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August 28, 2014

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Rogers calls for Ashley’s ouster

Chancellor: UNLV president has the smarts, but lacks leadership

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David Ashley

One on ONE with University System Chancellor Jim Rogers

University System Chancellor Jim Rogers is stepping down June 30, ending a five-year stint as the leader of Nevada's higher education system. News ONE's Jeff Gillan talks with Rogers about his legacy and his plans.

In his five years as chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, Jim Rogers has overseen the ouster of one UNLV president — Carol Harter — and, in his final days, wants to add a second notch to his belt.

In a characteristically blunt letter sent Tuesday to the Board of Regents, Rogers outlined the reasons why UNLV President David Ashley should either quit or be fired.

He was even more blunt with the Sun.

“David is very smart, he’s maybe one of this country’s greatest engineers,” Rogers said. “His IQ is probably 70 points above mine. But he absolutely refuses to see how serious this situation is.”

The regents are expected to review Ashley’s four-year contract, which runs through June 2010, when they meet in August, but the matter may not wait that long.

Ashley said Tuesday said he was saving for the Board of Regents his response to Rogers’ letter.

Rogers said he has had ongoing concerns about Ashley’s job performance — including his management style, his wife’s rude treatment of university staff and a failure to develop a strong connection to the university community.

“He’s a very nice man. There’s not a mean bone in his body,” Rogers said in an interview. “It breaks your heart to see somebody with all of these brains and all of this talent get into a position he’s simply not cut out for.”

When asked what qualities Ashley had possessed that made him an attractive candidate in 2006, Rogers said, “Let me remind you, he was my second choice.”

Rogers selected Ashley, the executive vice chancellor at the University of California campus in Merced, to be UNLV’s president only after his first choice — a three-star general from West Point — pulled out of the running.

Ashley seemed like the right person at the time, but there are job skills required of a university president that can be demonstrated only on the job, Rogers said. A key component is the ability to network with big-name supporters while not losing touch with the core university community.

Ashley’s disengagement is evidenced by his choice of home address, Rogers said. When Ashley opted for a home at Lake Las Vegas, nearly 20 miles from UNLV, “there were regents who called me up and raised holy hell,” Rogers said. “Most college presidents live on campus and it’s a house where students and donors feel welcome to visit. Ashley’s living 30 miles away. He’s something of an isolationist. He’s developed no strong ties.”

Rogers said he’s spoken several times with Ashley about his wife’s behavior, to no avail.

“He refuses to acknowledge that what she does reflects on him and the university,” Rogers said. “She’s very tough on people.”

(Bonnie Ashley last week e-mailed a letter of apology to Rogers and the Board of Regents, saying her only goal was to help the university.)

With Rogers retiring at the end of the month — the Board of Regents will pay tribute when they meet Thursday in Las Vegas — why the rush to resolve Ashley’s employment status?

“These things are very unsettling, especially in academia,” Rogers said. “When there’s turmoil, it takes away from productivity. My opinion has always been that once you decide you don’t want to work for me, or I decide I don’t want you working for me, you leave that day. At that point you’re a lame duck.”

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