This Is Reno Radio

Higher ed spats leave Nevada universities and colleges without a chancellor

April 07, 2022 This Is Reno Season 2022 Episode 6
This Is Reno Radio
Higher ed spats leave Nevada universities and colleges without a chancellor
Show Notes Transcript

Shouting, interruptions and threats marked a heated meeting of the Board of Regents on April first. The regents are the Nevada System of Higher Education’s governing board. 

They met to approve a $610,000 severance with Chancellor Melody Rose.

Rose wanted to leave her position as chancellor after she filed a voluminous complaint against certain regents.

Regents argued and interrupted one another during the meeting. They ultimately approved the severance. 

Rose had only been in the position since June of 2020

On this week’s episode is a breakdown of the April 1 regents meeting. I also speak with a University of Nevada faculty member, Amy Pason, about Nevada’s higher education system. We get her perspective on what happened with the regents, and what’s in the wake of the resignation of Chancellor Melody Rose.

Listen to this show Sundays at 8:30 a.m. on KWNK 97.7 FM, Reno's community radio station:

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She'll be fine. She's gonna go on like most of the other people that are fired and pushed out by this by this group, why this organization to success elsewhere, most of the folks we don't have space for a room for here and NCCIH move on to to to careers and other institutions that are highly respected. I will not be supporting this motion. And I asked that the lawyers off stand down, bring in a mediate mediator or a psychologist and resolve our issues and move forward. The question our faculty are still talking, I get my 10 rules. I can ask for a question. Yes. Faculty and staff are watching. Shouting interruptions and threats marked a heated meeting of the Board of Regents on April 1, the regents or the Nevada System of Higher Education governing board, they met to approve a $610,000 severance with their Chancellor melody Rose. Rose wanted to leave her position as Chancellor after she filed a voluminous complaint against certain regions. The meeting was marked by discord. The regions argued and interrupted one another during the meeting. They ultimately approved the severance and Rose only had been in the position since June of 2020. I am your host Bob Conrad with this is On this week's episode, we speak with the University of Nevada faculty member about Nevada's higher education system. We get her perspective on what happened with the Board of Regents and what's coming next. The hour long regents meeting was marked by rude behavior from the region's public commenters chastise the board. And some regions made impassioned pleas for the rest of the board to get their act together. The board hired attorney Bill Peterson to negotiate the settlement between the board and rows. And then during the discussions going back and forth about that it became fairly clear between the attorneys involved in that process, that it really wasn't everybody's best interest at that point in time for the there didn't seem to be much of a future basically for the two sides being the Board of Regents and the Chancellor to to separate and go their own ways. And at that point in time the chancellor offered up her resignation. And that that proposal was basically negotiated back and forth between the parties, principally me and the Chancellor's Council, Regent John Moran of Las Vegas question why Rose was never given an evaluation? Was there ever an opportunity to sit with the chancellor to talk about the good things that she was doing? And then also was there also an opportunity to speak constructively possible constructive criticism into the things that perhaps she could do better or that we wanted her to do differently? And so I'm just trying to understand was she given the opportunity of a one year review and was that completed, she was given the opportunity for a one one year review. That's Board Chair region, Kathy McAdoo, McAdoo was one of the subject of roses complaint she filed last year. However, she filed the claim on October 4, the one year review was due in September, and the direction from general counsel for inchie was for me to stop the review. And I don't know if I remember the exact date that the investigation was concluded. It seems like it was February 4, but I'm not positive that that was the date. That was my responsibility to do the evaluation starting in September. And I did get all the interviews scheduled and I began those on October 4. When Chief Counsel general Reynolds called me to read the told me that there would be an internal grievance filed against me, and that I needed to stop the review. Regent Patrick Boylan interrupted the conversation. Madam Chair, according to Robert's Rules, Vice Chair excuse me, so may i Madam Chair. According to my remarks, Vice Chair is supposed to this prompted McAdoo to recess the meeting just a moment just a moment. We're taking a recess. back from recess, Moran continued his comments. We are the drivers of workforce development and we have failed tremendously. We have failed ourselves as well. And that's really the most disappointing for me. We must know our responsibilities as regions. And we need to start staying in our own lanes. This meddling and micromanagement in the business of our top brass or our presidents is