Officials: UNLV presidential search not a done deal

The crowd was small but concerns were clear among UNLV faculty and staff who met on Wednesday to discuss the search for a new UNLV president.

Those in attendance wanted to know whether a firm would be hired to conduct the search, whether open-meeting laws would deter bashful candidates and whether the pick for the next president had already been decided.

“Both (Board of Regents) Chairman (Kevin) Page and (President Search Committee) Chairman (Mark) Doubrava asked me to emphasize that there’s no fix,” UNLV Faculty Senate President Paul Werth said. “There’s no decision a priori or ahead of time on the selection of who the president will be. They emphasized that they would not waste their valuable time if they knew who they wanted already.”

Professor Vicki Rosser said she has heard the concern numerous times and wants to disavow the notion.

“I can’t tell you the emails I’ve heard from across campus already that people have said, ‘Oh, it’s a done deal. Why do we care?’”

The Board of Regents may name a permanent replacement for former President Neal Smatresk, who now leads the University of North Texas near Dallas, by September.

The presidential search committee includes six regents and will make a recommendation to the full Board of Regents.

Thirty non-voting “institutional advisory” members will also give input, including 13 faculty members, staff members, administrators, students and alumni from UNLV and 17 community representatives from gaming, utilities, banks and chambers of commerce, among others.

Nevada System of Higher Education code requires faculty and staff to be included and allows the Board of Regents chairman to appoint others as deemed necessary.

On the subject of hiring a search firm, all five advisory members present favored it.

“Having been on a search committee of this magnitude, a search firm is immensely helpful,” said Connie Mobley, associate dean of UNLV’s School of Dentistry. “They can reach out far beyond the borders that we can reach out, just within the state.”

Rosser said the firm would bring in more candidates, and an audience member said it would give her more faith that the process was fair.

Advisory member Michael Wilde and others wondered if open meeting laws would prevent people from applying. Open meeting laws apply to Nevada System of Higher Education meetings and candidates’ names could become public before they become finalists.

“One concern I have is open meeting laws because that may, in some ways, deter some very good candidates from throwing their hat in the ring,” said Wilde, assistant director of finance and the Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach. “If they’re not successful then maybe their appointment body where they’re currently working may be less inclined to offer them further, future career opportunities.”

The search committee and community advisers will meet on March 28.

Contact reporter Kristy Totten at ktotten@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3809. Follow her on Twtter