Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2019

Currently: 72° — Complete forecast

Analysis:

Former regents chair disapproved of Page’s behavior toward UNLV

Trachok file 072319

Mikayla Whitmore / Las Vegas Sun file photo

Nevada Regent Rick Trachok is shown in this Las Vegas Sun file photo from Sept. 1, 2015. Trachok, the chairman of the Board of Regents at the time, acknowledged in an email on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, that he confronted Regent Kevin Page in 2015 after learning that Page demanded that UNLV give preferential treatment to one of his relatives who was attending UNLV at that time. Trachok, the first regent to discuss the matter, said in the email that he told Page to “drop it.”

For the first time, an overseer of the state’s higher education system has indicated that Nevada Regent Kevin Page acted inappropriately in 2015 when he pressed UNLV to give special treatment to one of his relatives.

Rick Trachok, who has served twice as the board’s chair since becoming a regent in 2011, said in an email that he took action after being told about the matter by Nancy Rapoport, who at the time was serving as UNLV’s acting executive vice president and provost. Trachok said he told Rapoport that “no one is to be given special favors.”

“After that call I then advised Kevin Page to drop it, and it was my understanding that he did and that no waiver was granted,” Trachok said in the email.

The email from Trachok marked the first comment on the matter by the regents or the Nevada System of Higher Education, the administrative body that oversees operations of UNLV, UNR and six other state colleges.

However, Trachok didn’t immediately respond to an email asking follow-up questions aimed at further determining how the situation with Page was handled. Among those questions: Why was the matter apparently dealt with informally, and did Trachok believe Page violated the regents’ formal code of ethics?

The 2015 incident came to light a month ago, when the Sun published emails showing that Page had demanded that UNLV waive a prerequisite requirement for a member of his family who was attending the Lee Business School. When UNLV administrators resisted, telling Page that granting his demands could jeopardize the school’s accreditation and was unfair to students who had been required to take prerequisites, Page responded with a non-specific threat.

“Next semester the LBS better not play games with (student) and her getting her classes,” Page wrote in a message dated Aug. 30, 2015. “For some reason, people take kindness for weakness. I am usually very nice but, can change gears when I need to.”

The emails shared with the Sun showed that UNLV notified Trachok about the threat but did not contain a response by Trachok beyond acknowledging that he had received the message. Campus sources said they heard nothing else from Page on the matter after Trachok was notified, which had prompted speculation that Trachok had interceded with Page but also raised questions about whether Trachok merely told Page not to put his demands in writing.

In his email to the Sun on Tuesday, Trachok appeared to want to clarify that he blocked Page.

Trachok did not respond to emailed follow-up questions, nor did Page respond to a message seeking comment.

Trachok’s message to the Sun marked the first comment by any regent about the matter since it became public. Page and current Chairman Jason Geddes have either ignored or declined numerous requests for interviews.

Amid the silence from the regents, UNLV supporters and other campus sources had questioned what, if anything, had been done to hold Page accountable. There’s no record of public action being taken against him, even though his actions appear to have violated not only the regents' ethical standards but those of the state of Nevada as well.

For example, a provision of the regents’ code of conduct states that members of the board should not “attempt to intimidate or influence employees or students to gain unwarranted privileges, advantages, or preferences for the Regent or for his or her family members, other individuals, or business entities.” That standard was in place in 2015, online records show, and remains in the regents’ handbook.

UNLV sources said they felt intimidated by Page and believed their jobs were in jeopardy.

But former UNLV President Len Jessup supported his staff in pushing back against Page. That led to questions in the campus community about whether Page's threat to "change gears" may have led to Jessup being forced out by the regents and Chancellor Thom Reilly in the spring of 2018. Amid what his supporters believed was undue public criticism by the regents over management issues, Jessup left UNLV to become president of Claremont Graduate College in Southern California.

UNLV Honors College dean Marta Meana was selected as acting president, which, under Nevada System of Higher Education rules, precluded her from being a candidate in the search for Jessup's long-term successor. However, the regents later voted to waive that rule for Meana, leading to conjecture on campus that she was being ushered into the UNLV leadership role because the regents and Reilly considered her compliant.

Staff members have pointed out that the word "acting" has been dropped from Meana's title in email messages to campus. Her official bio page on the UNLV website also doesn't contain the word, but rather lists her as president.

Editor’s note: This analysis has been updated to correct the spelling of Nancy Rapoport’s name.