absolutely and unequivocally unproductive. Region. Boylan, then said row should have been fired, presumably for filing the complaint. Let's just get it done. I'm not in favor of $600,000 for one person just leaving us and on the basis of how it happened. In the private industry, she would have been fired the first days for what she did, Regent Carroll del Carlo chastise the board. And the five plus years I've been on this board. Today, I have to say I'm ashamed to be a region and sit here and consider this motion. This is a travesty, and a total failure of leadership of this board. We conducted a national search. We paid handsomely for a search consultant. And we unanimously selected our new chancellor, all in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, that at this point, had no vaccine. What a way to come into a new position when you can't even bring people together and have meetings. This isn't about our own glorification, and egos. This is about helping our Nevada students receive education and training to be productive wage earners and members of society. How is this motion helping our students? Now we have 1000s of employees, including faculty and staff, and What message are we sending to them that members of the board couldn't work out our differences? At this point, Boylan repeatedly interrupted del Carlo? Call for the disruption? And what about cabinet and staff? And even President? That's important, the Chancellor and the work? Are they the next ones on the chopping block? How much anxiety is out there with all our dysfunction? Don't you realize that we're being watched, and not just in the US, but all over the world? I will not be supporting this motion. And I asked that the lawyers off stand down, bring in a mediator, mediator or a psychologist and resolve our issues and move forward. The question our faculty are still talking. I get my 10. I can ask for a question. Yes. Faculty and staff are watching all but for the regents voted to approve the severance agreement. I spoke with Dr. Amy Payson of the University of Nevada Reno, about the chancellor in Nevada's higher education system. And I'm an Associate Professor of Communication Studies. But for the past two years, I've served as U N RS Faculty Senate chair, and this year I serve as the chair of chairs, or overall the representative for all of the system chairs in NC. So when I started my chair term as for our faculty senate was when we were going through the hiring process for the chancellor. So really, I've been meeting with her in our monthly meetings with other senators since she started on the job. And I can say that, you know, from the chair the perspective of the Senate chairs, we have had no problems with the chancellor and working with her. She's always been open with us open to discuss issues this past year and my role as the the chair of chairs, you know, even having more one on one conversations with her when hotter ticket items were coming up on the board agenda so that she made sure that we were understanding where those items came from, how to work through that process. And you know, especially with her background and being a faculty member, a university president and a chancellor in another system, that she had experience and knowledge and perspective of all those different levels. So the chairs always felt that our views as faculty were being respected, that she made efforts to make sure that faculty and student leader voices were included, even as we're going through the starting phases of planning our biennial budget for example, she specifically requested that the Presidents make sure that the students in the faculty had parts in that presentation to her So, you know, overall, we were excited to work with Chancellor rose and are disappointed that, that she felt that she had to resign. Can you speak a bit about that and what happened from your perspective? So we didn't have a lot of information on the chairs and of knowing what happened. We obviously were aware of the hostile work environment complaints that, you know, it was widely publicized. But at least in terms of our interactions with her, she never mentioned any of those issues. She never let those issues get in the way of her just working on the tasks and addressing our our concerns and moving forward policy. So it came as much of a surprise, I think, is anybody else to see that board agenda come out that included the separation agreement? And you have some concerns about what happened at the meeting? If I recollect on Twitter, you I saw a couple tweets? Yeah, I mean, I think it just what we heard from that meeting was that this seemed to be a very rushed, get this on on the board agenda. It seems like from what I heard in the meeting, that some of the regions were unavailable to discuss things beforehand, or weren't part of some of the initial discussions that led up to it. And you know, so again, having a meeting when the chancellor couldn't even be there, because she was out of town and, and that most of the regions had to not even be in present, they had to be remote because of how quickly it seemed to be going through. I think that just states, you know, that this wasn't mutually agreed upon thing that this seemed to be really rushed at a time where I think that that's not really what we need in our system right now. And being a student of higher education administration, I've noticed a ongoing pattern with