial burdens placed upon us all seem less stressful. However, it may be helpful to remember that it could have been much worse here, and for some states it is much worse.

But the details of furloughs are hard to implement, and furloughs don’t make sense in all cases. The Legislature ordered them for those employees under their direct control, including those in the classified system, but they left it to the Regents to determine how to implement them for faculty.

One issue the Legislature did not consider is how to handle classified employees who work on grants or in revenue-producing activities. Furloughing those who are not paid out of state funds actually costs the state money instead of saving it.

In June, the Regents passed a policy to implement furloughs, as the Legislature intended, as fully as the Code and our contracts allow. But untenured faculty, whether academic or administrative, have annual contracts that, under the current Code, require a year’s notice to change. Tenured faculty have contracts that guarantee them their jobs and their current salaries, and these cannot be changed easily at all.

The result is that hourly employees who earn the least are having to take the biggest pay cuts, in percentage terms. Our untenured faculty are also having to take the cuts, though with a year’s notice. Many of our young tenure-track faculty are trying to manage very large student loan burdens. And our tenured faculty, who are most likely to have research and grant programs that generate non-state funds, are instead being asked to teach more under the current conditions.

The President and I are still trying to persuade the Chancellor and the Regents that we should not have mandatory furloughs for grant-funded faculty, or for any faculty if the furlough costs us more revenue than it saves us. I would make this argument for classified staff too, if the law allowed.

It is normal in times of extreme scarcity for people to turn on each other, as the Donner Party demonstrated. We should not fall into the same trap here. We are all important to the success of this university, academic faculty, administrative faculty, and classified staff together.

In the last month or two, a number of tenured faculty have expressed their great concern to me concerning how mandatory furloughs have been implemented, and the unintended unfairness of our least-paid employees take the biggest percentage cut. It is not what we would have chosen, had we had the choice. It is certainly not what the President, the Provost, or the Faculty Senate wanted (see our “Sense of the Senate,” http://facultysenate.blogs.unr.edu/2009/05/08/sense-of-the-university-of-nevada-reno-faculty-senate-regarding-pay-cuts-for-faculty-and-staff, on this blog).

For tenured faculty who are able, one suggestion is to donate to the Foundation. Last week, I went down to the Foundation to set up a monthly deduction equivalent to the pay cut I would have received had I not been tenured. It was pretty easy, and I will send the form to all faculty.

You can target your donations, to a great degree. The Foundation has a scholarship fund for classified staff to take courses for career development, for example, and they are looking into setting up a fund to help with scholarships for their dependents. You can donate to your department or college, if you prefer, and chairs can use these funds to help out with travel or research expenses for untenured faculty. Within some constraints the Foundation is happy to negotiate with you on how you would like the monies spent. There are rules we have to follow if we want these donations to be tax deductible, but there is flexibility there too.

Of course, these contributions are voluntary, and people can help in many ways. Some of us may prefer to give more to the homeless, or those who have lost their jobs in the current recession. Some of us may have been hurt too much in the current recession to give anything more.

But knowing and appreciating the faculty as I do, I fully expect that there are scores, even hundreds of people out there who are willing to step up to do things to help their colleagues and coworkers in these trying times. Our people will continue to be generous and creative.

Please feel free to contact me with any ideas or questions you might have, at facsenchair@unr.edu.


Furlough and Student Surcharge Outcomes from NSHE Board of Regents June 19, 2009

June 22, 2009

NSHE News
Las Vegas, Nevada – June 19, 2009

The Board of Regents took action today to implement legislatively required budget reductions through the use of an employee furlough program and temporary increases to student fees.

Based on recommendations from Board Chair Michael Wixom and Vice Chair Jason Geddes, the Nevada System of Higher Education will implement general professional personnel cost reduction measures in FY 2010, followed by a mandatory furlough program in FY 2011 to reduce professional staff and faculty salaries with an option for an increased workload for tenured faculty. The aim of the program is to meet the intent of Senate Bill 433 which calls for a four percent reduction each year of the biennium. This program will not affect part-time teaching faculty.

Classified staff have already received a legislatively mandated furlough program of one day per month for FY 2010 and FY 2011.

In addition, a five percent surcharge (as referenced in Option A of the Board agenda) will be added to student fees for each year of the biennium (five percent in FY 2010 and an additional five percent in FY 2011) starting with fall semester 2009.

The surcharge will not be effective until the spring semester of 2010 for Nevada’s four community colleges: College of Southern Nevada, Great Basin College, Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College.

All surcharges will sunset in 2011.

Regents heard testimony from faculty and student leaders about the proposed options, with students voicing strong support for Option A in the fee increase proposal.

Due to the timeline dictated by SB 433, the Board passed an emergency motion to implement the personnel cost reduction measures. The Board then has 120 days to make the reductions final and to make changes in the program if the need arises.

Specifics on the furlough and workload increase programs are expected to be communicated to NSHE employees in the next several days.

