Review of chancellor was tough but fair |

Review of chancellor was tough but fair

Ron Knecht
For the Appeal

The Appeal’s Tuesday editorial accurately and soundly assesses “Who’s really to blame for the loss of $3M donation?” by concluding that UNR “lost out on it because of (Chancellor) Jim Rogers,” who had planned to give the money and then decided not to.

Along the way, however, the Appeal says that my job performance evaluation of Mr. Rogers “could have been more constructive and (I) even may have been able to use the job review to build a dialogue with Rogers.” My review was tough, but I submit it was also accurate, fair and constructive. Some things your readers should know in this regard:

1) At my first meeting after being seated as an elected regent, I publicly expressed my gratitude for the contributions Mr. Rogers has made to Nevada higher education, and I continue to express gratitude proportionate to those contributions. Even before that meeting, as reported in the press, when Mr. Rogers submitted his infamous “I quit” memo, I ghost-wrote for Regent James Dean Leavitt a glowing public letter of thanks to Mr. Rogers for his contributions. Neither I nor any other regent has been stinting in praising Mr. Rogers’ contributions.

2) When my review was submitted at the June meeting, in order to spare Mr. Rogers the brunt of public criticism, I declined to read it before TV cameras and reporters assembled. Instead, I put it into the formal record so that Mr. Rogers could reflect in private on it and take it in the constructive vein it was offered. It was Mr. Rogers, not I, who made a public issue out of this matter two months later. My review only answered publicly the questions asked privately of all regents by the board’s personnel consultant, and it diagnosed a history of problems Mr. Rogers has had. My final answer offered constructive thoughts on things Mr. Rogers could do to improve his performance. Contrary to Mr. Rogers’ claims, I never called him “a crook” or said anything equivalent.

3) I said at the August board meeting that I have continued to work constructively on higher-education business with Mr. Rogers, and I will continue to do so. He also said he will work constructively with me, and I accept that representation. For example, we recently worked together on the issue of faculty outside consulting and conflicts of interest. Many folks may not know the level of ongoing effort and cooperation regents put forth because it involves arcane matters with low visibility but high importance.

4) While Mr. Rogers’ current unhappiness is directed at me, it only adds to a long line of such problems he has had as chancellor – including problems with regents from across the political spectrum (former Chairman Brett Whipple, former Vice-chair Linda Howard, current Vice-chair Howard Rosenberg and Mr. Leavitt in his former role as chairman of the board’s Health Services Advisory Committee). In fact, Mr. Rogers started off his tenure with “Memogate,” a series of memos attacking the entire board.

5) Early in his tenure, Mr. Rogers canceled a previously announced $25-million donation to UNLV (which helped him land the job as chancellor), as part of his effort to oust its revered former president Carol Harter. Subsequently, he announced the money would go to health sciences, his pet project. This year, he promised the Legislature that he would raise $47 million in 30/70 matching funds for that project. Recently, he has said that former Gov. Kenny Guinn will help that effort. Despite this troubled history, I look forward to being able in the future to celebrate and honor the success of Mr. Rogers and Mr. Guinn.

In sum, there’s a lot more history, contention and cooperation here than meets the eye. Nonetheless, consistent with the Appeal’s advice, while standing by my review, I will redouble my efforts to work constructively with Mr. Rogers for the remainder of his term.

However, I do have a question for Jim Rogers: How can he effectively do his duty and fulfill his promises to lead Nevada higher education in fundraising when he has already broadcast to the world that he won’t support the system?

If I were a major donor approached by Mr. Rogers, or by any representative of the system at this point, I’d be asking why I should give when the chancellor has made a big deal out of canceling his planned donation and planning not to make any further contributions.

• Ron Knecht of Carson City is an economist, engineer and law-school graduate serving on the Board of Regents.