NCCIH. Of let's just say, for lack of a better term, chronic dysfunction. For decades now, what what is your take on that? I mean, I think we have to separate what happens at the Board of Regents elected representative issue from the system office itself. And I think that's also where sometimes legislators don't really try to separate the two, they just assume that the regents are indicative of what's happening at the system generally. So as far as you know, the chancellor's office in the Chancellor's cabinet, I think that we do have a lot of smart and talented people who are working for the best of our education. And we've seen some great strides in terms of how we're improving actual education with initiatives that come out of the chancellor's office. So working with all the campuses to make sure that a student who starts at a community college can transfer into a four year institution and not lose anytime when they graduate. I mean, I think that was a big lift of all of our institutions. But it's one of those things that helps make education better in our system, by working with one another in terms of trying to coordinate working with less resources, which we always have to do with shared services. That's another thing that we have to work together as a system. And so the chancellor's office, the Chancellor's cabinet, are working in those best interest. So again, when the dysfunction side, I think comes a lot from the region side of things, elected representatives, which some of them are great, knowledgeable, willing to learn others, not as much, from what we can see. And so when elected representatives have some of their personal issues, or what they would like to see, that's not necessarily in the best interest. I think that's where the divides and the dysfunction comes from. And I would add to or, you know, maybe share your thoughts on on this, but it's a 13 member board. And I don't know about you, I've served on boards that currently serve on two boards. 13 is a very high number for a board, especially for a system that is so complex and diverse as NCCIH. And it seems to me, a lot of the issues that have arisen over the years are somewhat attributable to that. The fact that it is a pretty large and unwieldy board, but also like you mentioned, you know, it only takes a few regions to kind of derail processes and good governance for perhaps the advancement of their own agendas, or whatever the case may be. What What are your thoughts on that? Yeah, you know, I haven't given much thought in terms of the number on the board and again, how those districts are set up or the the logic behind those districts I'm not 100% Sure on so I can't speak to that. You know, but certainly more regents less regents having a different system or setup. I don't know if that's that can correct problems. I think you're either gonna have good elected officials are good appointees or you're not. And it's a sad day when those that do take on this responsibility, don't uphold that obligation to ensure that our system is stable and that they're really doing it in the interest of educating Nevadans. Do you personally or maybe as a faculty member, or faculty chair of chairs have any opinion as to the structure of NCCIH and how its governed? I know, last election 2020, we had the q1 ballot question that really, in my opinion, sought to kind of address some of these issues. Yeah, so you know, with that question, one issue, I think there's arguments on both sides, should we have the board be elected as it is now, I think there's benefits to having an elected board. They're nonpartisan in theory positions, and that there's just supposed to be focused on ensuring that our system is sound, and they have a fiduciary responsibility. And so in that respect, I think that it's a benefit to have the elected system that we do. And hopefully people are electing folks who really do have the best interest of the system in mind, we can see lots of examples across the country of attacks on tenure, of look at Wyoming of defunding the gender studies programs because of political and partisan events. And so I think the fear with having obtained changing our elected system as we have it now is that it kind of opens that door to potentially partisan appointees on that board. And what partisan appointees might do on on our board will affect our campuses. And And again, they could be wanting to push in things like we see in other states that would be detrimental to education altogether. You know, on the flip side of that, having elected officials and you know, I think we have a lot of more competitive races, this time around in terms of those open region seats, where in the past, we haven't, so if it's not a really competitive race, it may be just the person that decided to sign up for it for whatever reason, they wanted to sign up to be a region that don't have knowledge background, or the best interests of our education in mind. So I can see it going in either way. Not that our legislature doesn't have a power and authority and has done quite a bit to do some legislation related to higher education. So certainly, we're still going to have to battle some of those partisan issues at the state legislature. But you know, hopefully, we don't have to do those same battles with our board, as I've seen in other states, and I've talked to Senate chairs from other states who have to fight those fights as well. Great, thank