Regents cut 17 degrees or program but few faculty affected

The Board of Regents eliminated 17 degrees or programs on three Nebraska University campuses at the April 19 meeting, but the cuts had little to no impact on faculty.

Five University of Nebraska-Lincoln programs or degrees were eliminated; four were cut at the Kearney campus, and the Medical Center lost eight. In most cases, the degrees that were eliminated were merged with larger programs. Programs that were completely eliminated usually have few or no students and faculty had already left the university or retired.

The regents had few questions about most of the program eliminations. The topic that drew the most discussion among the board members was a proposal to allow alcohol sales at Husker baseball and softball games at Haymarket Park.

The UNL programs that were eliminated were the doctor of juridical sciences in space law, the bachelor of science in applied climate science, the bachelor of science in water science, the master of science in veterinary science, and the National Center for Research in Economic  Education.

The space law program, launched in 2012, has produced few degrees. Only two students are currently working on their dissertations. The faculty member who has been supervising the program will continue to teach classes but will no longer administer the program. The bachelor of science degrees in applied climate science and water science will be replaced by climate and water options under the bachelor of science program in environmental science. The changes will not affect curriculum or faculty positions.

The National Center for Research in Economic Education in the College of Business was established in 1984, but all faculty who had been associated with it have left UNL. No current faculty are interested in serving in the center.

Regent Tim Clare supported eliminating the center, but he said UNL and all Nebraska campuses need to teach students financial literacy. “We have to help students learn what the value of a dollar bill is,” he said.

The elimination of the master of science in veterinary science elicited some concern from the regents. Both Regents Paul Kenney and Barbara Weitz asked if there was a way to replace the program with one that would assure Nebraska would have the veterinary expertise livestock producers need.

Mike Boehm, the vice chancellor of the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said students in the program were studying veterinary science, not veterinary medicine, but were not likely to earn a doctoral degree in the field. Boehm said the American Veterinary Medical Association was examining what programs should fill the gap between the two-year veterinary technician degree and the eight-year doctor of veterinary medicine degree, and UNL is watching that effort.

The program the regents eliminated has only seven students enrolled and had produced too few graduates to meet the standards of the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. The faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science plan to create a new specialization in veterinary science to fill the needs that the old program had been meeting.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney programs that were affected were all in mass communication. The bachelor’s degree programs in journalism, advertising and public relations, sports communication and multimedia will all be replaced by a new bachelor of science in media studies comprehensive. UNK anticipates saving $203,000 through elimination of two faculty positions through retirements and reductions in force. The change assures that the program will meet coordinating commission standards for numbers of majors and graduates.

Most of the program changes for the University of Nebraska Medical Center involved terminating six doctoral programs and merging them in a broader doctoral program in interdisciplinary graduate programs in biomedical sciences. The other changes involved the elimination of a bachelor of science in medicine, which had been created for pre-medical students with non-traditional backgrounds. No students had enrolled in the program for several years, however. The other elimination was a certificate program in community-oriented primary care. It was part of the master of public health program, but no students had been enrolled in the certificate program for several years.

On the sale of alcohol at UNL baseball and softball games at Haymarket Park, Interim President Chris Kabourek said it was an amenity many fans wanted and has been provided at sporting events at other universities, including Big Ten schools, without problems. Kabourek said UNL has experience with alcohol sales at athletic events such as Big Ten basketball games, Volleyball Day  in September 2023 and the Big Ten wrestling championships a couple of years ago. This proposal, he said, was the result of discussion he and Troy Dannen, the new athletic director, had with Jim and Jack Abel and others at NEBCO, Inc., the owner of the Lincoln Saltdogs, who share the ballpark with UNL. The alcohol revenues will be reinvested in maintaining and improving Haymarket Park.

Regent Weitz, however, said this proposal went beyond just an occasional exception to the ban on alcohol to allowing sales at all Nebraska baseball games. “I know beer and baseball go together…, but we on the Board of Regents need to spend time on what our alcohol policy is all about,” she said. The decisions should not be made on a piecemeal basis.

Regent Kathy Wilmot also objected to characterizing alcohol sales as “enhancing the fan’s experience.” For families and children, the sale of alcohol might not be an enhancement, she said.

Regent Jim Scheer said he had opposed alcohol sales in the past, but this change will generate more revenue for the program. “We have a shared facility that is in need of renovation and updates,” he said, and few partners would be willing to forego the profits from alcohol and make the necessary investments to preserve and improve the facility.

Jeffrey Gold, the chancellor of the medical center and priority candidate for NU president, recalled the evidence that went into the decision to allow alcohol sales at Pinnacle Bank Arena. “The scientific data,” he said, “drew a distinction between what happens outside the arena … as compared to a thoughtful ability to dispense alcohol in a controlled way.” The data showed the incidence of driving while intoxicated and serious accidents was higher when alcohol was not being sold in the arenas and stadiums, he said.

The regents approved the proposal to sell alcohol at Haymarket Park, although Regents Weitz and Wilmot opposed the measure.

In other business, the regents

  • Approved a contract authorizing HDR Architecture, Inc., to proceed with the next phase of designing renovations to Memorial Stadium. The approval does not commit the university to implementing any renovations. The cost of the design work is included in the $45 million expenditure the board approved in October.
  • Approved a program statement for a residence hall on the UNMC campus. The hall will be designed to accommodate 300 students and residents in studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. The hall is needed because of the shortage of housing in the vicinity of the medical center. Anne Barnes, vice chancellor of business and finance, estimated the apartments would rent for $1,300 to $1,500 a month, which is in line with market rates in the area.
  • Approved naming the new UNL football performance facility the Osborne Legacy Complex in honor of former head coach Tom Osborne.
  • Approved naming the Ice Rink at Baxter Arena in Omaha the Michael Kemp Ice Rink in honor of the first head coach of the UNO ice hockey team.