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September 16, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: HIGHER EDUCATION:

UNLV president recommended his own grader — but hey, it’s SOP

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Tiffany Brown

UNLV President David Ashley, far right, talks with regents and others following a preliminary evaluation of his performance April 30. Ashley nominated seven people to serve as consultant to the Board of Regents in his evaluation, and the higher education systems’s vice chancellor picked a California university president.

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UNLV President David Ashley had a hand in choosing the consultant hired to evaluate him, a product of the way Nevada’s public higher education system selects its presidents’ evaluators. Campus presidents are allowed to submit a slate of candidates. The chancellor takes the presidents’ lists into account when recommending an evaluation consultant to the chairman of the system’s Board of Regents, who has the final say on the selection.

Ashley came up with seven names and from that list Dan Klaich, the system’s executive vice chancellor, picked John Welty, president of California State University’s Fresno campus. (Klaich made the recommendation on the chancellor’s behalf.) Regents Chairman Michael Wixom then approved Welty.

Welty and Ashley knew one another before the evaluation because before coming to UNLV in 2006, Ashley served as executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Merced. In that capacity, he worked with Welty on California’s Central Valley Higher Education Consortium.

Wixom explained that one reason the system gives presidents a say in who evaluates them is that they are likely to know people who are “similarly situated” and understand what it takes to run a university.

“We are not talking about a list that includes his mother and close relatives but rather sitting presidents of similar institutions,” Klaich said. “Can you suggest a better group to draw from? These are people who know what the job entails, what the pressures are and what the pitfalls are.”

Ashley pointed out that the vast majority of public university presidents know one another professionally. He also noted that the system had asked that Ashley suggest potential evaluators from Western states, if possible, to minimize the consultant’s travel costs, which the system covers.

Welty delivered a positive preliminary assessment of Ashley’s performance on May 1.

After interviewing 59 people including faculty, students and members of the Las Vegas community outside the university, Welty said many people praised Ashley for handling UNLV’s budget crisis well and hiring a strong leadership team.

At a June meeting, regents will review Welty’s findings and decide whether to extend Ashley’s contract, which ends in 2010.

In addition to covering Welty’s travel expenses, the system is paying him $7,500 to complete the evaluation.

•••

The University of Southern Nevada in Henderson has become the second private college in the state to qualify as a participant in the Millennium Scholarship program, which gives top high school graduates $10,000 toward college.

Award recipients can spend the money to study in undergraduate programs at state colleges or nonprofit, nonsectarian higher education institutions originally established in Nevada and accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Education Department.

The state attorney general’s office determined in April that the University of Southern Nevada met those requirements, and scholarship recipients will be able to use their awards there in the fall semester, said Reba Coombs, executive director of the Millennium Scholarship program.

•••

UNLV’s decade-old law school has moved up again in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking.

The William S. Boyd School of Law tied with one other school for U.S. News and World Report’s 75th spot. Last year, Boyd shared the 88th spot with six other schools.

The recognition comes at a time when the law school, like the rest of the university, is facing budget cuts that could damage its reputation and its ability to provide students with a quality education.

Boyd has lost some key faculty members in part because they question Nevada’s commitment to education. Others are considering leaving.

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