From the IANR Vice Chancellor
As we embark on what is sure to be a memorable semester, I would like to welcome you back to campus, however that looks for you. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy and that you were able to take some much-needed time to unplug, decompress, and get ready for the next few months.
I also want to thank you all for the creativity, flexibility, grit and drive that got us through the second half of the spring semester, the summer session, spring and summer fieldwork, nearly 100 county fairs, and finally, the Herculean task of preparing for our students’ safe return this fall. Put simply, your innovation, teamwork, and commitment are inspirational and make me more grateful than ever to be part of the IANR team. We’ve heard often over the past few years that Nebraskans help Nebraskans. These words are so true. You have helped each other, and many of you have used your expertise to help those beyond UNL. IANR’s efforts to produce and donate nearly 200,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, along with our collaboration with Nebraska’s hard-hit pork industry to feed those most in need, are just two of many examples of IANR helping Nebraskans.
Over the summer, while many of us were working remotely, our campus transformed. The Nebraska East Union and C.Y. Thompson Library are unrecognizable from just a few short months ago as renovations have progressed. If you haven’t already, you can view this video for a sneak peek of these projects, which are injecting new energy into the East Campus.
As I spend more time in Ag Hall, it is wonderful to look out my window at a bustling campus. It’s just as wonderful to see our students, faculty and staff practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Taking these simple precautions will go a long way in allowing us to continue this semester in-person. This brings me to a few updates:
COVID POLICIES AND PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
UNL has developed a website of COVID-19-related resources, including campus policies, testing sites and more. Within IANR, each unit has received hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and other PPE that will be distributed to all faculty and staff. For additional PPE needs, IANR has developed a dedicated website where IANR personnel may purchase additional masks, gloves, shields, hand sanitizer and more.
You have no doubt seen the headlines about the COVID-induced budget shortfalls facing the NU system and most institutions of higher education across the United States. UNL will cut $38.3M from its state-aided budget, and of this, $10.1M will come from IANR. Over the past few months, IANR’s expanded leadership team worked collaboratively with our faculty and staff to develop recommendations for applying these cuts. In making these recommendations, we tried to be fair, equitable, and strategic in a manner that would least impact our upward trajectory and momentum. For example, a large portion of the reduction is slated to come from reductions to the administrative operating budgets of the IANR VC Office, CASNR, Extension and ARD, and through eliminating positions that are currently open. There may also be opportunities to shift additional positions to non-state-aided funding sources.
In late July, we submitted IANR’s plan to Chancellor Green. UNL’s Academic Planning Committee (APC) is currently reviewing Chancellor Green’s proposed reduction plan and will share their recommendations. I will share updates to this process as appropriate. Lastly, it is important to note that while we are required to finalize a reduction plan now, the cuts will take effect over the next three years, which will soften the blow a little.
I have had many conversations this summer about our work to make IANR and Nebraska agriculture more inclusive, and I wholeheartedly support the steps Chancellor Green laid out in pursuit of becoming a more equitable university. Within IANR, we will be launching a group to nurture conversations and take action to enhance their campus experience and feeling of belonging. Several events this fall will allow for broad discussions of these topics. IANR must be a place where all are welcome and where all have opportunity.
Despite the many challenges we face, we must remember our work – our research, discovery, and creative works; our extension and engagement efforts; our teaching and learning – is changing the world. During the Aug. 14 Board of Regents meeting, President Carter presented the new five-year plan for the NU System. In that plan, he outlined five areas of strength in which NU is well positioned to be a world leader. Four of those areas of strength – food and water security, infectious disease, rural community development and vitality, and early childhood education – relate directly to IANR. I see the identification of these areas as a vote of confidence in IANR, in our long history of innovation, and in the outstanding work of all of us.
President Carter has repeatedly expressed his faith in the University of Nebraska to make it through this challenging time. He reiterated this in his comments during his investiture Friday.
"Nebraskans expect their university to operate with common-sense improvements," he said. "We won't spend money we don't have. We'll take care of the resources we do have. And we'll continually look for opportunities to become leaner, more effective and more efficient."
I couldn’t agree more. We are in the midst of tough times, but the hard work, flexibility and ingenuity that got us through the past five months will carry us through to the other side of COVID. We won’t emerge unscathed – no one will – but I believe we will be stronger and, if the dedication I’ve seen over the past five months is any indication, better.