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October 2, 2014

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HIGHER EDUCATION:

Wife of UNLV president sends apology note to Rogers, regents

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Steve Marcus / File photo

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, left, shows an award to UNLV president David Ashley and his wife, Bonnie, at an exhibition in February dedicated to Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Daisaku Ikeda at UNLV’s Richard Tam Alumni Center.

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Bonnie Ashley, the wife of UNLV President David Ashley, apologized Friday for her clashes with campus staff that have been characterized by others as abrasive, rude and intimidating.

In an e-mail to the Board of Regents and Chancellor Jim Rogers , Bonnie Ashley — who had referred to herself in e-mails as the university’s “first lady” — said she did not realize she was “causing so much distress” in her efforts to carry out her hostess duties.

“I don’t want this to be misconstrued as an apology for being a strong-minded woman, but rather to show an awareness that it must be exercised in a more temperate fashion,” she wrote.

She also volunteered to relinquish her “hostessing role” until university officials decided “what it is you do and don’t want from me as the president’s spouse.”

David and Bonnie Ashley were in Singapore on Friday for today’s commencement ceremonies at UNLV’s new satellite campus, and could not be reached for comment.

In one e-mail to staff, she demanded to see an updated party guest list “WITHIN THE HOUR,” adding, “You all are paid way too much for me to have to put up with the constant problems I am dealing with, and it’s just wasting my time.” (Download this e-mail)

In another e-mail about party food, she wrote, “I should not have to tell you this ... you do NOT argue with the first lady ... that behavior is completely unacceptable.” (Download this e-mail)

In her Friday e-mail, Bonnie Ashley said that her “main goal” was to “do my part and assist in any way I could.” When asked to take on “key hostessing responsibilities,” Ashley said, she approached the tasks “with all my zest and zeal to help with those aspects usually expected of a president’s spouse or partner.”

But she did not realize, Ashley said, that her “striving for excellence” would cause “so much distress.”

For that, Ashley said, “I am most apologetic, as in my quest for improvement I was not always as gracious as I could have been in the carrying out of those plans.”

The Board of Regents is expected to meet in August and discuss whether to renew David Ashley’s four-year contract, which runs through June 2010. Regent Mark Alden said he was dismayed that the president had gone ahead with the Singapore trip.

“I think it’s a terrible error in judgment when there’s a real question whether you’re even going to be president next month,” Alden said. “Nobody’s really happy with David right now.”

The problems for Ashley extend beyond his wife’s communication style. UNLV employees say they have long complained that Ashley himself fails to communicate well with the university community, and some system of higher education officials describe him as unresponsive when they voice concerns.

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