The Chair’s Comments at Town Hall Meeting

July 7, 2008
  • July 2, 2008

    William C. Follette, Chair, Faculty Senate 2008-2009

    I appreciate the remarks made by President Glick. Before I proceed I want to express my disappointment in political process that has led to this point where we are asked to make decisions that feel more like Sophie’s choice than merely managing a budgetary shortfall. I have serious concerns about the well being of those already affected and those who will be, whether they are administrative or academic faculty, staff or students. At the same time I want to express my gratitude for the collaborative approach taken by President Glick and Provost Johnson.

    Let me briefly describe where I think we are in the process of considering additional reductions that will in all likelihood affect statewide and academic programs at our university. First, I believe no tenured faculty will face terminations now or in the future. I also believe that non-tenured, tenure track faculty who are making good progress by all traditional standards have reason to feel relatively secure. That is not because position reductions are not permissible under System code and university bylaws, but because I believe we can reach the necessary goals without resorting to such measures if we approach the problems with creativity and dedication. I also believe that the abrupt actions that have affected primarily administrative faculty will , if necessary, be conducted in a more consultative manner. Be aware that with the economic future so uncertain, I could be incorrect in these assessments.

    Does that mean that business will be conducted as usual? The answer is clearly, no. There are likely to be significant changes in how some of us are asked to address the mission of the university, and not all of those changes will be to our liking. Some of us will prefer to explore buy-out options or look elsewhere for our futures. You can and should consider what is best for you and your families.

    What does the immediate future hold? I am certain that the teaching load policy adopted by the Board of Regents as implemented by the Faculty Senate in 2005 will be scrutinized closely. That policy is available on the Faculty Senate Homepage and the Faculty Senate Blog. The basic policy is a 3+3 teaching load with reductions allowed for graduate training and other extenuating circumstances. If the teaching mission of the university is to be fulfilled, and it will be, it will entail some of us teaching classes formerly offered by LOAs or lecturers. Some of us will see specialty programs dear to us disappear as our efforts are redistributed to meet the essential institutional needs fundamental to the academic success of our student body.

    How will curricular decisions be made? Here is where we are indeed fortunate to be at UNR in these unfortunate times. The code of the Nevada System of Higher Education and the University Bylaws provide the rough outlines of a procedure for those decisions to be shared by the upper administration and the faculty. Unlike the indefensibly late notice given to the university that necessitated July 1 action for notices of nonrenewal, the curricular review process has time to be designed and refined with faculty input.

    The code and bylaws give approximations to procedures. In conversations with President Glick and Provost Johnson, I believe that their value is that the academic programs, that is the curriculum, belong to the faculty and Provost. It is up to us to decide how to address the a budget that has only 86% of our expected base in a way that attracts, retains, and graduates students with high value degrees while we continue in the creative and research activities that characterize excellent universities. We will not be the same university while sustaining these cuts. We can be a destination university that sustains excellence in those areas we define as central to our mission.

    So that there is sufficient time for questions, I will not elaborate the different ways in which program reviews could occur. I will just say that by code and bylaws as well as the preference of the president and provost, this will be a collaborative process that closely involves faculty at the program level and then likely a committee made up of equal numbers of faculty and administrators who will make recommendations to the president. Discussions about the process are under way. I fully expect this process to begin intensively as soon as faculty are back on campus and decisions will be made not later than December 1. Everyone wants to know their future as soon as possible. Many programs and departments will know much earlier that disruptions will be minimal.

    At some point programs at the grassroots level will have to evaluate how they meet whatever criteria are eventually defined as appropriate. Programs will do one of several things. A program could conclude its efforts could be redirected for a greater good. That would not mean faculty agreeing to fire themselves, but rather propose how to best distribute their efforts. It could also ask “what mortal dares questions our greatness?” Or it could say – here is our case for sustaining as we are, realigning ourselves to be more effective given the evaluation criteria, or even growing.

    I want you to consider two scenarios. The first is one where we rise to the occasion and do the best we humanly can to optimize the outcome for our colleagues, institution, its mission, and its students. The second is that we reject any approach to this self-assessment and then watch as the Board of Regents and the legislature plot our future. I am quite certain I know which of those options I prefer.

    We are human, and to some extent what is expected of us is akin to asking us what appendage would we like sacrifice to save the body. No option looks good. Some of us will be unable to make any decision, and we then risk even more dire consequences. This is not even a zero sum game. It is a circumstance where we minimize overall harm and search for ways to enhance programs that will capture the attention and admiration of our community, state, and colleagues around the world. We are not alone in this fiscal dilemma. California, Tennessee, Kentucky, and other states also face severe economic crises.

    During this curricular review, I want to remind you that the Faculty Senate Office is at your service to give you guidance on your rights. That said, I believe that we can make collaborative decisions in this process that minimize damage to individuals and the institution. We could not ask for a more supportive or collaborative administration during these difficult times. That does not mean there won’t be disagreements. There are unpleasant decisions to be made. It does mean we can make it through these times by providing the vision and collaboration lacking outside the walls of our university.

    I look forward to your input in elaborating the process. Thank you for your grace in this time of duress and your empathy for those of us who have been and will be impacted by these impending changes.