Ouch, 14.5 percent? This could sting a bit.

Steep budget cuts at UNR could change the face of campus

Milton Glick

Milton Glick

There’s a palpable feeling of sadness, shock and bitterness at UNR’s Equestrian Center these days. It’s as if someone has died—or is about to. The pained smiles on the faces of program director Linda Vogedes and the students and employees there seem to serve the function of discouraging tears rather than relaying any sense of joy.

After nearly 40 years of boarding horses and giving lessons, the center will be shutting down by June 2009. Vogedes, who’s worked at the center over a decade, got the news this June.

“It’s a done deal,” says Vogedes. “Once spring classes are over, we’ll have to have dispersal [of the horses] at that point. … It’s a sad thing. A lot of students come here.”

The Equestrian Center is a visible example of UNR’s budget cuts, in part, because they’ve gotten good press. The Reno Gazette-Journal has written about them as being among the first casualties of what’s currently an 8 percent budget cut that could reach 14.5 percent later this year. The school’s Marching Band, which has existed for more than 25 years, is facing possible elimination, as well. But they’re hardly alone. Across the university—from the roughly 75 teachers who were either laid off (“nonrenewed,” to use the school’s lingo), accepted early retirement, or whose positions were never refilled; to the downsized Oral History department; to the many faculty and staff members doing things that are no part of their job descriptions—people are feeling the cuts.

The university has long since trimmed the fat from the budget and is now having to go into deep tissue.

The state, facing a budget crisis, asked the university in January to cut 4.5 percent from the budget. Recently, they were told to cut another 3.5 percent, bringing the total to 8 percent, or about $10 million at UNR. But they’ve been told to prepare for the possibility of 14.5 percent.

UNR President Milton Glick has made budget cuts before in past jobs he’s held, even 5 percent budget cuts. “But never, ever at 14 percent,” he says, seated at the round table in his office. The university won’t know for at least six months—until the next legislative session—if the 14 percent cuts will be required.

“Fourteen percent, if it happens, will really change the future of this university,” says Glick. Whole programs, if necessary, could be cut.

Some of the reductions already made include:

• Marketing and communication divisions (not programs) in the school have been reduced. • Employees are often telecommuting rather than traveling for meetings.

• Energy-saving procedures, from lowering thermostats to choosing energy-efficient technologies when possible, are underway.

• A strategic hiring freeze was put into place earlier this year.

• Early retirement and buy-out incentives were offered to tenured faculty.

• The College of Health and Human Sciences has reorganized into the Division of Health Sciences, which encompasses 10 programs that will be overseen by one guy, John McDonald, vice president of Health Sciences. Glick says further consolidation of other programs is likely.

Glick says his top priority is protecting students’ educational progress. “Anyone that comes to the university, we’re going to meet their career goals,” he says. That, he says, means prioritizing teachers; science, English and psychology programs, as well as high-demand programs. He says he “cautiously believe[s]” that “when the state sees just how devastating 14 percent will be—not just for us, but also K-12 and social services” that efforts will be made to protect them.

“The state is not producing enough college graduates to prosper in the future,” he says. “This will certainly present a barrier to producing those college graduates.”

Jen Huntleysmith of the Academy for the Environment says certain funding cuts don’t always represent the true amount lost. She says many researchers will get, for example, $3,000 from the university for funding, but they’ll use that $3,000 to get $300,000 in grants. “A lot of what we’re able to do is because we’re able to leverage a small amount of money into more,” she says. Rather than complain about mean ole President Glick taking money away, she says people should be addressing government leaders.

“People think there’s nothing they can do, but they can call their assemblyperson and say, ‘Tell the governor this is unacceptable.’”