Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: HIGHER EDUCATION

Lesson learned: When the state's university chancellor tells you to come to a meeting with ideas, best that you come with ideas.

Otherwise he'll just talk.

Chancellor Jim Rogers set aside 90 minutes last week - three times as long as he'll usually sit in any meeting - to hear suggestions from minority community and business leaders about how to improve diversity efforts at the state's universities and colleges. Ideas, however, ran out within 10 minutes.

So Rogers held court instead, updating the 25 attendees about ongoing issues such as legislative funding and private fundraising.

"Do you want to hear this?" Rogers said at one point, "because I can talk all day."

In reality, he talked for only about 20 minutes, often interrupting himself to tell the lone reporter in the room that such and such an item was "off record" or "this you can print."

Never fear, dear reader, the Sun wrote about the only juicy news Rogers unleashed: He'll be spending $200,000 of his own money to study whether Nevada should adopt a state income tax.

Nevada State College conducted its first groundbreaking ceremony Thursday and for all the gracious thank-yous and back-slapping among university and Henderson officials, you might have looked around for s'mores , too.

After about a decade of planning, work started on the first building the college could call its own: a 45,000-square-foot academic and student affairs facility. Since opening in 2003, the college has operated out of a renovated vitamin warehouse and rented space in Henderson.

Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson, one-time Democra tic gubernatorial candidate, heaved dirt alongside the man who won the office, Gov. Jim Gibbons, although Regent Chairman Bret Whipple sat between them on the podium.

Well, not everyone is in the mood for s'mores.

Nevada State College's partnership efforts with Henderson raised alarm Wednesday among regents , some of whom didn't like language in a draft agreement that would give Henderson approval rights over college development plans.

Cooperation was all fine and dandy, said Regent Steve Sisolak, but approval implied also denial - allowing Henderson officials to thwart college plans.

Sisolak, speaking during a regents committee meeting, didn't like that the agreement conceivably could restrict the college's plans decades into the future. He said officials may love the college now, but what about 30 years from now? If the college suddenly decided it needed a football team, would the city allow the college to build a stadium?

Historically, Nevada's colleges and universities have needed only state Public Works approval on building development. But as the higher education system has branched out into developing mixed-use commercial and academic facilities, they are needing the approval of local government entities, system lawyer Bart Patterson said.

And in this instance, the federal land act that allocated the 500 acres for Nevada State College requires Henderson to work with college officials to develop the property. The agreement is needed to officially convey the land to the college.

Stephanie Garcia-Vause, deputy director of community development, and Liza Conroy, assistant city attorney, said their interest is mainly in the commercial and residential development planned for the campus, and not on dictating what the academic buildings should look like.

"We understand the need for flexibility," Garcia-Vause said.

Ultimately, the college benefits from working with the city, whose officials conceived of the project in the first place, committee Chairwoman Thalia Dondero said.

"It's going to be in their community, they should be a part of it."

Regents will take another look at the agreement between Henderson and the college June 19.

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