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November 24, 2015

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higher education:

UNLV president demoted to university faculty spot

Chancellor will have David Ashley’s office moved elsewhere on campus


Steve Marcus

UNLV President David Ashley rubs his eyes during a regents meeting at the Desert Research Institute Friday, July 10, 2009. The regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education decided to demote Ashley from his position as president and return him to the university faculty.

Updated Friday, July 10, 2009 | 7:57 p.m.

Board of Regents meeting

UNLV President David Ashley listens to public comment during a regents meeting at the Desert Research Institute Friday, July 10, 2009. The regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education decided to demote Ashley from his position as president and return him to the university faculty. Launch slideshow »

The Nevada Board of Regents voted 11-1 Friday to strip David Ashley of his title as UNLV president and voted unanimously to assign him to a position with the university faculty.

He’ll keep his presidential salary through the next academic year and Chancellor Dan Klaich will be charged with getting him a new office on the UNLV campus.

The fight over whether to retain Ashley as president of UNLV was passionate -- with regents grilling the evaluator, faculty split and students lining up against alumni.

The regents rejected a proposal to extend Ashley's contract and never considered letting him finish the final year of the contract.

"It's not about whether Dr. Ashley is a good person," said Chancellor Dan Klaich in recommending the Regents vote not to extend the contract. "This is about what's best for UNLV. It's a job interview. We've got a contract in front of us for a three-year term. He has no expectation that that contract should be renewed and we can legitimately treat this as a job interview."

Ashley and supporters contended he has done an admirable job in a tough environment, moving the university forward at a time of unprecedented economic hardship. They said the regents have been sidetracked by a small but vocal group of nit-picky detractors.

Alumni criticized him for blowing off a tailgate party and other events. Faculty were split on whether he was a competent manager or was supportive enough of research. Some faculty and regents complained that he failed to take their concerns and opinions seriously.

Several students countered that they didn't care about tailgate parties, they're more concerned with the value of their college degrees, which they feel has increased under Ashley’s watch.

Regents were also highly critical of the independent evaluation completed by Cal State Fresno President John Welty. Several complained that numerous people interviewed by Welty for the evaluation came forward to complain about their comments and concerns were not included in the final report. Welty said that it is an accurate reflection of his interactions with the people he met and that many of their complaints were due to time and structure restraints the regents imposed.

Others pointed out that it is actually more inclusive than the recent evaluations completed for presidents of other colleges in the system.

Despite legal limitations on what they could say about her, Bonnie Ashley was still a major item of discourse in the meeting.

Former Chancellor Jim Rogers said David Ashley had failed to handle a mounting conflict between his wife and staff and that the situation quickly spread throughout the university.

He said the president's wife is a key player in many university functions, like fundraising and networking with alumni. They're the face of the university and ambassadors for it.

David Ashley said the situation had been resolved long ago and has been blown out of proportion under intense media scrutiny.

Bonnie Ashley, speaking after the event, said she could have defended herself in the press, but that it would have just inflamed the situation more and opened old wounds.

She said she was disappointed at the board's decision.

"Honestly the anger came earlier," she said. "We're processing a lot of emotions right now. He is such a good man and so capable that them not realizing who they had working for them and using him to his full potential is very disappointing."

Ashley said the disappointing decision was tempered by the show of support from students and some staff. He said he hasn't given it much thought, but he may pursue a position at another university someday.

"I'll consider alternatives to the faculty position," he said. "But Las vegas is still a great place to live so that will be part of my thoughts."

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