LINCOLN — Though faculty and students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha spoke out against a planned merger of two engineering departments Friday, the NU Board of Regents gave no indication it will turn back.
Six people spoke up and 20 more in the audience came to Friday's board meeting to oppose the controversial merger of the Omaha-based department of computer and electronic engineering with the electrical engineering program in Lincoln.
But the merger was not even mentioned in the discussion of a revised strategic plan for the Peter Kiewit Institute.
The strategic plan, presented jointly by the chancellors of UNO and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is focused on building stronger partnerships with Omaha companies and increasing the faculty, student enrollment and research activity.
Among the specific benchmarks it lays out for the Kiewit Institute:
» Increasing Omaha-based undergraduate enrollment in the College of Engineering from about 780 now to 1,200.
» Improving freshman-to-sophomore retention among Omaha students in the College of Engineering from 66 percent to 90 percent, and improving the six-year graduation rate from 42 percent to 70 percent.
» Expanding an Omaha-based master of engineering degree for working professionals.
» Increasing Omaha-focused research expenditures in the College of Engineering from just over $3.3 million to about $30 million.
» Adding 30 new engineering faculty positions in Omaha.
The regents approved a plan last year to put control of the institute under the senior vice chancellors of UNO and UNL.
The changes are designed to correct “dysfunctionalities” in structure and operations cited by a consultant's report in July.
The UNL College of Engineering will also add a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's degree in engineering for working professionals, both Omaha-based.
But faculty and students raised concerns Friday that the merger of the two departments would leave students in a lurch.
UNO faculty senator Harrison Means asked the board to follow recommendations made in past reports and by former leaders and give Omaha a standalone engineering college.
UNL professor Rigoberto Guevara, speaking for UNL faculty, said he respects UNO faculty for fighting for what they think is right, but said UNL supports the changes.
The regents did not address any of the speakers or discuss the merger.