A Message from President Neal Smatresk
April 8, 2011
This past academic year has gone by quickly. I invite you to take a moment with me to reflect and consider all that has happened. The budget situation remains challenging and uncertain. Nevada is half way through the current legislative session, and we still do not know how our education system will fare in the end. Despite today's challenges, I want to take a moment and ask you to consider what your hard work and dedication to UNLV have done to build a great university, to serve more than 100,000 alumni, and to make Las Vegas a better community.
A little more than 50 years ago this institution was a classroom, a faculty member, a few students, and some books. Today we are a Research I university serving nearly 28,000 students. Last year a group of outside reviewers came to our campus, visited with our faculty, staff, students, alumni, partners and friends and praised us for our “exceptional sense of community and solidarity in the face of literally unprecedented fiscal challenges.” In my nearly 30 years in academia, UNLV’s most recent accreditation report was the finest I have ever seen.
There is so much to be proud of here. Many of our programs are nationally recognized and ranked because of the high quality of our faculty. Faculty members routinely win high national honors, conduct high-caliber research, mentor students who achieve at the highest levels, and earn the respect of their peers all over the world. The external recognition we receive and our graduates are a tribute to the quality of your work and your contributions to this university.
Unfortunately, the energy we once expended for growth now must be focused in a different way. Budget realities are forcing us back to basics. The resourcefulness and strength we have demonstrated in the past is needed now more than ever because we must rethink and reorganize our university. The process we are about to embark on is not just about what we cut, it is about how we can preserve our core mission and structure and, ultimately, how we emerge stronger and more sustainable as our economy rebounds.
Last month I released a list of possible program and department eliminations. The list, put together very quickly to meet the Regents’ demand for detailed cuts, has damaged morale and created an incredible amount of anxiety on our campus. Please know that this proposal was preliminary and by no means final. Now a more orderly analysis and process will take place, and you need to be involved in it.
I have asked all the deans to consult with faculty and staff to get your best ideas about how we can meet budget cut targets for your unit. Each college needs to engage in a thoughtful and thorough discussion about how we can sustain our core mission and serve our students in light of limited resources. After consulting with you, the deans will submit revised plans to the provost, who will then review them in collaboration with the Faculty Advisory Committee. We will fine tune the plans created in consultation with the faculty and have them ready for full consultation in mid-May.
I am deeply concerned about the colleagues and programs we will lose because budget cuts are inevitable, and I will do everything in my power to honor tenure wherever I can. I will work collaboratively with the Faculty Advisory Committee to preserve as many positions as possible.
Just because we are preparing for these dire cuts does not mean we have given up hope of improving our financial situation. Every day we are working with key stakeholders, hammering home the message that UNLV is critical to Las Vegas and the economic recovery of our state. We are informing legislators and the citizens of Nevada about the importance and impact of UNLV. All of us must take every opportunity to tout the accomplishments of our students, the quality of our teaching, the importance of our research, and the value of our service to the community.
Today I was fortunate to be present at a special meeting of the Board of Regents where they heard testimony from our donors, UNLV Foundation leaders, community supporters, alumni, students, and faculty. I am grateful for our partners and friends who passionately testified about the impact of UNLV on their lives and in Southern Nevada. I am intensely proud of the faculty and students who spoke eloquently about how their research makes a difference in the quality of life of Nevadans. The enthusiasm and dedication of so many people gives me hope for the future of UNLV and of our state.
Spread the word about our value to your students and former students, to your friends and neighbors, to your elected officials. Our successes are potent antidotes to the negativity around us and could help to minimize the cuts we are facing. They demonstrate that the future and the prosperity of our state are inextricably interwoven with UNLV. As troubled as we are about the difficulties we face, it is not time to give up. Share your stories and contact your representatives. The UNLV Ambassadors website is a good place to start.
Every so often I think we should take a moment. A moment to reflect on our success. A moment to consider how far we have come. A moment to thank those who have contributed along the way. My heartfelt thanks to each of you. You have all helped make this a great institution, and I want to express my gratitude for your collaborative efforts to help us get through this crisis together.
Neal Smatresk, President