Higher education officials haven't wavered from their forecasts of fiscal doom: Further budget reductions, they say, will destroy their ability to provide core academic programs at Nevada's public colleges and universities, including those in high demand amid the deepening recession.
But if UNLV is such a responsive, tightly run ship, why is it spending more than $800,000 per year on politically correct proselytizing that students have no interest in? And why was UNLV's Office of Diversity and Inclusion of such institutional importance that it needed its own dedicated, paid lobbyist in Carson City?
Last week, I wrote about the deliberate misrepresentations of university system leaders and majority Democratic lawmakers in framing the state's revenue problems. They want taxpayers to believe that Gov. Jim Gibbons' proposed budget for 2009-11 will require the closure of community colleges and advanced-degree programs. Public panic will give lawmakers more political cover when raising taxes. Those tax increases would spare legislators and higher education officials from being held accountable for a decade-long spending spree on new buildings, new faculty and new administration.
In identifying the small army of lobbyists being deployed to Carson City -- at taxpayer expense -- to press lawmakers for the higher taxes that will forestall additional cuts, I came across one Lucy Flores, registered by the Legislature to advocate for UNLV's Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Created at the dawn of the state's economic woes in 2007, the office is the tip of the university's indoctrination spear, serving to remind students, staff and faculty to embrace those of other races, cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, disabilities, sexual orientations and gender identities -- or else. "Diversity and excellence at UNLV are integrally linked -- each requiring the other," the office's Web page says. And here I thought test scores were important.
In addition to browbeating the UNLV community with messages of coerced tolerance and pushing the hiring and promotion of "underrepresented groups," the office serves as UNLV's P.C. Stassi, handling complaints of controversial free speech and perceived sexual harassment, and directing "conflict resolution" accordingly. The easily offended have an eager audience. It is groupthink at its very worst.
What could such an effort possibly gain from lobbying the Legislature? I contacted Flores, a student at UNLV's Boyd Law School, to find out what she was lobbying for, and who was paying her. She directed my inquiries to the university's Department of Public Affairs.
It turned out that no one at UNLV outside the Office of Diversity and Inclusion could immediately clarify her position, responsibilities and compensation. After a few days of investigating, Public Affairs Director Dave Tonelli determined that Flores was wrongly given lobbying responsibilities at the Legislature -- politically perilous duties tightly controlled by campus presidents and the chancellor's office -- at the sole discretion of Christine Clark, UNLV's vice president of diversity and inclusion.
Clark is UNLV's includer-in-chief, a title that comes with an annual salary of $162,760 -- more than the governor makes. Flores is paid $2,000 by taxpayers a month to ... to ... well, to do whatever Clark authorizes her to do. Which, for one month, included lobbying lawmakers on the importance of inclusion. I wonder if she asked Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley to consider including the perspectives of oppressed, underrepresented minority Republicans in budget hearings.
By last week, Tonelli revealed that Flores was no longer credentialed as a legislative lobbyist for UNLV, and that the taxpayer money that funded her lobbying efforts had been replaced in the budget with "non-state funds."
So we have yet another well-funded fiefdom within a public institution lacking in basic oversight. But what else does the Office of Diversity and Inclusion do with its annual budget of $826,746, besides employ an assistant vice president, a secretary and a handful of students?
Apparently, send out a lot of e-mail.
In addition to bypassing basic protocols on representing the university before the legislative branch of government, Clark is a proficient spammer, blasting the in boxes of students and faculty with reminders of important diversity doings. One UNLV source said that where other employees face terrific scrutiny in sending campus-wide e-mails, Clark gets VIP treatment from the IT folks -- lest their inclusiveness and commitment to diversity be questioned.
One message sent last month, about the opening of the UNLV Multicultural Center-Centro Multicultural (yes, that's the actual name) begged faculty to bribe students into attending. "PLEASE Bring Your Classes and/or Consider Offering Your Students Extra Credit to Attend!" Clark's message read. Extra credit? What is this, junior high school?
Such events are well-attended by faculty and administrators -- gotta maintain those diversity credentials -- but draw precious few students. They don't need re-education on diversity because they live it every day.
Aided by the wonders of MySpace and Facebook, today's young people interact with a broader range of people and backgrounds than any generation before them. They're open-minded and unconcerned about attaching labels to their associations. And they contributed greatly to the election of the country's first black president.
But, according to comments made by Clark in UNLV's student newspaper last week, whites have an inherent fear of black men. Clark, who is white, should only speak for herself.
In pursuing an interventionist agenda that embraces race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other attributes, universities everywhere wind up nurturing campuses lacking in diversity of ideology. This embrace of philosophical conformity limits discussions and critical examinations of issues from identity politics to illegal immigration. Education at all levels is dumbed down.
Is UNLV's Office of Diversity and Inclusion going to insist that deans interview conservative and libertarian scholars for faculty openings? Please. The office's primary reason for existence is to make faculty and administrators feel good about the doctrines they supposedly already embrace, and to help attract more non-teaching academics who think just like them. And anyone who dares criticize this ridiculous waste of resources -- especially a smiling white guy like me -- can be marginalized as an angry chauvinist, racist, homophobic hate monger obviously lacking a formal education.
This represents one small example of the sense of entitlement and disconnection from reality that your tax dollars subsidize -- and further proof that the higher education system deserves great scrutiny if it insists on demanding ever-greater sums of your money.
Glenn Cook (email@example.com) is a Review-Journal editorial writer.