you. I appreciate that. I my personal opinion on q1 is that while a while well intentioned, it was not great policy. And the way it was drafted. I believe there's a another one coming down the line. As it assembly journal resolution. SJR. Seven, yeah. JR seven? Yeah. Senate journal resolution. Is that Is that the correct phrase? I think so. Yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah, that's gonna, I guess, kind of re address some of these issues. Do you? Are you? Are you? Do you have an opinion on that? Or? Yeah, so I mean, as chair seven is really very similar to what question one was, so it's now going back through the legislative process. So it was voted and approved on this last legislative session, we're expecting to see it in this upcoming legislative session to be voted on again, and then we'll see it on the ballot. So it really is rehashing the same question, one issue. And I think the the piece that is unclear and is not very transparent with those that are proposing it is what they really want, as the outcome. So removing the Board of Regents from the Constitution, just to say that any kind of governance structure might be proposed. I mean, they can kind of do that already, since that's sort of under their purview. Some of the additional language industry or seven was, I think, a little bit more to the name to audit needing to be more aware of our finances and all of our budgets, which they currently are. So, you know, it seems a little bit more that the motivation is addressing personal issues with with regions past and potentially presidents that legislators didn't work with. Well, but I think the problem on that bill is that there is no plan for the future. What is the intention? Do they intend to the then propose appointed boards, do they intend to not have a system altogether? And just have Board of Trustees for individual institutions? If there's legislators that are, you know, big fans of UNLV? Versus you and or is that kind of the north south divide that we might see, as next steps are what happens next? And so that's what legislators haven't talked about. And that's what we're really skeptical on, on why they're, they're really pushing this forward. When, you know, again, I think some of our our problems stem from elected representatives on our board that just maybe shouldn't be on our board anymore. And we can work that out, not with a whole overhaul of our Constitution. Well, to be fair, though, I mean, some some of those issues have been at the system level or the system office level, five, six years ago with Klaich, and what he was alleged to have done in terms of misleading legislators with a report. So I, you know, I guess in fairness to what I've heard from legislators, some of that does come from the system level. So it's not just the electeds as well. And again, that's, you know, sometimes you get bad employees, even at your Chancellor level. And again, we have got processes to deal with those, as well. But, again, rewriting constitution seems like a big step to try to deal with management issues. Well, let's step back to a little bit. I mean, Chancellor, Melody rose from my impression, and at least from, you know, some some of the folks I've spoken with, she was pretty widely regarded as being a pretty, pretty great chancellor. I mean, you know, she was widely respected, considered by the governor and others to be a great leader. And she lasted 20 months, what happened? I mean, as far as we can tell, and again, I think this has been publicly reported now is that, you know, she clearly worked well with region to Brava. And in Region del, Carla, when they were chair and vice chair in her first year, it didn't see any of these problems with moving things forward on the agenda. You know, her first year obviously, is we're still working through COVID. Working with those that chair and vice chair, no problems, lots of meetings is we had to have lots of meetings for all the things that were happening all at once. So it really just seems that the the problem started to stem with the new board leadership that was elected. And I think a lot of it is that, you know, trying to do health and safety policy in regards to COVID, unfortunately, got very politicized across our country. And that does seem to in fact, what happened in what we saw on the board of regents as well. So I think, you know, a lot of the the tensions were just really on us all trying to handle our first pandemic and figure out what was the best policy forward, and miscommunication or differences of opinion in the steps that we were taking between board leadership between the Chancellor and the system office working with the campuses that seem to be the the Flashpoint, which is very unfortunate, because I don't think anybody should be their job, depending on how we handled something that was unprecedented altogether. Well, yeah, and I mean, I watched that meeting last week. That was, that was just gross. What happened in the way that was handled? And, and past meetings. I've also heard this, in my opinion, shocking. Statements from certain regions, like one I seem to recall was something along the lines of, well, we want our own science to make these decisions, where's our where's our experts and I and really the subtext of that seem to be, we want people to come in and say that COVID is a hoax or masks don't work. Those kinds of things. I mean, that's not how science