When David Ashley was removed as UNLV president and demoted to a faculty position this summer, he wasn’t expected to be stuck on the bench by himself for long. All signs pointed to similar action being taken against his vice president of diversity and inclusion, Christine Clark.
Ms. Clark, after all, had a great deal to do with Mr. Ashley’s long fall from the ivory tower on Maryland Parkway. She was the primary author of an obviously unconstitutional speech code that was created over the strong objections of UNLV faculty and staff, but with the strong support of Mr. Ashley.
That speech code, called a “bias incidents policy,” required campus police to respond to incidents of free expression that left anyone feeling upset. It denied due process to anyone accused of offending someone, and it denied them the right to face their accuser. Professors and students alike feared the policy would crush academic freedom and have a chilling effect on protected speech.
The intervention of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and reporting by the local media alerted state higher education officials to the disturbing — but not surprising — overreach of authority, and the speech code was torn up.
Given the frequent cries from UNLV officials and their allies in the Legislature about inadequate funding and crippling budget cuts, it is impossible to justify the existence of a bureaucracy dedicated to imposing a culture of political correctness, not to mention a $160,000-per-year vice president at its helm.
But because Mr. Ashley hired Ms. Clark as a tenured vice president two years ago, new UNLV President Neal Smatresk couldn’t do taxpayers the favor of firing her. So on Friday, the news came that Ms. Clark had been moved to a faculty position in the College of Education.
But the e-mail message from Mr. Smatresk announcing the job change was far from good news. Where Mr. Ashley’s removal was defined by a public rebuke before the Board of Regents, Ms. Clark’s demotion technically wasn’t a demotion at all. Not only will Ms. Clark get to keep a job despite struggling as a vice president, she gets two new titles — senior scholar in multicultural education and founding vice president of diversity and inclusion — and a role in choosing her successor.
“Dr. Clark has done an outstanding job against tremendous odds,” the message from Mr. Smatresk to the school said. “Indeed, as our inaugural Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Clark did the really heavy lifting — both administratively and politically — that is always involved in establishing a ground breaking initiative. …
“Because of Dr. Clark’s national reputation — as both an administrator and a scholar — with the National Association for Diversity Officers in Higher Education and the National Association for Multicultural Education, I have asked her to assist me with the transition and search for the next Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at UNLV.”
Outstanding job? Her primary “achievement” was attempting to create an illegal campus speech code.
Mr. Smatresk was hired to clean up the sizable mess left behind by Mr. Ashley — a mess that included the hazardous waste spill created by Ms. Clark’s hiring. Now he seems content in not only embracing the status quo, but making it worse — at a greater cost — amid a horrible recession and an uncertain financial future at UNLV.
The e-mail heralding Ms. Clark despite a two-year history of dysfunction has the effect of declaring the Office of Diversity and Inclusion a high funding priority for the university. It shouldn’t be.