Look for more changes at UNLV

Now that David Ashley is out as president of UNLV, it’s just a question of time before his vice president of diversity and inclusion, Christine Clark, joins him in being demoted to faculty.

Clark’s office personified the Ashley administration: unaccountable and dismissive of outside concerns and criticisms. Her enthusiastic pursuit of a politically correct dystopia included the development of an unconstitutional speech code that would have required campus police to investigate hurt feelings. Incredibly, she enjoyed Ashley’s unconditional support.

UNLV’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion had a prominent role in the July 10 Board of Regents meeting that decided Ashley’s fate. Clark’s speech code — and the threat it posed to academic freedom and free thought — came up time and again.

But it was an exchange between Regent Ron Knecht and Ashley that best illustrated why Ashley was removed from the administrative building.

Knecht came to the meeting with a great deal of data about the Office of Diversity and Inclusion: information on how and why it was created, on how Ashley had allowed Clark to run amok, and how other institutions had managed to embrace and encourage diversity without creating new oppressive bureaucracies.

As Knecht was asking Ashley about the office’s budget, citing figures he had obtained from the university system, Ashley interrupted him to say that his numbers were culled from the media and were incorrect. It was a stunning display of ignorance and arrogance.

"Ashley had taken an area of responsibility that could have been handled by an existing administrator or an assistant vice president at a salary of about $80,000, turned it into a tenured vice president and bucked up the cost to more than $400,000," Knecht said last week.

And Ashley gave the impression that all the problems caused by Clark were media exaggerations.

Fortunately, the rebuilding job at UNLV likely won’t involve finding a replacement for Clark and her grossly high $160,000 salary. At some point in the next few months, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will be blown up, and the vice president position attached to it will disappear.

It’s not all good news for taxpayers, though. University system policy will let Clark get a semester-long paid vacation to ease her transition to a faculty position in the College of Education, where she will help indoctrinate future schoolteachers. Ugh.

The elimination of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion might end up being one of the smallest post-Ashley changes at UNLV. There are rumblings of major moves coming in offices from one end of campus to another. That’s good news for the campus and the public.

— — —

If legislative watchers thought Sen. Bill Raggio threw his weight around at the end of the 2009 session, they haven’t seen anything yet. The Reno Republican’s 2011 swan song is shaping up as his piece de resistance.

As minority leader, Raggio had all the leverage in Carson City at the close of this year’s session because Democrats lacked the two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes. Raggio ultimately gave the Democrats the votes they needed to raise taxes (and to override Gov. Jim Gibbons’ veto), but in return got Democrats to vote for public employee retirement reforms and, most importantly, the expiration of the tax hikes in two years.

Few people think Democrats can pick up two more seats in the state Senate in next year’s election to get to that two-thirds threshold. In fact, Democrats might lose one seat. Tax-hiking Sen. Joyce Woodhouse has an even bigger bull’s-eye on her back, thanks to the revelation that she got a $10,500 consulting contract from the Clark County School District. Her conservative Henderson district might not react favorably to the perception of political patronage.

If Woodhouse loses next year and the Democrats’ margin is 11-10, they’ll need the term-limited Raggio to deliver three Republican votes to pass an all-new batch of tax increases. And Raggio will gladly comply — at a steep price.

Redistricting and reapportionment will be a dominant issue in 2011. Not only will Democrats seek to draw themselves permanent majorities in both houses, but Southern Nevada is in line to shift a couple of Senate seats and three or four Assembly seats from the north and the rurals into Clark County. Heck, they might even make Raggio’s district disappear altogether.

Raggio has made a career of screwing Southern Nevada, forcing Las Vegas Valley taxpayers to subsidize UNR at the expense of UNLV and the College of Southern Nevada and pay for his glorious superhighway between Reno and Carson City. If given the chance to forestall reapportionment for another decade — or even expand the Legislature to preserve rural and Washoe County representation — he’ll grab it in a second. And he’ll keep his beloved higher education funding formulas, which disproportionately favor the north, to boot.

Bank on it.


Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is a Review-Journal editorial writer.

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