NU Board of Regents approves cutting three UNK programs

Feb. 9, 2024, 4 p.m. ·

February 2024 Board of Regents Meeting
A University of Nebraska at Kearney alum speaks to the board about keeping the Theatre program. The board approved cuts to the Kearney campus that included the Theatre program later in the meeting. (Photo by Jolie Peal/Nebraska Public Media News)

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The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved cutting the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s (UNK) Theatre program along with two other programs at their meeting Friday.

During public comment, eight people spoke against cutting UNK’s Theatre program. One current student in the program said theatre has provided relief from college anxieties.

“Theatre is not just for majors, minors and endorsements like me who want to do what they love, but also for other students at UNK who need a place to escape.”

The student also said they wouldn’t have gotten as much hands-on experience at a bigger school like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) or the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).

William Aviles, a political science professor and faculty president at UNK, said the Theatre program is a pillar of campus life.

“We simply do not have as many places, events where students and members of the larger community can come together, be entertained and escape from their classwork or escape from their work-work and just simply enjoy that type of togetherness and entertainment,” Aviles said.

Sarah Imes Borden, a lecturer at UNL who started as an adjunct professor in its theatre department in 2009, agreed with Aviles.

“Taking away theatre departments kills campuses,” Borden said. “It kills creativity. It kills so many things that we love about arts and humanities at each individual location.”

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said the amount of theatre faculty matches the average number of graduates.

“As an administrator, what you asked me to do is make it work,” he said. “I’ve got a $5 million target to reduce. If not here, where?”

Kristensen said this doesn’t have to be the end of productions at UNK, just the end of the academic programs.

Students currently enrolled in the program will be able to finish their degree. The board also approved cutting the Geography and Recreation academic programs.

The university plans to place a bid to host the 2027 NCAA Bowling Championship at Sun Valley Lanes & Games in Lincoln. In order to be a contender for hosting, the board approved allowing alcohol sales for the event.

Interim president Chris Kabourek was officially installed into the role. He said he wants to continue moving forward on the plan the board and previous president started implementing last year, which included getting the university back into the Association of American Universities.

“It’s not enough just to do that on the volleyball court,” he said. “We need to compete in the classroom. We need to go get the best and the brightest, and we need to abandon the mindset that it's okay to be the only institution of 18 institutions in the Big 10 that's not a member of the Association of American Universities.”

Kabourek will lead the university system as the search for a new permanent president continues.