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UNLV Prof. has BS in Hyperbole

(Chuck Muth) – The Hyperbole Factory, aka the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), cranked out a new “don’t cut our budget” missive in a letter-to-the-editor published Sunday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal; this one by the hand of Michael Pravica, an associate professor of physics.

Which I find ironic. I mean, what we’re talking about here is a budget that has skyrocketed over the years now having to be reduced. Or to put it in terms Prof. Pravica should be able to understand: What goes up, must come down.

And perhaps we should start with the good professor’s rather generous 2009 compensation package of $122,895 (Hat tip: Transparent Nevada). Sure, it’s not like he’s being paid like a Clark County firefighter, but hey, that’s not bad for sitting in an environmentally-controlled classroom all day long reciting the lyrics from The Elements Song by Tom Lehrer.

Side Note: In reviewing Prof. Pravica’s salary, I noticed that taxpayers also coughed up $49,500 in 2009 for a certain Maria Jeninic-Pravica as a “Visiting Associate Professor.” Hmm. I wonder if they’re related? Perhaps married? If so, I wonder why/how she got the job at UNLV? Nepotism? Or would Nevada taxpayers have been paying her almost fifty large to “visit” our campus even without the invaluable services of Prof. Pravica? Inquiring minds wanna know.

In any event, Prof. Pravica wrote the RJ to complain about a critical op/ed inked by a conservative education policy analyst named Patrick Gibbons. Pravica noted that “UNLV’s enrollment has been increasing as students seek to improve their skills and employability during this recession,” and complained that Gibbons made no mention of the fact that “UNLV has already sustained deep cuts that are seriously affecting its core mission.”

Which raises some interesting questions: What exactly is UNLV’s “core mission”? Is it to teach job skills to grown adults at taxpayer expense? And if so, isn’t that a mission for a technical institute rather than a university of higher education? Or is UNLV’s “core mission” to teach all of our unemployed construction workers how to be nuclear physicists?

Later in his letter, Prof. Pravica maintains that part of UNLV’s core mission is “guaranteeing that our students will receive a solid foundation of critical thinking/analytical problem solving/communication skills, core knowledge, and be motivated and inspired for lifelong learning.”

Um, excuse me, but isn’t that also the core mission of…kindergarten?

Seriously though. How does UNLV’s advertised course on “Diversity in Sport Organization” – described as teaching “issues of the non-dominant, historically under-represented segments of U.S. society, with an emphasis placed on racial, ethnic, and gender issues” – qualify as teaching critical thinking, analytical problem solving, or communications skills. Unless, of course, the course teaches why there are so few white basketball players in the NBA. Then I guess it could fall into the category of “core knowledge.”

And how exactly does the course on “Marching Band Techniques” fit into a core mission of higher education? Or is this part of Prof. Pravica’s stated desire to improve students’ “skills and employability”? If so, does this mean there’s a huge employment market for professional marching bands that we’re all not aware of?

And don’t even get me started on the “Varsity Men’s Glee Club” course or “Feminist Theories” or “Gandhian Welfare Philosophy and Nonviolent Culture.”

Oh, and by the way, when the Nevada State College was sold to taxpayers several years ago, we were told its primary focus would be on addressing the state’s shortage of nurses and teachers. Indeed, NSC’s Mission Statement today advertises “Special emphasis…on addressing the state’s need for effective, highly educated and skilled teachers and nurses.”

So, um, why are we duplicating the taxpayer-subsidized state college’s “core mission” by continuing to operate a College of Education and School of Nursing at taxpayer-subsidized UNLV just 17 miles away?

And why, oh why, pray tell is a UNIVERSITY including as part of its “core mission,” remedial classes in Math and English?

For example, Math 95 at UNLV teaches elementary algebraic topics and Math 96 teaches intermediate algebra topics that should been learned in the 8th or 9th grades. And then there’s English 98, a course “for students with low placement scores to help them learn and practice college-level critical reading and essay writing strategies.”

I mean, I don’t know why ANY taxpayer-subsidized post-secondary school of higher learning should be providing such courses, but if we are going to do so, shouldn’t it be done at the community college level, not the university level?

Anyway, in conclusion to his hyperbolic thesis on budget cuts, Prof. Pravica declares that if we cut the school’s budget, “we will stultify our national progress and go down a vicious spiral of ever-diminishing returns.” No wonder he’s a professor making six figures. And as one with no more than a simple high-school diploma, all I can think to say in response is…bull-$#%&!