Four dozen tenured UNLV professors officially quit their jobs last week.
This was not a mass uprising against the university's administration or some sort of statement of academic solidarity.
It was simple economics paired with timing.
"It was very easy for me," said Len Zane, 67, a physics professor who joined the university in 1973. "The years go by. I've been doing this a long time."
Zane and the rest of the 48 professors took a voluntary buyout, which forced them to give up their jobs by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. It offered tenured professors 1.5 times their annual salary to, basically, go away.
The point was to save money in the long run, and it will work. The university will pay out $7.4 million to the departing faculty members but will save almost $5 million a year in salaries, though some of those faculty members will have to be replaced. The $5 million also does not include benefits.
UNLV President Neal Smatresk said the hope was that enough professors would take the buyout that it would save jobs of other faculty members.
The state's higher education system was anticipating state funding cuts of as much as 29 percent in the next couple of years.
The cuts ended up being less than that, about 15 percent, but that still adds up to more than $85 million this year for the system and more than $20 million at UNLV.
And because most of the budget for any university goes to salaries, the only way to cut money is to cut people.
"I'm thankful that 48 people stepped forward," Smatresk said.
If they had not, he said, it would have forced faculty layoffs.
Gregory Brown, a history professor and incoming president of the Faculty Senate, said there is a feeling of thanks for the professors who are leaving, as well as a feeling that the university is losing a lot of good people.
He said the fact that UNLV has avoided wholesale faculty layoffs is important, not just for those who get to keep their jobs.
"You don't have this massive process of administrative formalities," he said. "People getting notice. The grievances. The suits."
What they do have at UNLV instead, he said, is a strong foundation of trust between the faculty, the administration and the students that can be built upon.
Zane, the 67-year-old physics professor, said part of his motivation for taking the buyout was that he might save the job of some young faculty member.
But that wasn't the biggest part.
Zane was just ready to go. He figured all along that he was probably going to retire in a year, anyway.
When the email announcing the buyout came in May, he jumped on it, he said.
He has been at UNLV his entire career, except for a post-doctoral position right out of college.
A dozen years after he arrived, Zane was asked to help the university start an honors program. That was in 1985. He ended up as dean of the newly created Honors College, a position he held for 15 years.
"I missed teaching physics," he said, so he went back to it in 2000.
Zane said he probably will stick around and teach a class now and then, but strictly as a part-timer. The rules of the buyout dictate that. Maybe, he said, he'll take a trip to Africa in the spring.
BUILDING A PROGRAM
Rosemary Witt did the calculation: 39 years and nine months. That's how long she has been at UNLV.
Witt -- she doesn't want to give her age, but simple math says she's in her late 60s -- is a nursing professor.
"You start to think, 'How many more years do I have?' " she said. "You think, 'I want to travel.' "
Witt said she came here four decades ago to attend a workshop on the concept of loss. She was at the University of Washington at the time.
She liked that UNLV was a small but growing university, and she found out they were hiring. The university wanted to expand its two-year nursing program into a four-year program.
Witt was hired to help make the transition. That was in 1971. She never looked back.
In addition to teaching, she was chairwoman of the nursing department for 30 years.
"I feel pleased with what I've done," she said. "With what I've had a hand in building."
Lois Helmbold is tired of fighting.
"I'm fed up," she said. "And I'm almost 66. In the best of times, I wouldn't have stayed here too many more years anyway."
Helmbold is a professor of women's studies, which she sees as a program under siege. During budget cuts in 2010, the program was targeted for elimination, though it ended up being saved. It was targeted again this year, and it seems the department will probably be merged into another one. She is department chairwoman.
"I am so completely up to here with academic politics and academic bureaucracy," Helmbold said.
So, she is taking the money and running. She already had a Fulbright fellowship to teach in Turkey next year, so that's what she'll do. After that? She isn't sure. She'll probably go back to California, where she spent most of her career before joining UNLV in 2002.
"The state of Nevada has no regard for education," Helmbold said.
She started teaching in 1969 at an all-black college in Mississippi. She loved it. She moved on to a job at San Jose State University, where she helped create one of the early women's studies programs.
Helmbold joined UNLV nine years ago to help build its women's studies program. She is sad about what budget cuts have done to the program.
"It's very disturbing to be here at the beginning and to be here when it's not completely gone, but it's certainly decimated."
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.