Knecht takes on chancellor over new position
A Nevada regent on Friday criticized higher education Chancellor Dan Klaich over his plan to hire a new government relations director when budgets are forcing program cuts and higher tuition costs, calling a perceived increase in administrative employees as a “social cancer.”
Regent Ron Knecht of Carson City, in a four-page letter distributed by email, took aim at Klaich, “ta-and-spend legislators,” and fellow regents whom he criticized for their reversal midway the 2011 Legislature to reconsider campus closures and other drastic measures earlier rejected as a way to meet deep budget cuts.
A late-session budget agreement lessened the pain to Nevada’s System of Higher Education, though programs and staff are being cut and students face a 13 percent increase in tuition this fall.
“While we are making real cuts throughout higher education to the professionals and staff who actually deliver the instructional, research and public-service goods, you announce a plan to fatten our contingent among the political and chattering classes,” Knecht wrote. “Ergo, your timing is really bad, even if the idea were a good one (which it isn’t).”
The letter was a response to an internal email Klaich sent to regents on Wednesday, informing them of his intent to move forward with a hiring search. Knecht asked that the search be suspended, but Klaich declined.
Reached by phone, Klaich told The Associated Press that the position has been discussed for more than a year with no negative response and was unanimously endorsed by university and college president.
In a written response to Knecht, Klaich: “It is clear that one of the trends of the last session … was the bipartisan desire that the system more closely align its goals with those of the state. I am not sure how we do that without a continual dialogue with those lawmakers, which is a significant part of the job description for the position.”
Klaich also objected to Knecht’s criticism that with the 2011 session over, the search is not timely.
“The preparation for a session begins the day after adjournment and I am already late with this search,” the chancellor wrote, adding that the director will be based in southern Nevada, “where the vast majority of the legislature resides and which drives the economy of this state.”
Describing government affairs personnel, Knecht said, “The main function of many of them is to get paid by taxpayer dollars to schmooze and devise new ways to raise taxes, spending and regulation and to increase their own numbers.”
They “consume an ever larger share of the pie,” and cause “an ever-increasing dead-weight loss on society,” he wrote.
He said such administrators are “major reasons that economic growth in the U.S. and Nevada is slowing and thus that human well-being is lower than it would be if this social cancer were arrested.”
Knecht recommended the proposed $165,000 salary for the position be transferred to programs at Western Nevada College.
Klaich said the funds would be better spent on a position that “will benefit the entire system and every NSHE institution.”