As part of the cuts, UNR proposed on Monday to close the School of Social Work, but University Provost Marc Johnson and President Milt Glick chose Tuesday to take that proposal off the table in response to a University of Nevada, Las Vegas announcement that it also was planning to close its own social work department.
“They did not want to leave the state without a school of social work,” Mary Hylton, associate professor at UNR, said after the provost’s announcement Tuesday afternoon.
UNR’s nationally accredited School of Social Work is the only school of its kind in northern Nevada, and the only other school offering degrees in social work is located at UNLV.
“We still want to advocate for UNLV’s School of Social Work,” Hylton said. “We want to use the energy here to promote all of higher education.”
But with the state continuing to carve the higher education budget, the future is beginning to look grim for UNR.
The university on Monday notified faculty, staff and students that proposed budget cuts of $26 million could mean the elimination of 225 positions and the closure or reorganization of certain programs and departments.
If the proposed reductions are made, academic programs and degrees in theater and dance will come to a halt and the budget for the University of Nevada School of Medicine will be reduced. Funding also would be cut for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, and the degree major in French would be eliminated.
Student services available through the Disability Resource Center, Center for Cultural Diversity, Student Success Services, Student Conduct, Recruitment and Admissions and Records would be reduced, and additional student services would be moved to a fee-based support system.
Additionally, UNR’s facilities department would be cut, resulting in a reduction in custodial and maintenance services at all university campuses and facilities.
Of the 225 positions on the chopping block, 150 currently are filled. The remaining positions were intentionally left vacant in anticipation of budget cuts, a UNR press release states.
Johnson said this new round of budget cuts is very painful for the campus community.
“As with previous budget cuts, to the extent possible it is our intent to maintain a quality university with a strong research program and quality degree programs,” Johnson said. “We also remain committed to preserving access for students prepared to earn their college degree. However, much as we are striving to maintain quality and access, these cuts and potential future cuts will change the very nature of the university.”
In pleading the case for sparing the School of Social Work, Hylton said Nevada needs social workers, especially in the state’s depressed economic state.
“This state actually has indicators that suggest we need more social workers,” Hylton said. “Our community is really hurting. There is a tremendous amount of need.”
Hylton said the elimination of the School of Social Work would have hurt the community in a number of ways aside from fewer social workers entering Nevada’s workforce. Social work students serve one internship at the undergraduate level and two internships at the graduate level, which last year translated to 45,000 hours of unpaid service to the health and human services industry, she said.
The school also provides training to child welfare workers in the field and offers assistance to schools in rural communities, such as Great Basin College in Elko.
“We work with Great Basin College to ensure students can earn a UNR bachelor’s degree from us through distance education,” Hylton said.
Higher education cuts could mean a loss of students opting to attend college in Nevada, Hylton said.
“I know kids of friends who are graduating from high school that aren’t looking at Nevada,” she said. “They’re looking at going to college outside the state because Nevada is too unpredictable.”
Emzy Burroughs, a vocal performing student at UNR, echoed Hylton’s remarks. Burroughs said he has a sister still in high school who is considering attending college out of state in order to pursue a degree in music.
“Those making the budget cuts don’t understand how big of an effect it has on the community not to have performing arts,” Burroughs said.
“They always brag about how important the arts are,” music education student Josh Strickland said, “and they’re always the first to go.”
Music student Quinton Bunk said program elimination leaves students with fewer choices.
“It cuts your options in what you are trying to pursue,” Bunk said.
Brandon Bishop, speaker of the Senate of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), said severe cuts to higher education spell doom for the state.
“The cowardess and lack of foresight in our legislators is killing the state of Nevada,” Bishop said. “They’re undercutting the future of our state.”
Erik Cooper, who is pursuing at bachelor’s degree in music at UNR, believes the latest proposed cuts are only the beginning.
“If theater and dance get hit, we get hit,” Cooper said. “We have these programs that are precariously stacked. If you cut theater, music is affected.”
Cooper explained if UNR’s theater program is less than par, fewer vocal performers will choose to attend the school and the music program will suffer.
UNR has a student governing body elected by the students and Cooper said he wonders why ASUN is not involved in the decision-making process when it comes to program closures.
“Why doesn’t our leadership have a say?” Cooper asked. “I wouldn’t even order Emzy a sandwich without asking what he wanted.”
The budget reduction proposals announced Monday will be discussed at the March 10-11 meeting of the Nevada Board of Regents at Western Nevada College in Carson City.
Hylton encourages northern Nevada residents to keep in touch with their legislators as the 2011 general session moves forward.
“We want to communicate to the Legislature that there has to be another answer besides these cuts to the university,” Hylton said. “The answer needs to be something besides cuts to higher education.”