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Proposed budget cuts would eliminate 315 jobs, 33 degree programs at UNLV

To meet proposed budget cuts, UNLV would eliminate 33 degree programs with more than 2,000 students in them, killing 315 jobs, UNLV President Neal Smatresk told school employees and students Tuesday.

"We've already squeezed the blood from the stone," Smatresk said later.

Of the 315 jobs that would be eliminated, 120 are faculty positions. One hundred and ten of the 315 are vacant. The rest would require layoffs. Most probably would take effect July 1, 2012. Those cuts would bring total job losses to more than 800 at the university in the last several years.

"This is horrific, to talk about people like this," he said.

Smatresk said he thinks many of the 2,118 students in the affected programs would be able to stay at the university, either by changing majors or by finishing quickly. The students probably would be given a year to complete their degrees.

The department eliminations and layoffs will come only if budget cuts proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval go through.

UNLV officials say they must cut $47.5 million over the next two years. The cuts announced Tuesday account for $32.6 million. Smatresk said he hopes he does not have to make the rest of the cuts.

The proposed cuts came after several weeks of deliberation among deans, vice presidents and faculty members.

Budget reductions of $49.6 million at UNLV have resulted in larger class sizes, tuition and fee increases, employee buyouts, hiring freezes and, last year, the elimination of six departments.

Academics make up about 75 percent of the university's budget, but has taken only 25 percent of the cuts in the past. Smatresk said there is no way to do that anymore.

"Our ability to take cuts from other parts of the budget is exhausted," he said.

Tuesday, 12 more departments got the bad news. Some would be eliminated, and some would be folded into other departments.

Philosophy, Women's Studies and Social Work would go under Smatresk's proposal, which would ultimately require approval from the higher education system's Board of Regents.

That would not come until the Legislature is through this summer, because the cuts are only proposed until the Legislature acts and the governor signs a bill.

Todd Jones, chairman of the philosophy department, said the department has seven tenured or tenure-track professors, three visiting professors and between 10 and 20 part-time professors.

"They're all gone," if the cuts go through, he said. Jones said he has been at UNLV for 20 years, and he has no idea what he would do if he lost his job.

The department is relatively small, with only 85 majors. But Jones said nearly every UNLV student cycles through the department with an introductory class of some kind, such as critical thinking.

Similarly, the Women's Studies department has only 30 majors, four full-time faculty members and about 20 employees, said its chairwoman, Lois Helmbold.

But thousands of students take a course from the department, she said. She sees courses that focus on gender, class and racial issues as critical. Without her department, she said, all students would lose that experience.

William Epstein, a social work professor, said losing that department would be terrible for Nevada.

"The state's social services are deplorable," he said. "Cutting the program is like giving the finger to working people."

Epstein said it would be difficult to recruit social workers to Nevada from out of state if the university eliminates the program.

"Who in their right mind would move here?" he said.

Epstein, who wrote an opinion piece last year published in the Review-Journal that was highly critical of Smatresk, said he thought Smatresk proposed the department's elimination partly as retaliation against him.

"Good God, no," Smatresk said.

The UNLV cuts come on the heels of Monday's announcement from the University of Nevada, Reno, which said it also would eliminate its social work program, as well as several others.

Smatresk said he and UNR President Milton Glick will work together to try to ensure they aren't both eliminating necessary departments. UNR officials said late Tuesday that if UNLV cuts its social work program, that the Northern Nevada university wouldn't.

Also, College of Southern Nevada President Michael Richards has outlined plans that he said would cut $27 million. The plans would include closing its satellite centers, raising student fees and possibly closing the Henderson campus.

Richards said he expected to lose 13,000 of the community colleges 44,000 students if the cuts go through.

Other departments at UNLV would not be eliminated outright, but rather folded into other programs. Journalism, for example, would become part of communications studies.

Elsewhere at UNLV:

■ The Business and Education colleges would be restructured;

■ Curriculum in several programs would be restructured;

■ The Women's Research Institute of Nevada would be killed;

■ The libraries would lose employees;

■ Deans offices would be streamlined;

■ Athletics would lose two yet-unnamed programs;

■ Already delayed maintenance would be delayed more;

■ Some buildings might be temporarily mothballed;

■ Science departments would shrink;

■ Campus mail would be reduced to once a week;

■ Student recruitment would be cut back;

■ The recently departed director of public affairs would not be replaced;

■ 77 graduate assistant positions would be lost;

■ Community outreach efforts at the dental school would be reduced;

■ Tuition would be increased at the dental and law schools.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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