Agonizing cuts

Students at the University of Nevada, Reno, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) are trying to save their college and degree programs after passage of the budget bill at last month’s special legislative session. The new budget calls for a 6.9 percent reduction in Nevada higher education funds, leaving universities like UNR with tough decisions to make. Trimming upwards of $11 million dollars from their spending, university officials are planning to dissolve CABNR and other programs.

Students have organized opposition rallies, mass e-mailings to UNR president Milton Glick, and created a Facebook page in an effort to convince Glick and the Board of Regents to reconsider the shutdown.

Students are arguing that the reason for the selection of CABNR for elimination—that it represents a low number of graduating students—makes little sense. Other colleges such as the Reynolds School of Journalism graduate fewer students than the Ag College, but are not at risk of being phased out. Others say that because UNR was founded as a land-grant college in 1874, its original purpose was to encourage the development of agriculture and engineering.

Its supporters say that even if the college is graduating fewer students than some of the others on campus, it consistently graduates students who are among the university’s top 10.

Students support alternate proposals being offered by the college, including making university-wide “horizontal cuts” (cuts from every college’s departments) instead of “vertical cuts” (eliminating whole programs). The cumulative rebuttal must be submitted for review by the end of March.

Even for graduating seniors like Alex Dussaq, who is pursuing a dual-degree in Applied Mathematics and Biochemistry at the Ag College, the closure is troubling. “In theory it shouldn’t affect me directly, but there’s a risk that my degree from a weakened or non-existent college will be slightly less valid,” says Alex.