A group of Sandhill cranes standing in a field, overlaid with the text
Photo by Dalton Carper/NNS

UNO administrator leaves position, due in part to Nebraska’s political climate

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, a political science professor and assistant vice chancellor for student success at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, announced he will be leaving the university on May 2. Alvarado, who spent more than 20 years at UNO, will begin his new role as the chief inclusion officer and senior advisor to the chancellor at Texas Christian University on  July 1. Benjamin-Alvarado, who said TCU is a great opportunity for him, cited several reasons for his decision, according to the Omaha World-Herald. One of those factors was politics. “The politics [at TCU] are not nearly as hostile as they are in Nebraska,” he said. TCU’s Board of Trustees gave Benjamin-Alvarado a clear indication that it wants its own narrative to be separate from Texas’s political landscape. Benjamin-Alvarado said he has taught critical race theory as part of the larger concept of critical theory, and the politicization of it in the state influenced his decision to leave. Additionally, the portrayal of Marco Barker, the UNL vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as a bogeyman in a political ad by gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster made Benjamin-Alvarado question if this was a place he wanted to be working. He said he had been looking for a new path for a couple of years and only planned to leave UNO if he had the opportunity to be in a senior leadership position.

Fortenberry trial begins

The trial of U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry began March 15 in Los Angeles over allegations by federal prosecutors that he lied to federal agents about receiving $30,000 worth of illegal campaign contributions from Nigerian foreign national Gilbert Chagoury. Fortenberry, who has pled not guilty, faces one count of scheming to falsify or conceal material facts and two counts of making a false statement to a government agency. Each felony charge comes with a maximum penalty of five years. This marks the first trial of a sitting member of Congress in 21 years.

Huskers lose in first round of NCAA Tournament

The Husker women’s basketball season came to a close when the team lost to Gonzaga 68-55 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament March 18. Nebraska trailed by just three points at halftime, but Gonzaga took an 11-point lead by the start of the fourth quarter. The Huskers had a 24-9 record this season, tying them for fourth-most wins in a season in program history. 

Sandhill crane dubbed as Nebraska’s state migratory bird

Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation to designate the Sandhill crane as Nebraska’s official state migratory bird during a March 17 ceremony at Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon. “This designation recognizes the Sandhill cranes’ migration as one of Nebraska’s most amazing natural spectacles. It also recognizes the benefit of the cranes to the State’s tourism industry, which warmly welcomes out-of-state birdwatchers each year to marvel at their migration,” he said. Up to 1 million Sandhill cranes stop along the Platte River during their annual migration, said Ricketts. 

Nebraska’s ag land value increased by 16% in past year

The average value of agricultural land in Nebraska is $3,360 per acre– a 16% increase over the past year, according to preliminary findings from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s 2022 Farm Real Estate Market Survey. The last time the state saw this large of an increase in the market value of agricultural land was in 2014.

Flu deaths increase

Flu cases have been rising in Nebraska, with 13 flu-related deaths so far this season, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said March 15. Health officials remind Nebraskans to wash their hands regularly, stay home when they’re sick and get the flu vaccine.