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NSHE search for chancellor may stall until the fall

Updated April 13, 2017 - 9:57 pm

The interim chancellor for the state’s higher education system was noncommittal Thursday on whether he would be interested in taking over the post permanently.

John Valery White, whose $303,000, one-year contract with the Nevada System of Higher Education ends June 30, said he does not know what action the search committee will take during its next meeting April 20, and he doesn’t want to speculate.

“Anything I’m going to say will affect their process,” White said.

In a memo dated April 10, Board of Regents Chairman Rick Trachok recommended postponing the search for a chancellor after the top five candidates bowed out. According to the agenda that was posted Thursday, the committee might recommend continuing the search in the fall.

Regent Jason Geddes, a search committee member, said he’s open to all options, including extending the search for six to nine months. He said he wouldn’t speculate on whether he would be in favor of offering the position to White.

As part of his contract, White was not eligible to apply for the permanent position of chancellor. Trachok said it’s also part of the board’s policy that an acting president or chancellor cannot apply for a permanent position.

“I’m happy with that,” White said. “I’ve been proceeding on that assumption all year. I’ve been focused on the legislative session, which has us pretty busy.”

White was a finalist late last year for the chancellor’s job at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but the school ended its search without filling the position.

Asked if the committee would let White’s contract expire without a replacement, Trachok said, “I would be very concerned if the system would be operating without a chancellor.” He added that White was not among the semifinalists.

According to Trachok’s memo, one of the candidates withdrew after taking a job elsewhere, and the other four were concerned about their names being made public during the semifinalist stage.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who introduced a bill this legislative session that would have created a separate coordinating board for the state’s four community colleges, thereby decentralizing power from the regents, said he wasn’t sure why the candidates suddenly withdrew.

“There’s a lot of scrutiny,” Hansen said. “More so than I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s making them a little gun shy.”

With Hansen’s bill, Assembly Joint Resolution 5 would remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution, giving lawmakers the authority to enact changes.

Regent Trevor Hayes said he also did not want to speculate on whether bills recently introduced this session would have had any sway on the candidates.

Geddes said he does not think the proposed legislation alone would cause someone to withdraw.

“They could do a Google search to determine if it was a place they would want to be or not,” Geddes said. “There are bills, newspaper articles that would come up — all of the various issues we deal with in higher education.”

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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