Ex-UNLV president deserved a better fate

To the editor:

It was with shock and dismay that I read of the decision by the Board of Regents to terminate David Ashley as UNLV president (Review-Journal, July 11).

I have been a faculty member at UNLV since 1989. In that time, UNLV has had Robert Maxson, Kenny Guinn, Carol Harter and Mr. Ashley as presidents. I thought Mr. Ashley was doing a solid job as president and his performance was on par with these other presidents. He represented UNLV well. Based on press reports, I think that Mr. Ashley was being evaluated on arbitrary and unfair criteria.

One criticism of him by former Chancellor Jim Rogers was that in living at Lake Las Vegas, he was too far from campus. Many universities have on-campus residences for their president. UNLV does not. Based on my experience, few faculty and staff live even within five miles of campus. If Mr. Ashley lived in Summerlin or Aliante or Anthem (all communities housing his UNLV colleagues) he would be at a comparable distance from campus. But if this was important, then place this in his employment contract.

Another criticism involved his wife’s actions. His wife was volunteering her time to ensure that UNLV functions went well. At some institutions, spouses are paid a stipend to compensate them for their time. UNLV does not have such an arrangement.

Based on reports, she apparently criticized UNLV staff in e-mails. At UNLV there are a large number of fine and competent personnel. However, as in any large organization, there are some organizational misfits. She was putting forward her best efforts and wanted others to do the same. It’s completely understandable that she would set a high standard and criticize efforts that fall short.

But to hear that the president’s wife’s actions should be part of his evaluation is incomprehensible to me. I’ve never heard of this. But again, if this was important then place this in his employment contract. In fact, next time, let’s just institute a spouse selection committee.

The faculty last fall in a survey gave Mr. Ashley a 72 percent approval rating after 2 1/ 2 years on the job. If that were an election it would be considered a landslide. This was also in the face of budget cuts which tend to upset people regardless of circumstance.

Chancellor Don Klaich stated that he had received no response pro or con to the retention of Mr. Ashley. What did this overwhelming display of approval just six months ago mean to Mr. Klaich and the regents?

As anybody with any experience realizes, if people are satisfied with the current situation they do not complain. This action by the regents was unexpected, to say the least. Unfortunately it reflects badly on them, the state system of higher education and UNLV.

I truly feel sorry for Mr. Ashley, who did not deserve this fate.

Neil Opfer


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