Chair’s Letter to the Faculty

Colleagues:
We have known for some time that the escalating budget crisis in the state would fundamentally alter our university unless the state leadership developed a strategy to adequately fund higher education. Last week President Glick held a well-attended town hall meeting where he said that earlier cuts exhausted our ability to absorb any additional shortfalls without affecting people, services, and programs. At that time he couldn’t be specific about what cuts would occur because the state budget analysis was not done and the legislative special session had not met. Last Friday preliminary budget projections were reported and they were grim. The special session still has not convened, but time has run out and additional required cuts have to be implemented because the Board of Regents policy requires up to a one year notice for faculty whose positions are being eliminated.I have waited to send this message to you until colleagues affected by the budget cuts have been notified. Earlier today these notifications were made as President Glick said in today’s letter to you, the entire faculty. As chair of the Faculty Senate I participated in many of the meetings that addressed how to meet the budget shortfall. The senate’s role was to suggest the principles it thought should direct these decisions. Those principles were adopted by the administration and were the yardstick by which decisions were made. My role in these conversations was to be available to express the faculty’s position where I thought I knew it and to observe the process so that I could assess its apparent fairness.

As of today, our campus is different. People we know have been informed they will be losing their jobs. Some are relatively new to campus and others have been here for many years and are well-known to the campus community. The decisions were done to do as little harm to peoples’ lives and the university’s mission as possible. There were sensitivities to not filling vacant positions where that solution was available. Retirement incentives are being developed. Open academic faculty lines are, from my perspective, gone. Strategic new hires will be considered consistent with the principles that guided how to address the shortfall.

I want to comment on some of the realities I observed. First, anyone in the community who glibly says that when budgets need to be reduced, you just let people go are either cut from a different cloth or have never had to look a dedicated employee in the eye and say that he or she will no longer have a job at a place the person loved working. As one who attended these meetings and knows our administration, I can attest to the anguish deans, provosts, vice presidents, and the president experienced when abstract conversations finally turned to the names of real people or to functions of the university that will no longer be served because they are not as central to the mission as others are. This will be little comfort to those who are losing their jobs, but I believe the campus and state should know that what has been done today has taken a significant personal toll on many members of our campus in addition to those whose positions are being eliminated. I am saddened by these events and suffering of people we all know.Second, the process represented another example of the reality of shared governance that exists on this campus. The president and each member of the administration at some point actively sought my opinion on a wide variety of issues. These were delicate but frank conversations where agreement and disagreement were met with mutual openness and respect. I have been in contact with senate chairs from all the institutions in the state, and no one has described a process that was as inclusive of faculty input as ours has been.However, there are still economic challenges we face. Today’s reductions and the elimination of open faculty positions are unlikely to meet projected state revenue shortfalls. It may be that elective retirements, legislative or executive action or a change in the economic health of the state may address our budgetary needs. Those are unknowns at this point.

In his letter earlier today President Glick said he will be seeking discussions with the campus community about how to address other reactions the university might take to this crisis. It is possible that academic units or individual faculty will be affected by future cuts. Everyone is open to consider any thoughtful options for addressing the shortfall in ways that spare human capital. This is an opportunity to think creatively about how we might reorganize our institution to create innovative, efficient structures that promote our mission. Any discussion of the curriculum demands faculty input and President Glick and our new Provost, Marc Johnson would not have it any other way. Neither would the faculty senate. It is quite possible we will find new ways to conduct the business of the university. If procedures and structural impediments interfere with creativity and innovation, then I believe those practices should be modified or eliminated. If any aspect of the curriculum needs to be revisited, then it should be. If strong departments or programs can be enhanced with new collaborations, then let us make it happen. If you have ideas, I will do all I can to make sure you have a forum at which you can share them. Not all ideas are created equal, but it is better to present them than miss the chance to present the one that could have made a real difference.

President Glick will stand up and take the heat for the decisions made today and in the future. That goes with the job, and he has always stepped up to the responsibility. I will tell you that in my view that is not fair. He has always asked for more control over the budget. I don’t know when or if the state will grant that control. In the meantime, we can offer him our support and counsel. There have been and will be times where we disagree, but if ever there were a time for collaboration and a willingness to do so, this is the time and these are the people.

In addition to this email, I will post this letter on the Faculty Senate blog. There you can enter comments, ask question, and make suggestions. You can also contact your unit’s senator or me directly.

Respectfully,
Bill Follette
Chair, Faculty Senate 2008-2009



One Response to “Chair’s Letter to the Faculty”

  1.   LuLu G Says:

    I would like to know why where i come from in Michigan we have over 100 colleges, California nearly twice as many, but we in Nevada cannot even support ONE. Go figure.

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