Las Vegas Sun

May 25, 2019

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Chancellor status next up for board

CARSON CITY -- The two-day meeting of the University Board of Regents last week turned into a free-for-all pitting South against North and setting friend against friend.

"It was the toughest meeting I've ever attended," said Regent Jill Derby, who was re-elected to a third term as chairwoman of the board of the University and Community College System of Nevada. "There were a lot of hard feelings and turmoil."

The board fought over sending more money for library books to UNLV and the Community College of Southern Nevada, raising fees of students and the election of Derby.

The next divisive issue comes Saturday at a special meeting in Las Vegas to decide whether to retain Chancellor Richard Jarvis, who underwent a closed-door, one-hour-45 minute personnel session with the board Friday. Board members were tight-lipped about what went on. Derby would say only that there was a "full and frank" discussion of the issues.

Jarvis has been criticized by some Clark County regents for failing to communicate with individual members and for failing to fight hard enough to end the inequity of funding between north and south. Gov. Kenny Guinn has backed Jarvis.

While Jarvis' job performance has been contentious, the biggest battle of the meeting Friday came over redistributing $700,000 in extra money the Legislature had given the system for added library books. The Legislature said $100,000 apiece should go to UNLV and the University of Nevada-Reno and $75,000 to each of the community colleges.

Regent Steve Sisolak of Las Vegas asked the board to approach the Legislative Interim Finance Committee to change the formula so the $700,000 would be divided based on enrollment, meaning more money would flow to the south. He said UNLV and the Community College of Southern Nevada were hurting.

During the debate, which sometimes grew heated, UNR President Joe Crowley said Sisolak's move was a "declaration of war," and it was foolish to believe that money for library books is distributed solely based on the number of students.

Crowley said money for books is also based on graduate education and research.

Sisolak replied he was "prepared to go to war" because southern students have been deprived of their fair share of money for too long.

Sisolak's motion lost 6-5 with Derby casting the tie-breaking vote. Las Vegas regents Tom Wiesner and Doug Seastrand joined the four northern members to defeat the motion.

During the recess, Crowley pulled Sisolak aside and said he did not mean the "declaration of war" comment personally. "I took it personally," Sisolak said. Crowley then offered a public apology for his remarks which he called "hyperbole."

During another break in the meeting, a heated discussion broke out in the parking lot between Sisolak and Regent Howard Rosenberg of Reno and Rick Bennett, governmental relations director for UNLV. But after the meeting was over Friday, Sisolak and Rosenberg hugged.

But Sisolak wasn't the only regent in heated discussions. Regent Mark Alden of Las Vegas, during a recess, told Regent Dorothy Gallagher of Elko he respected her even though they had a difference of opinion. Gallagher shot back, "I don't respect you."

The root of much of the acrimony lay in the inequity of funding between the northern and southern campuses, which became an issue in the last session of the Legislature.

A committee was created by the Legislature to study the inequities in funding between the northern and southern campuses. A preliminary study showed Reno gets $534 more per student than UNLV. It said the Community College of Southern Nevada is shortchanged $1,291 per student.

The study said $24 million a year was needed to cure the inequities among campuses, but the Legislature allocated only $11 million over the two years and agreed to further study.

That inequity became an issue again Friday in the fight over the extra library funding.

UNLV President Carol Harter has said there are at least five or six areas of inequities between the two schools. But she tried to steer the regents away from the battle over the library books. "We have a much bigger problem than this. Let's move forward and get away from this," she said.

But Regent Tom Kirkpatrick, a former professor at UNLV, said there's been a "long-standing resentment of UNR." He said the library at UNLV in past years could not afford periodicals that were always available in Reno.