Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

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Looking in on: Higher Education:

Committee is ‘not just another level of bureaucracy’

It might seem like a paradox — establishing another layer of bureaucracy in an attempt to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

But that’s precisely what public higher education system officials are doing.

On Thursday at a meeting of the Board of Regents, Chairman Michael Wixom announced the creation of an Efficiency and Effectiveness Committee that will include community and business leaders as well as higher education staff.

The committee will look for practices at each of the state’s seven public colleges and universities and the Desert Research Institute with an eye to what other institutions could implement to save money and improve student recruitment and retention.

The committee will also examine ways to finance construction and use facilities more efficiently.

“It’s not just another level of bureaucracy,” Wixom said. “We’re bringing people in to help us understand how we can do better.”

He said higher education staff members tend to focus on individual campuses “without taking a global look at the system.” The new committee will take a much broader view, he said.

Wixom plans to fill positions on the committee, which could consist of nine to 13 members, by the start of next year. He expects the group to report initial findings before the 2009 legislative session ends.

“I challenge us to do our jobs better,” he said. “It is my firm belief that the long-term result of this effort will be a better understanding of our system, greater credibility and, ultimately, greater public support.”

• • •

Another victim of budget cuts: six bachelor of applied science programs at Nevada State College.

Regents voted at this week’s meeting to eliminate the programs in construction management, engineering technology, information technology, media technology, automotive technology and horticulture management at NSC officials’ request.

NSC Provost Lesley Di Mare said the offerings had to go because the college could not afford to hire enough faculty members to ensure the programs would be accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

“It was a disappointment,” Di Mare said.

“Unfortunately, when you have budget cuts, sometimes your new programs go,” she said.

Students in canceled programs have been enrolled in the school’s accredited bachelor of applied science in management program.

Applied science programs are still offered in criminal justice, which is accredited, and fire science, which is pursuing accreditation.

Bachelor of applied science programs emphasize hands-on training in fields that require technical skills. The programs are open only to students who have associate of applied science degrees.

• • •

The Internet is playing a key role in efforts to rally students to protest state budget cuts and potential fee increases.

On the social network Facebook, student leaders are keeping peers apprised of budget cut-related events including town hall meetings and protests through a Facebook group called “The Nevada Higher Education Budget Cuts are threatening my future.”

This week the group hosted a Facebook event, calling on its 1,400 or so members to demonstrate at the regents’ meeting against potential fee hikes. More than 800 people said they would attend, registering RSVPs on the site.

In the end, about 150 students showed up at the meeting. Organizers still were pleased.

“I think (Facebook) made a huge difference,” said David Rapoport, a senator in UNLV’s undergraduate student government. “Facebook is a great way to reach out to students.”

And social networking is just one way student leaders are using the Web to rally peers.

Hundreds of readers of UNLV’s student newspaper, The Rebel Yell, signed a form letter protesting potential fee increases via the publication’s Web site.

Student leaders’ heavy use of the Internet does not mean they are shirking traditional methods of organizing. In the days leading up to the regents meeting, students set up tables on campus, gathering more than 3,000 signatures for the form letter.

Adam Cronis, UNLV’s undergraduate student body president, said though reaching out to students online is important, the on-campus efforts to promote the protest persuaded many to turn out.

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