The words “financial exigency” sound oddly officious in the face of some of the worst budget cuts in UNLV’s history. Let’s put it another way: UNLV’s situation right now is comparable to Tulane University’s after Hurricane Katrina left that campus in ruins. UNLV is under water; Tulane was literally flooded.
The last school to declare financial exigency—similar to a declaration of bankruptcy, but instead of protection from outside creditors, it seeks protection from internal creditors (faculty and staff)—was Tulane, suffering more than $300 million in damages from Katrina. And the impact of that action is still being felt today. In a 2006 letter addressing concerns over the university’s action, Edward Strong, chair of the Faculty Tenure, Freedom and Responsibility Committee, said, “Uncertainty is a centerpiece of the declaration of financial exigency. What percent of the students would return? What faculty and staff would return? Will sufficient numbers of high-quality students apply to Tulane in the future?” Those same questions may be haunting UNLV very soon.