Below is the motion that was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents today:
1. The adoption of Option A–a temporary surcharge for registration fees as set forth in the tuition and fee increase reference materials;
2. The adoption of a Code amendment set forth below which is subject to the considerations numbered 1-7 set forth at pages 3-4 in the Memorandum of Chair Wixom and Vice Chair Geddes, dated June 17, 2009 to the NSHE Regents, entitled “Senate Bill 433″ Implementation Recommendation”; and
3. The adoption of an emergency amendment of the NSHE Code (requires 7 votes and is immediately effective for 120 days, to be made permanent by further Board action), in accordance with Title 2, Chapter 1, Sec. 1.3.3.b due to the 2009 Legislative budgetary action and NSHE faculty contract provisions. The proposed amendment to the Code is the adoption of a new Code provision added to Title 2, Ch. 5, as Section 5.5.7, as follows:

Notwithstanding Title 2, Section 5.4, as the 75th Session of the Nevada Legislature has explicitly appropriated a lower amount for NSHE salaries than would otherwise be authorized and appropriate according to the NSHE salary policies, the Board of Regents does hereby and for the 2009-2011 biennium only, temporarily reduce salaries through the use of unpaid leave in an amount equivalent to the amount of legislative salary cut for FY 2011. The Board shall, to the extent feasible, devise methods that protect base compensation and benefits and shall offer tenured faculty an alternative of unpaid teaching workload increases in lieu of unpaid leave. The various Presidents shall consult with their respective faculty senates regarding the implementation of this section. Unpaid leave or temporary workload increases required by this section are final and not subject to appeal, grievance or reconsideration. The provisions of this section shall constitute constructive notice to all faculty and no individual notice to any such faculty member shall be required hereunder to implement the foregoing. To the extent any conflict or inconsistency between this and any other section of the Code exists, the provisions of this section shall control. This section will terminate on June 30, 2011.


Statement of the UNR Faculty Senate Chair (Presented to the NSHE Board of Regents Friday, June 19, 2009)

June 22, 2009

The faculty of UNR are grateful to the Legislature, the Board of Regents, and the citizens of this state for their efforts to defend higher education from a devastating budget reduction that would have effectively dismantled the NSHE system into the indefinite future. We also want to express our admiration for our students for recognizing that the education they receive is valuable, and appreciate that they are willing to pay more to help us keep providing it.

We recognize that this proposal represents serious work by many people, in an effort to balance what the Legislature wanted us to do with what we can legally do and what is wise to do. We know that the Regents are doing their best to balance these demands.

For legitimate legal reasons, this proposal gives tenured faculty the option to increase their work responsibilities instead of taking the pay cut, but this option is not given to others.

In the last several days as I have been getting input from my constituents, I have noticed a pattern. Those who were most concerned with the apparent unfairness of this – including myself – are themselves tenured. Those who were the least concerned about it are themselves untenured.

As I worry about the morale effects of separating out our faculty for differential treatment for legal reasons, it brings me great comfort to know that many of our people are so unselfish, and so concerned for their colleagues.

Still, in my opinion, it would be a good idea to give more people the option to do more, and not just require them to do less. Please consider whether the options this proposal makes available to tenured faculty might best be made available to others.

Faculty at my university are willing to do their part, and most of us are not opposed to temporary pay cuts if the Regents deem them necessary, but we want them to be done carefully because we are concerned with negative unintended consequences.

The Legislature recognized in SB 433 that NSHE was a special and complicated case, and gave the Regents the flexibility to institute pay cuts in other ways. We need to take this opportunity to make sure that we are taking the wisest path.

This proposal explicitly exempts DRI’s professional staff if they are entirely funded by grants. We strongly support this. What we would ask you to understand is that there are units at UNR that are exactly like DRI, and I assume these exist at UNLV too.

The Terawatt Facility and the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies, for example, both depend entirely on grants. There are also many research programs within departments that greatly augment their budgets and their support for students through extramural grant activities, and provide additional overhead for the university.

Making them take furloughs out of a sense of fairness simply hurts our budgets and our state economy, with no savings to NSHE or the state budget. Some may lose grants or contracts they can no longer fulfill, and most will reduce the amount of overhead that they bring to the university.

Some of you work for law firms, or other similar professional firms. Suppose the office manager has reduced the wages of the secretarial staff because of budget problems. To be fair, your office manager tells you that you must also work less and reduce your billable hours. It seems to me that that would only make the firm’s budget problem worse.

The UNR faculty senate overwhelmingly supported a resolution to apply reductions in state support only to state-funded salaries. At least, we should allow our Presidents to exempt some of our people from salary cuts if no savings would result. The principle that exempts DRI is equally applicable to similarly-generated funds at any of the NSHE institutions.

One part of the rationale for making higher education absorb most of the state’s budget reduction was that higher education should and could be more entrepreneurial, more like DRI, and less dependent on state funding.

Thus, I think we may be missing out on an opportunity. There are potential outside resources now available to many of our people. Now is the time to develop creative policy that empowers and incentivizes faculty seeking these resources, but we have rules that undermine some of the incentive to go after them, and these salary cuts will make it worse. Let us take this time of crisis to encourage our people to apply for more grants and contracts, to allow them the opportunity to make up for the reduction in their state funding, and to encourage more entrepreneurship by our faculty.

These changes should be left to individual institutions that can best understand and balance their missions and opportunities to meet the budget challenges. The Board can and should frame the parameters to consider, but ultimately our response to SB 433 should be measured by how thoughtfully we meet our missions within the budget constraints we face rather than following a literal reading of the bill.