State Relations

July 13, 2009

UNLV President demoted for pressing budget issues

An unusual story from Las Vegas, where UNLV President David Ashley was demoted by the Board of Regents for continuing to protest budget cuts to the school after the Regents had signed off on a plan to trim UNLV’s budget more than that of the University of Nevada Reno.    According to an article in the Las Vegas Sun:

The Board of Regents had proposed to the Legislature a budget plan that would make the same percentage cut in every institution’s budget. Under that plan, because of funding inequities that have existed for decades between Northern and Southern Nevada, UNLV would have taken a bigger hit than its Northern Nevada peer. UNLV’s budget would have lost $11 million more than that of the University of Nevada, Reno.

(Regent Jason) Geddes, who represents Washoe County on the board, said Ashley’s behind-the-scenes lobbying to make the reductions more equitable showed he can’t collaborate and wasn’t interested in the good of the system. In other words, he wasn’t a team player.

“You continued to pursue your dissenting opinion throughout the session and the final vote came out as your decision. I found that very troubling,” Geddes said. “You can dissent all you want (initially), but once the board makes a decision, you need to give it up.”

Others defended Ashley’s actions:

“He was part of a huge population of Southern Nevadans that were against it,” said Steve Sisolak, a former regent turned Clark County commissioner. “It was a disproportionate cut to UNLV versus UNR. It was obvious, egregious and should have been brought to the attention of the Legislature sooner.”

Graduate students said the campus community would have turned against Ashley if he had acted in any other way.

“Faculty and students would have said he failed the university if he had been silent about that plan,” said Kyle George, vice president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association. “He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.”

The circumstances are certainly unusual, but they serve to underscore the difficulties public university systems are facing throughout the country as they deal with severe budget shortfalls.  You can read the entire article here.