Higher education chancellor Rogers to miss hearing on budget

Higher education Chancellor Jim Rogers won’t be testifying today at an important legislative hearing on budget cuts.

He will be taking a long-planned vacation with his wife in San Diego.

Which might be a relief to a Board of Regents that has had trouble reining in its fiery CEO.

To many, it was bad enough when Rogers called Gov. Jim Gibbons irrelevant every chance he got. But when the chancellor took what many people believe were personal shots at the governor last weekend, it was too much.

Rogers, long an outspoken advocate of a strong higher education system, appears to have crossed a line when he called Gibbons "an executioner" who "has no regard for the welfare of any other human being" in a piece that ran in the Nevada Appeal, Carson City’s newspaper, over the weekend.

In a letter to the board’s chairman and vice chairman, Gibbons asked that the board appoint someone else to work with him. He called Rogers’ statements "vile and insulting."

The chairman and vice chairman publicly chastised the chancellor, and then they did exactly what the governor had asked. From now on, Vice Chancellor Dan Klaich will act as a liaison between the higher education system and the governor’s office.

Chairman Michael Wixom and Vice Chairman Jason Geddes released a letter Wednesday calling Rogers’ statements "unauthorized and inappropriate." They wrote that Rogers has promised not to criticize the governor anymore in personal terms.

They wrote to the governor, too, explaining that Rogers was acting on his own.

Rogers, reached Thursday, said he was pretty much done talking about the whole ordeal.

"Everything that can be said has been said," he said. "Now, let’s get to work."

He said his non-attendance at today’s hearing — the Assembly Ways and Means Committee will hear from the higher ed system about budget cuts proposed by Gibbons — has nothing to do with the latest controversy.

Wixom said the same thing.

Wixom said he will speak, as will Geddes, Klaich and others. It might be the first time this year that a high-profile event tied to the higher education system’s budget does not include Rogers.

At a rally last month at UNLV to oppose cuts, Rogers told the students that the governor did not matter. At a town hall meeting that same week, he said the system wouldn’t accept any cuts whatsoever. "We are not in the compromising business," he said.

At a recent legislative hearing, he compared Gibbons’ proposed cuts to burning down half your house. "Which half would you want burned?" he asked.

Regent Mark Alden, who isn’t always on the same side of the issues as Rogers, said this latest dust-up could be blamed partly on the board for letting Rogers be so undiplomatic for so long.

He called the board "ineffective" in making sure Rogers understands what is expected of him.

"Has he been good for higher education? Yes," Alden said. "Has he made errors? Yes."

Wixom, the board chairman, said that regardless of the past, Rogers understands his role now. He understands that to criticize the governor personally is uncalled for.

"I don’t like to live in the past," Wixom said. "So I’m not going to worry about it."

Rogers will remain at the helm. He is scheduled to retire at the end of June.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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