Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: HIGHER EDUCATION:

UNLV’s new look coming at history’s cost

Regents get plan for park-like space along Maryland Parkway

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Frazier

UNLV has a Maryland Parkway address, but the university’s entrance on that street has long been less than grand.

Until recently, the glimpse of the campus that drivers and pedestrians got from the road consisted of a few parking lots and some old buildings.

But the school’s Maryland Parkway frontage is getting a face-lift.

A glitzy student union with a food court and ballroom was completed in 2007. A second new building, with “UNLV” etched, prominently, on both sides of a tower, is set to open this summer.

And more changes are in store.

Gerry Bomotti, the university’s vice president for finance and business, gave a presentation Thursday to the Board of Regents on plans to create a park-like gathering place fronting Maryland Parkway to serve as a gateway to UNLV.

It will allow passers-by to see the beauty of the campus, he said.

The plans, however, require ripping down most of Maude Frazier Hall, the university’s first building, and that earned UNLV the ire of local history buffs and regents including Thalia Dondero. They considered the looming demolition an insult to history and to Frazier, the woman who championed the creation of a university in Las Vegas decades ago.

To honor Frazier, UNLV plans to preserve one wall of the building named after her, including the cornerstone noting the facility’s completion date of 1957. The proposed “Pioneer Wall” would also bear bronze plaques with reliefs of the faces of Frazier and other UNLV notables.

•••

Thursday evening at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, higher education Chancellor Jim Rogers sat down to watch some NBA Finals basketball with Regents James Dean Leavitt, Ron Knecht and Stavros Anthony.

The moment wouldn’t be significant except for the fact that not so long ago, Rogers locked horns with Leavitt and other regents in a big way.

In January 2007, Rogers wrote a letter to then-Regents Chairman Bret Whipple that included this not-so-subtle knock against Leavitt: “James Dean’s lust for power, along with his total lack of knowledge and sophistication in the operation of any large organization, makes it impossible to deal with him.”

Rogers’ relationship with the regents, rocky in the past, has improved, said Knecht, who wrote a critical evaluation of Rogers that was made public in June 2007.

“Everybody has been pulling together and working together so well,” Knecht said.

“We could fall to fighting, but right now, there’s a lot of harmony and good will.”

•••

In recent weeks, Rogers has been the public voice of higher education, sending a blunt, six-page memo to regents and the media saying budget cuts could butcher state colleges and universities, forcing them to eliminate areas of study.

The chancellor has advocated finding new ways to fund education, calling for new taxes as one solution.

But not all of his bosses agree.

During the regents meeting last week, Knecht said he thought the governor had shown good leadership by keeping his pledge not to raise taxes.

“The average family, and the average business, in Nevada is facing ... higher expenses and they are having to cut back.”

“It would be wrong, when they’re facing that burden, to think about increasing taxes on them at this point. It would be callous.”

Rogers, usually a spitfire, stayed silent on the issue.

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