Seven academic departments and a service center for teachers are on the chopping block at UNLV as university administrators consider how to implement the latest round of state budget cuts.
"It's unfortunate, but I'm telling you right now this stuff is serious," said John Filler, a special education professor and chairman of the Faculty Senate. "There will be people who are laid off."
University administrators must implement about $9 million in cuts for next year. They have said they'll try to save $5 million in academic support areas -- leaving open administrative positions unfilled, for example -- and another $4 million in academics. The only way to do that is to eliminate programs, President Neal Smatresk has said.
The departments that could face elimination include marriage and family therapy, informatics and women's studies, as well as several others.
In addition, the list of potential eliminations includes the Teaching and Learning Center, a resource center for faculty and teaching assistants. It also includes several programs, or subunits, such as clinical laboratory sciences, landscape architecture and the urban horticulture program.
The list was generated after Provost Michael Bowers and Vice President for Research Ron Smith met with the deans at the university.
Criteria for choosing which programs to eliminate include cost, graduation rates, the number of students in the program, research funding and the overall importance of the program.
The total cost of the programs to be considered for elimination is well over the $4 million target, meaning not all of them will be eliminated. Bowers, in a memo to Smatresk, wrote that the list includes more programs than will need to be cut so a review committee appointed jointly by faculty and the administration will have a say in the process.
University officials also noted that just because a program is not on the list does not mean it is safe. The list is "a starting point," they said.
Among other cost-saving recommendations are the return of a semester schedule to the school of nursing, rather than a trimester schedule, and combining the school of journalism and media studies with the department of communications studies.
The list of recommendations was forwarded to the review committee, chaired by history professor Gregory Brown, president of the UNLV Faculty Alliance. The committee will forward recommendations to administrators, student government and a Faculty Senate committee, which will report to the president.
Smatresk hopes to have the process completed by spring graduation, set for May 8. He expects to make a final decision and present it to the higher education system's governing Board of Regents at its meeting in June. The board must approve any program elimination.
Brown said the university has been gearing up for this process for a year and a half. He and Filler both praised the administration for following the university's bylaws, and for conducting the process generally in the open.
The university also announced last week that it will offer another round of buyouts. Staffers who meet the criteria -- at least 10 years of service and at least 60 years old -- will be paid a year's salary to voluntarily leave their jobs. It is unknown how much money will be saved by the buyouts because the process is still ongoing.
Bowers also forwarded to Smatresk a list of colleges at that should be considered for a differential tuition program, should the Board of Regents choose to enact such a rule.
Smatresk has pitched the idea that the university should charge higher tuition and fees for programs that cost more to administer.
Those colleges and schools that should be considered for higher tuition, as noted in Bowers' memo, are architecture, business, engineering, hotel administration, nursing and physical therapy.
Bowers also has notified the deans that virtually all hiring will stop immediately, even for open positions that have already been advertised. Exceptions include two open dean positions and the separate budgets of the law and dental schools.
But those savings will not be enough to save some departments from elimination.
Lois Helmbold, chairwoman of the Women's Studies Department, one of those on the list of potential eliminations, said she was stunned to find her department on the list.
Helmbold said she planned on doing "everything we can" to keep the department from being eliminated.
"We will be taking this issue to as many levels of the population as we can."
She noted that the department is relatively inexpensive -- its cost per student rivals the least expensive at the university. And while it is not a large department, Helmbold said it is popular with students from other majors.
Measuring from last summer until now, she said, the department had seen 2,300 students go through at least one class.
Smatresk noted in his e-mail to the campus that students in the departments that get eliminated will be given time to finish their degrees. He has said the university will reassign tenured faculty, and will give notice to employees who will lose their jobs.
He also wrote that these cuts are not likely to be the last.
"I expect little relief and fear that without significant legislative intervention we will be forced to cut again next year."
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.