The state of Nevada is, like most of the nation, currently undergoing a budget crisis. Our newly elected leadership is planning on keeping the state in the black by cutting programs only—the new governor has vowed not to increase revenues in any way (i.e. he has pledged not to raise any taxes on anyone). In fact, he plans to allow several business taxes to sunset in the near term.
The inevitable result of this policy decision is that many state programs are being obliterated. Social programs are on the chopping block, as is funding for state infrastructure. However, the part of the current budget proposal that I find most offensive is the gutting of the state educational system, particularly the university system.
The most recent budget proposal called for nearly $60 million in cuts from my institution, the University of Nevada, Reno. After drastic increases in tuition and an across-the-board pay cut, the Board of Regents was asked to identify $38 million in cuts. Their proposal would reduce the budget for support services by $25 million, and cut academic programs by nearly $14 million.
The proposed budget plan eliminates several degree programs (including Philosophy and Nutrition), combines and significantly cuts several colleges (the College of Education is to be rolled into the College of Liberal Arts, and several other schools are to be combined into the College of Science; all of the affected programs are to be severely cut), and drastically cuts many other programs.
Of particular interest to me, the Board’s proposed budget reduces the Department of Mathematics and Statistics from 20 to 9 faculty positions, and completely eliminates the graduate program in mathematics. In essence, the department would be reduced from a productive research department to a service department, teaching only remedial courses and required courses for other majors.
While I disapprove of many of the cuts that have been proposed, I am flabbergasted by the idea that UNR—the state’s flagship institution—could even consider eliminating its research program in mathematics. Our political leadership has made it clear that they don’t value education, and our academic leadership has made it clear that mathematics is only required insofar as it serves the needs of other programs.
In an attempt to sway my representatives to reconsider, I will be sending the following letter to Richard Daly and Don Gustavson, who represent me in the State Assembly and State Senate (respectively):
I am writing to you as a voter in your District regarding the biennial budget. I am concerned that the Governor’s budget proposal will have a profound and lasting negative effect upon UNR and the overall quality of education in this great state. Several important programs such as Mathematics and Education will be crippled, while other programs will be entirely eliminated. Hundreds of university employees have already been fired, and there are more on the chopping block.
I know that the idea of raising taxes is unpalatable at this time, but if additional sources of revenue cannot be found, the damage to our educational system will be severe and difficult, if not impossible, to repair. I urge you to consider any or all of the revenue-generating proposals now circulating in the Legislature. In particular, the existing tax structure, which is set to expire, could be extended without creating any new taxes.
UNR is a vital institution. Please do what is necessary to ensure that it remains so into the future.
Alexander M. Henderson