Commentary – Nevada’s institutions of higher learning – change is needed

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Nevada’s institutions of higher learning – change is needed

With openness and proper oversight by the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents of the Chancellor and his cabinet, the system can work; however, as has now been well magnified, when the Chancellor undermines the proper process and proceeds to intentionally cover up and hide from his governing board and the legislature information they need to make proper decisions and set policies in regards to the performance of our institutions of higher learning, the system fails miserably.

The Chancellor’s recent quashing of information within a report critical of him and his agency has now shed considerable light on what appears to be a very centralized leadership clique within the NSHE.  Keeping your bosses in the dark to the results of a professional study critical of your performance makes for good job security, I guess.

Klaich’s resume within the NSHE is extensive, beginning with serving as an elected Regent 1983-1997.  He subsequently moved into the NHSE system, progressing through various Vice Chancellor positions within the cabinet to the position of Executive Vice Chancellor prior to his appointment as Chancellor.

When hiring Klaich, the BOR chose not to conduct an outside search. Klaich was the only considered candidate to replace the controversial Jim Rogers.

The study in question was done by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and was intended to give state legislators ideas on how to improve on the operation of the state’s community colleges.  Klaich, and some of his cabinet members determined they did not like the study’s conclusions. Klaich’s true colors may have finally been shown.   He apparently will do whatever is necessary to maintain a centralized control over the eight schools within the NSHE – even to the probable detriment of the entire NSHE system, and, now, his own integrity.

It has been no secret amongst those within the legislature and institutional leadership positions that change in operational structure, quality of appointees, management processes, et al have been recommended for years.  The results of this most current study were not much different from past studies – until, under a directive from Mr. Klaich, negatives were edited out by the contracted “think tank” National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

Both Mr. Klaich and the NCHEMS failed the integrity test in this sad chapter in the history of the NSHE

According to a June 28, 2015 article in the Las Vegas Review Journal (Bethany Barnes), even after ordering the NCHEMS to change the first version to a more acceptable version, Klaich said the edited document became an “internal four page document he shared only with the president of the College of Southern Nevada.”  The BOR and legislators never saw it.

The Board of Regents must challenge Chancellor Klaich to fully explain this episode, including as to whether he has “played favorites” with his continued use of the NCHEMS. And they must challenge this firm as to their reason for changing information within the study at the request of an unhappy client. This firm apparently will do what Klaich asks of them – in order to keep the contracts coming.  The same firm was used in a 2012 study, over another firm recommended by the legislature.  Nevada should never spend a dime on them again.

According to the June 28 LVRJ article, the original report “recommended radical overhauls, including a statement that questioned the ability of Klaich’s agency to accomplish any of its improvement goals.”

It also recommended the community colleges and universities be put under separate governing systems – a recommendation that has been put forth, according to some, for many years.  Barnes June 28, 2015 LVRJ article also pointed out researchers at the UNLV Lincy Institute, a “think tank”, also pushed for legislators to put the community colleges under a separate governing structure, only to face opposition for suggesting change.

The current furor over this recent revelation has also led to added attention to other recent questionable activities by Mr. Klaich:

  • Charges of plagiarism in 2014 by the Brookings Mountain West ‘think tank’ against Klaich and others within his circle. This was eventually mutually resolved – with no investigation by the Board of Regents and no clarification of the conflicting stories from Klaich and Brookings.
  • Mr. Klaich’s January 2015 hire of recently retired State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to fill the Executive Vice Chancellor position. She was appointed to this second in command position with no prior experience within the NSHE, or in education, to my knowledge. She served January to early April, resigning the $215,000/ year job to run for Senator Harry Reid’s US Senate seat. This position remains vacant at this time, even though the quashed portion of the study recommended this positon be created and filled with a qualified individual, “someone with experience at the level of president or vice president at a community college, not just an administrator.” (LVRJ July 2, 2105, Jane Ann Morrison) I don’t believe Ms. Cortes-Masto met that job description. The Board of Regents shares responsibility for this situation, too.
  • The hiring of Presidents at some of the schools within the NSHE – where no national search was conducted and PhD’s apparently not a pre-requisite.

There are some very high quality individuals on the current Board of Regents; however, they must bear some responsibility for these failings within the system.  It is each of their jobs to make themselves aware of what the Chancellor’s office is doing, question and to follow proper procedures in all matters, including hires.  They should never fall into the ‘trap’ of allowing the Chancellor to act as their boss.  The Chancellor is answerable to the BOR…all are answerable to the taxpayers.

In this most recent and most shameful action, the Chancellor, and perhaps a member or two of his cabinet, showed he does not meet the ethical standards necessary to this position.

Nancy Dallas (Publisher/Editor)

NewsDesk (Est. January 2003)

Information for this commentary was obtained from the following articles (and others). If you have not read these articles already, I strongly suggest you take the time to click and read them now! (Bethany Barnes) (Bethany Barnes) (Jane Ann Morrison) (Geoff Dornan) (Charlotte Hsu)