There was a meeting Thursday night at the Cooperative Extension office. The new UNR Provost, Dr. Kevin Carman, had scheduled a meeting with the community and to discuss proposed changes within the administrative structure of the Cooperative Extension. Dr. Carman mentioned the proposed restructuring that would eliminate the office of the Dean of the Cooperative Extension and move this position to an associate dean position within the newly organized College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources.
The audience was quite concerned about the state budget cuts that had significantly reduced employment and services at the Cooperative Extension. Many comments were directed to Dr. Carmen about the value of services to our community that were being lost by these budget cuts, impacting so many people. Dr. Carmen gave us continual assurances that the administrative move would enhance the efficiency of operations and enhance communication channels between the related programs of all three associate deans within the college. He deferred on several questions due to his recent arrival to the university, lacking full knowledge regarding several subjects. Nevertheless, he had faith that the integrity of the Cooperative Extension was not to be compromised by the administrative change and that his boss, President Marc Johnson, expressed his full support for the Cooperative Extension.
I was convinced by the end of the meeting that regardless of the eventual administrative structure of the college and the position of the Cooperative Extension, that the conversation I had just heard was the “effect” and that the ultimate “cause” is the statewide budget reductions and the Legislature’s fiscal goals to keep taxes low and operate our state government with optimal efficiency.
I contemplated whether I would receive a sympathetic ear if I commented to the relatively conservative folks that I thought that we had swung too far towards fiscal conservatism at the cost of vital social services, not just those supplied by the Cooperative Extension but so much other government services. Even if some government performance is inefficient, unnecessary, or corrupt, I think we should work to fine tune and fix these problems over time and not just over react and reject government all together. Cynicism towards government is not a productive attitude towards fixing government. In sum, a recent article in High Country News summed up this conversation succinctly when an author stated, “Government is easy to hate in the abstract, but austerity is tough to stomach in practice.” So many cuts in government services are coming home to haunt the middle class and I hope we react with legitimate support for the value of these services, including the Cooperative Extension.
Ed S. Kleiner