Ashley’s openness at UNLV hailed

UNLV is taking a new approach to budgeting and soon will have its first ombudsman, President David Ashley announced Wednesday during his state of the university address.

Ashley is following a faculty recommendation to add an ombudsman. The new office will give everyone at the university, including students, an impartial mediator for conflicts, he said.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has about 28,000 students and more than 3,300 faculty and staff, and most campuses of its size have at least one ombudsman, Faculty Senate Chairman Bryan Spangelo said.

“The faculty will be absolutely thrilled with this,” he said.

The ombudsman’s office will allow faculty members to try to settle conflicts with the administration in private instead of going to the Faculty Senate to air grievances, Spangelo said. The ombudsman, who is likely to be a long-term faculty member, would not keep records of who visited the office or what the conversations were about, only the number of people who use the service each year.

Also for the first time, officials at UNLV will be planning the university’s budget based on input from faculty and staff. Across-the-board budget cuts are anticipated next year, so a series of town hall meetings this fall will allow employees to help decide what will be cut.

Ashley wants to make faculty “own that (budget-making) process as much as the administration,” he said.

Turnout for the meetings, which start Sept. 25, is expected to be high, Spangelo said.

Even though the budget process is “dreadfully complicated,” faculty members are interested in where funding is coming from and where it’s going, he said.

It’s “absolutely beautiful,” he said of Ashley’s approach to the budget. “We love the transparency.”

Faculty have heralded the changes as positive steps to giving them more say over campus activities, according to Spangelo.

“Supporting our faculty and staff is, without question, a priority of this administration,” Ashley said.

In another effort to bridge relationships between faculty and the administration, Ashley announced the creation of an executive policy committee, made up of faculty, staff and administrators, that is to review and recommend university policies.

Ashley is entering his second year on the job and has continued to stress the importance of research at the 50-year-old university.

Over the next year, $2 million will be allocated to the president’s research initiatives, including $400,000 for the President’s Research Award, which goes to research teams seeking competitive grant funding.

About $1 million is to be spent on infrastructure for research at the university’s colleges, and $200,000 is to help pay for faculty and graduate students to travel to conferences and research sites.

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