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$3.4m cut slashes budget

Students and staff alike reeling after meeting on Monday reveals massive cuts to faculty, athletics, facilities
UNK Communications

University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen today outlined proposed budget cuts that exceed $3.4 million, and affect 38 positions across nearly every campus unit.

Men’s baseball, golf and tennis will be eliminated. Position eliminations comprise 16 faculty, 2.5 administrative, and 16.5 staff positions. Three affected staff positions will shift to the University of Nebraska system as part of the budget response team process.

“The magnitude of these cuts is unprecedented, considering they represent a nearly 5 percent reduction in UNK’s operating budget and employee workforce,” Kristensen said.

UNK’s budget gap of $3.4 million is the result of decreased state appropriations, declining credit hour production, and scheduled salary and benefit increases.

“The fact that we developed these recommendations collaboratively across campus doesn’t lessen the negative impact on faculty, staff and students, and for Nebraskans,” Kristensen said.

The campus has been guided by its strategic plan and identified reductions through a hiring freeze, college and departmental mergers, and by engaging the campus in a comprehensive review of all units, functions, programs, staffing, and enrollment trends, he said.

“We have tightened our belts for years, but the current situation has required a more strategic approach to protect academic quality and core campus functions and services,” Kristensen said.

The budget reductions were presented to a forum of faculty, staff and students on campus today. The administration will now receive feedback from faculty and staff to formulate final budget reductions that will become effective July

The recommendations outlined today by Kristensen included reductions in administration and support staff ($837,000), faculty ($1,551,872), operations personnel ($829,475), and athletics ($450,000). The total proposed is $3.67 million.

The 16 recommended faculty reductions come from UNK’s four colleges and the library. Specific positions have been identified, but could change following additional input from faculty and deans.

“Faculty reductions result in lost teaching capacity, with fewer course sections and larger class sizes, and also impact student academic and career advising,” Kristensen said. The eliminated positions are vacant or are identified for vacancy soon because of planned retirements or reorganization. Kristensen said regardless of whether a reduced position is associated with an existing person, “these are needed jobs that once eliminated have real and permanent impact.”

Administrative reductions will result from a merger of the colleges of Fine Arts and Humanities and Natural and Social Sciences into a new College of Arts and Sciences. In 2017 Chancellor Kristensen announced a process to merge the colleges. The new alignment involves collaborative restructuring involving faculty and leadership in the two existing colleges.

Once approved by the Board of Regents and fully implemented, the new college structure will result in the elimination of the positions of a dean, associate dean, and administrative support position. The college proposal could be ready for presentation to the Regents this summer.

The announcement of the elimination of men’s golf and tennis, and baseball, was discussed at the forum, and student-athletes, staff and other stakeholders were informed today of the decision.

“Sport elimination is particularly difficult because it directly impacts 56 student athletes and 10 incoming freshmen,” Kristensen said. Title IX compliance prohibited consideration of eliminating a women’s sport, and the MIAA conference requires sponsorship of football and basketball. Further analyzed as part of the decision were budget and costs, facilities, travel cost, and climate-related challenges to scheduling home competitions, Kristensen said.

UNK Director of Athletics Paul Plinske said student-athletes’ scholarships will be honored through their remaining eligibility, and UNK will support the athletes in their efforts to find new teams and transfer if they desire. Additionally, the swimming pool in Cushing Coliseum will be closed, resulting in savings of $56,000 annually.

“While the budget constraints faced by the university are unprecedented, we will continue to protect quality academic programs and core functions and keep our tuition affordable for students and families,” Kristensen said.

UNK has approximately 814 benefit-eligible employees. Of those, 471 are considered staff (includes administration, office, service and managerial professional employees) and 343 are faculty (special appointment lecturers, tenure-track faculty, tenured faculty and deans).

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