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April 21, 2014

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Why reprimand Rogers now over dispute with governor?

Regents explain why they took chancellor to task for his latest blast at Gibbons

War of Words

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Gag Order?

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Sniping between the chancellor of Nevada’s public higher education system and Gov. Jim Gibbons over budget cuts reached a crescendo as the chancellor labeled Gibbons a “greedy, uninterested, unengaged human being” in a Feb. 22 opinion piece in Carson City’s Nevada Appeal.

The comments mirrored ones Chancellor Jim Rogers, who has supported raising taxes to help fund education, has been making since 2008. So why did his bosses step in now to reprimand him in writing when they had stayed silent in public on so many other occasions?

Michael Wixom, chairman of the higher education system’s Board of Regents, said he and Vice Chairman Jason Geddes felt compelled to admonish Rogers because “the nature and the tone had gotten it to a place where it was getting us off-message ... Our message is, we have a budget problem we need to solve, and we need to talk. The governor has a role to play.”

“The nature of what Jim said was significantly different from what he said before,” Wixom added. “What Jim said before was general.”

As Geddes explained, Rogers “has very rarely ever attacked anybody personally and called into question their character, and to me, that’s where this one crossed over.”

The Appeal piece, however, was not the first time Rogers had insulted the governor, who opposes raising taxes, or other people who disagreed with the chancellor’s views.

In a July 2008 memo Rogers sent to recipients including the media and state legislators, the chancellor wrote, “The governor asserts that people come up to him on the street and thank him for not considering raising taxes. I would suggest that those people, along with many other Nevadans, are those who care nothing about the state, its future, or anything other than their own pocketbook.”

The same month, Rogers opened another public memo by accusing Gibbons of attempting to “muzzle” him via the governor’s adviser Monte Miller, who had complained to several regents about Rogers’ writings.

In November, in public comments printed in the Sun, Rogers called former state Sen. Bob Beers and then-Regent Bret Whipple, both fiscal conservatives who had butted heads with Rogers, “negative” and “very destructive” people.

•••

Regent Ron Knecht, who has disagreed with Rogers on tax policy and other issues, thinks his colleagues on the board did not go far enough in censuring the chancellor.

Wixom and Geddes sent a message to the governor last week stating they had informed Rogers that they were committed to keeping the higher education system’s public discourse “civil and constructive.”

The board chairman and vice chairman then told Rogers in a letter that his statements were “unauthorized and inappropriate.” The note said Rogers had agreed to refrain from making “personal public comments” concerning Gibbons for the duration of Rogers’ term as chancellor, which ends this summer.

In an interview Thursday, Knecht said Rogers should apologize to Gibbons and resign.

Regarding the potential of the board asking Rogers to step down, Wixom said, “I don’t think that’s on the table.”

•••

Increasing stipends for graduate students who teach and conduct research is a top priority at UNLV.

This year, however, because of budget cuts, the university is suspending a graduate assistantship program that supported 12 doctoral students during the summer last year.

The Graduate Research Training assistantship gave students $6,000 for three months of work.

“The only reason it was cancelled this year was because of the budget uncertainty,” said Kate Hausbeck, senior associate dean of UNLV’s graduate college.

Though the number of students the program helped each year was small, it served an important purpose, Hausbeck said.

Graduate assistants who work for the university during the school year are often left without funding in summer. The Graduate Research Training assistantship provided students with the opportunity to focus year-round on their research.

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