Las Vegas Sun

July 16, 2019

Currently: 96° — Complete forecast


Opportunities plentiful on UNLV’s horizon, but only after truth is told about Jessup

Yes, we can handle the truth.

What Las Vegas shouldn’t have to handle is people who are elected or appointed to run its important and critical institutions who don’t tell that truth.

It is, sadly, common knowledge that UNLV President Len Jessup is leaving the university to take the job as president of the Claremont Graduate University. While that is a great and prestigious place for Len to go, it is sad for the rest of us because he is leaving UNLV, which, for the first time in a long time, has been on the upswing in so many important areas of growth — students, contributions, athletics, academics and a medical school. Additionally, Las Vegans were finally convinced that this university was theirs to protect and nurture because, in return, our institution of higher learning would help lead the way for Southern Nevada into a promising future.

During Len’s tenure, the Boyd School of Law achieved its highest ranking ever from U.S. News & World Report, the hospitality management program was named best in the world, UNLV was ranked among the top schools for veterans by Military Times magazine, and UNLV was at the top of U.S. News & World Report’s list for most diverse universities. And so much more. We, as a community and university, were just beginning to get good!

What isn’t as well known are the machinations of those involved in chasing Len from Las Vegas for reasons as yet not fully known. But, rest assured, those motives and actions will become known and reported in this newspaper.

Why do we care? Why should you care?

Both good questions. From the Las Vegas Sun’s standpoint, we take our role as a news organization seriously — as we have for 68 years — and consider the revolving door of UNLV presidents a matter of significant concern to the well-being of Southern Nevada. It’s no secret that colleges and universities cannot grow effectively and to the benefit of those they are supposed to serve — the students — if there is not only constant change but also a constant and continuing weakness in the governance structure that promotes such untimeliness.

In short, knowing that there are always mistakes being made in hiring and firing — it is a human endeavor after all — what we must be clear-eyed about is that personal pique, private aggrandizement or pettiness of any kind have no place in this equation. How to minimize those human frailties and their impact on UNLV will be front-and-center discussions in the days and weeks to come.

As for why Southern Nevada should care, it is clear that since Len Jessup’s arrival in Las Vegas the relationship between the residents, the donors, the political and social leadership and the students and faculty have grown stronger and more supportive of UNLV in ways that were not present just a few years ago. In short, the people of Southern Nevada now understand the importance of a growing and effective university and how it benefits our community at large.

We should care because to regress in our commitment to UNLV is to willingly diminish the opportunities we all have going forward. That is not a direction worthy of the people of Las Vegas.

So, that brings us back to the need for truth.

I know there are people in positions of great trust and significant power who are lying about just what transpired leading up to the announcement by Jessup that he was ending his five-year contract two years early. And there are many others who know as much or more than I.

Unfortunately, the one body that would normally be desirous of finding out the truth is the very institution that is at the center of the nefarious goings on over the past few months in l’affair Len.

The Board of Regents is where the whole mess started and where most of the prevaricators lie. So that body seems to be the last place the people of Southern Nevada should entrust with finding the answers. To be sure, there are some members of the Board of Regents who want to know the truth, although but for one example of courage that comes to mind, I am at a loss to name who those folks are. The silence surrounding Jessup’s undoing was deafening.

But, inquiries must be made. The reasons for chasing a university president in the middle of his contract and the methods employed to do so, when UNLV has so much momentum going for it, must be made public.

If we do less than air this dirty laundry in a public way, it will be next to impossible to hire the next president of UNLV because no one worth his or her salt will want to risk the reputational and personal damage that would result from trying to square off with this Board of Regents and its chancellor.

That is why the Sun called immediately for the resignations of the chancellor, Thom Reilly, and two board members, Kevin Page and Trevor Hayes.

While there may be more regents who need to leave, these three doing the right thing would be a good start as UNLV and Las Vegas tries to recover from all the damage that has been wrought.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.