works. Yeah. And in that moment, also to discredit one of our faculty who has been working with the governor's office, Dr. Brian laevis, who, you know, that I think when region, Carvalho was leading that meeting, I think she did an amazing job of facilitating that discussion. And I think she did an amazing job of making sure that she was pointing to and having Dr. llevas presents on on the facts, right, so many who has been dealing with the data day to day because we've been dealing with it day to day. So yeah, to have a reagent who, you know, didn't know why all of the Presidents all the faculty senate, it's all of the students, all of our ex medical experts in our institutions. Were saying one thing and wanting to hear a different opinion and not believing us was really disheartening. And that I think has characterized a lot of how we've moved forward with have COVID policies in this particular year, which again, didn't have a problem than the previous year in in just doing the things that we knew to be safe. Yeah, and talk a bit about what happened at that meeting last week. In terms of the, with the chancer, the way that whole discussion was handled. I mean, it was. Yeah, again, I think it was. Yeah. I kept my mask on, because I think my facial expressions would have given me away a bit too much during that meeting, but I think, you know, I think there were some really good points raised in terms of seeing that, you know, again, behind the scenes, what we were hearing is that mediations were not successful, but you need all parties being willing to mediate. And if that broke down, because parties were not willing to have that discussion, you know, that that's pointing to some dysfunction, that have some regions wanting to call up for a personnel session in the midst of of this kind of turmoil, which, you know, again, would be a public kind of question and answer, you know, if, if I were the chancellor, and my choice was between a public personnel session of them voting on if I could still be employed versus resigning and saving myself that trouble, I mean, we can understand why she would have to make that choice, which was not, you know, totally voluntary, if you think in that respect. So, you know, if we were really thinking about what would be good management in terms of trying to navigate personality conflicts, policy conflicts, you know, trying to have a combat in public just doesn't seem to be the best use of our time and resources, and really has thrown our system and up in the air for no reason other than they should have just been able to talk through it work it out. This is what we do all the time, in our own organizations. So any predictions moving forward? Well, I think we're just still trying to figure out what the next steps are. So the Sherman Act to you is going to be meeting with the Senate chairs and meeting with the presidents to get input, really, the board will have a decision on if they want to appoint somebody to be an Acting Chancellor for the time being, and then that would instigate a search and running that again, in some indeterminate time. Or if there may be somebody that would serve as an interim chancellor of which that's a slightly more permanent type of setup in terms of they could have a contract of one to three years, that person could then be appointed and or the board choose a national cert. So there's a lot of different pathways that we can take. And I think on the chair side, we're just trying to figure out who might be somebody that we can pull to be an Acting Chancellor or an interim chancellor. Because, you know, as we've been going through lots of leadership changes at all of our institutions, new presidents, so on and so forth. It's not like we have a lot of folks to pull from and pulling, say, a president from one institution means that they now have a leadership hole that they'll have to try to figure out how to manage when again, we're kind of down in staffing altogether, across our campuses with budget cuts. So So yeah, so that's that's pretty much the open question is, who is who is out there? That would be good to lead our system. And I think on our end, we're, you know, we're starting that legislative session right now, in terms of getting started. So not having a leader at the table and trying to find somebody who's going to build those relationships quickly just puts us at a disadvantage. Well, can we nominate you? Ah, we'll see. We'll see. I'm only half joking. But yeah, it's a it's a bit of a precarious position. I think. So. Anything else you want to add before we close out today? And thank you so much, by the way? Yeah, I mean, I think you know, just another note and shout out to legislators, those that are on the ballot, those that are continuing on in their positions is don't forget about higher education. I know it's really easy to assume that we're we're doing fine and you can cut our budgets call you want but we do have a lot of faculty who are working hard taking over two or three jobs because of vacancies that we have to just try to manage the cuts that we still are reeling from from the last legislative session and restoring our budgets is key. Just making us whole would do a lot, especially in this time of instability. Excellent. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate your time today. Thanks for having me. This is Reno I'm Bob Conrad, please visit us online at this is Reno dot Calm