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Opinion: University budget cut fallout – it’s a matter of perspective


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Part 4 of an ongoing series about University of Nevada, Reno budget cut proposals

While the University of Nevada, Reno has plenty of good news to share, other news has developed less visibly on the budget front.

The ever-beleaguered College of Education posted its counter proposal to the curricular review, which has reportedly been approved by the University administration. While the Provost’s proposal would have reduced the College to essentially a Normal School – a concept that defined education as mere teacher preparation through the early years of the University – the College’s counter proposal will retain graduate programs.

Meanwhile, according to sources, pink slips have reportedly been issued to (non-tenured) assistant professors in the College, and last week education Dean William Sparkman stepped down as dean.

Students of graduate programs that would be closed under the proposal were sent letters via certified mail indicating programs were under review. The letter states: “These actions are the result of recent legislative budget reductions to the university.”

What’s not mentioned is that the Provost’s office crafted the curricular review proposal, choosing which programs should be eliminated, and therefore which students would be receiving the letters. The letter also recommends discussing programs of study with graduate advisers. Graduate advisers, however, have said they were not aware these letters had been sent.

The Department of Resource Economics posted a vigorous response to the Provost’s budget cut proposals. This is from the preamble: “We the faculty in the Department of Resource Economics challenge this Proposal on the grounds that it is (i) based on incorrect or misleading data, (ii) a paradoxical emphasis on size rather than value or productivity, (iii) counter to UNR’s stated mission and strategic objectives, and (iv) a misunderstanding of the scale of the impacts resulting from the closure of the department.”

The Department of Animal Biotechnology has also drafted a response to the University administration. It begins: “The faculty and staff unanimously oppose this proposed elimination of (the department) and submit this rebuttal.” It concludes: “We the Department of Animal Biotechnology and School of Veterinary Medicine feel that the review process has failed to adequately address many issues especially our strengths.”

Across campus, unnamed student journalists adopted a blame-the-victim posture about budget-cut proposals while ignoring the obvious elephant in the newsroom: the declining state of the news journalism profession.

In 2008, there were about 69,300 jobs as journalists, out of 135,185,230 total jobs held in March, 2008: 69,300/135,185,230 = 0.00051 = 0.05%

In spring 2009 there were 480 journalism majors at UNR, out of 11,743 total undergrads, and 480/11743 = 0.0409 = 4%.  The journalism job share relative to the student share is 0.013.  The share of jobs in journalism is way lower than the share of University of Nevada students in journalism.

In comparison, there were 1,169,400 jobs managing farms, ranches and so on in the U.S. of the same total, which is a ratio of 0.0087 or 0.87%.

There were 38 resource economics majors at the University, or 0.3%. In other words, agriculture’s job share relative to the student share is 2.673.  That is, the share of jobs in agriculture is more than twice the share of resource economics majors.

While there’s still a market for food – even beef – the market for news journalism is demonstrably less palatable and shrinking ever faster.

Yet budget reductions from FY08-09 to FY 09-10 state appropriations amounted for the Reynolds School of Journalism to -4.5% (from $1.935M to $1.849M) while the College of Agriculture took a hit of -7.1% (from$4.313M to $4.0M). The Agricultural Experiment Station was at -13.9% (from $10.94M to $9.41M).

All told, agriculture took a $1.8 million hit while the J-school took an $86,204 hit.

Still, the Sagebrush editorial is very clear: “This is no longer about protesting cuts to education. The numbers are in and something has to go.”

The solution apparently depends on which numbers you look at – and which program you happen to study.

See also:

Bob Conrad is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with degrees in journalism and counseling and educational psychology. He is currently a doctoral student of educational leadership and holds a research assistantship working on the Great Basin Environmental Program. He blogs at The Good, The Bad, The Spin and is a co-founder of This Is Reno.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.