Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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UNLV president back early to deal with crisis

Status of Ashley’s employment likely will be resolved next week

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UNLV President David Ashley speaks Saturday during graduation ceremonies at UNLV's satellite campus in Singapore. Ashley conferred 34 bachelor's degrees and seven master's degrees. Some in the university community were uncomfortable with Ashley making the trip.

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Calling the swirling storm around his job performance “a touch surreal,” UNLV President David Ashley said Wednesday that he cut his trip to Singapore short to come deal with the crisis head-on.

Ashley returned to his Lake Las Vegas home late Tuesday evening and made a brief visit to his campus office Wednesday. He had previously been due back in Las Vegas this coming Saturday.

University officials told the Sun they expected the question of Ashley’s employment status to be resolved early next week, when the UNLV president is scheduled to meet with system Chancellor Jim Rogers. It’s widely expected at that meeting that Rogers will tell Ashley he does not have the support of the regents.

Ashley’s current contract guarantees him a tenured professorship in the engineering department should he be terminated as president. That type of parachute is standard in the highest ranks of academia.

In a telephone interview with the Sun this afternoon, Ashley said the preliminary report on his performance evaluation “looked good and solid” and that he was in a positive frame of mind leading up to his trip to Singapore to participate in the first commencement ceremony for UNLV’s satellite campus. He and his wife Bonnie had planned to take a few personal days in Singapore following the official events.

The mood shifted June 2, the day prior to his departure, when he met with university system Chancellor Jim Rogers.

“That was the conversation where he gave me his feedback,” Ashley said. Ashley declined to discuss the specifics of his conversation with Rogers, other than to say that the chancellor “has been very public in his opinion.”

Rogers told the Sun he warned Ashley that he had no support among the regents and that his contract was not likely to be renewed. Rogers urged Ashley to stay in Las Vegas and deal with the crisis.

Based on that discussion, Ashley said he briefly considered not going overseas. But given that his participation was expected not only in commencement but also in several other campus events, Ashley said, “I saw no benefit in canceling.”

However, the day after Ashley and his wife arrived in Singapore June 3, media reports erupted detailing concern among university officials about his job performance. Of particular concern was Bonnie Ashley’s behavior toward staff. As reported by the Sun, Bonnie Ashley sent an apologetic e-mail late Friday, expressing her dismay that her “zest and zeal” on behalf of the university had been badly received. (Read Bonnie Ashley's note)

Rogers said Ashley’s decision to go to Singapore showed poor judgment, a viewpoint echoed by several regents.

Rogers said he was also dismayed that Ashley had indicated he wanted to make several changes to his contract, including access to a vehicle from UNLV’s "pool." Rogers said the university president already receives a generous car allowance and it was his understanding that Bonnie Ashley would use the second vehicle.

"I said, 'Absolutely not,'" Rogers said.

Ashley declined to comment on the specifics of his contract negotiations. He said he planned to spend the time between now and the August board meeting talking with individual regents to address their concerns.

As for the criticism of his wife, Ashley reiterated that she had always acted with the best interests of the university at heart.

"She’s a strong woman," Ashley said. "I respect her for the way she’s enduring this."

He added that he will be reimbursing UNLV for the $1,167 cost of Bonnie Ashley's airfare to Singapore. The UNLV satellite campus, funded by the Singapore government, covered couple's the hotel costs.

Wednesday evening, Rogers said the timing of his own return from Idaho was based upon his understanding that Ashley wouldn't be back from Singapore until Saturday.

"His secretary said he would be back on Saturday so we set up to meet on Monday," Rogers said. "That was fine with me. I guess I could meet with him on Friday if he wanted to do that. I haven't heard from him. I assume if he had wanted to see me Friday he would have called me."

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