The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents held a series of forums Wednesday and Thursday to gauge public opinion on the search for a new chancellor to succeed Thom Reilly when his contract expires next year.
The primary question discussed at the forums was whether the board should appoint an interim chancellor for a one- to three-year term or conduct a national search for a candidate. Public sentiment has been overwhelmingly in favor of a national search, according to Board of Regents Chairman Jason Geddes.
Geddes said he’s in favor of a search as well and will make his recommendation to the rest of the board, which will discuss its options during a special meeting on Oct. 18.
The start date for the next chancellor is expected to be September 2020. Reilly is scheduled to leave next summer.
If the board does decide on a national search, a committee will be appointed and a firm will be hired to conduct it. The board could also forgo a search and a hire an interim chancellor to be evaluated after one year. Similarly, if a national search did not produce a candidate by May or June of next year, the board could appoint an interim chancellor.
At a forum at UNLV on Thursday, the sparse crowd in attendance indicated by a show of hands that they would prefer a national search over an interim appointment.
Mary Croughan, vice president for research and economic development, also said board members should keep in mind that their role and composition could change during the replacement process as a result of Assembly Joint Resolution 5, which will head to the ballot next year and would turn over control of the NSHE to the state Legislature.
“It might affect candidates’ desire when they don’t know who their boss is,” Croughan said.
The open forums were held at the NSHE’s Northern Nevada campuses on Wednesday and at the Southern Nevada campuses on Thursday.
If the board ultimately named an interim chancellor, that person would join a long list of fill-ins holding senior NSHE positions.
UNLV is in the early stages of its search for a new president, with the ad hoc search committee set to meet Sept. 27. Marta Meana was hired as acting president last summer after the controversial departure of Len Jessup. In February, the board voted to allow Meana to be considered for the permanent job.
UNLV is also seeking a new dean for its School of Medicine after Barbara Atkinson left the role this summer, while other administrative positions, including the dean of the School of Dental Medicine, are filled in an interim capacity.
In September, the board voted to name Kumud Acharya interim president of the Desert Research Institute rather than conduct a search for a candidate.
Reilly said that the chancellor search and the college-level searches are largely separate, each with its own dedicated resources, committees and firms. Reilly, or his successor, will officially hire each position.
In the past, similar searches have gone quickly, Reilly said, with finalists flying in for interviews within a few days of each other, and the committees making a recommendation within a week of the interviews.
NSHE’s last search for a new chancellor took about six months from the time a search committee was named to the date of Reilly’s hiring. There was a hiccup in the process, however, when five semifinalists unexpectedly dropped out of the running. The cost of hiring the firm to lead the search in 2016 was about $100,000.
This article has been updated to correct the title of the interim president of the Desert Research Institute.