Saturday, 24 October 2020 | 2 am
As election day approaches, Nevada residents will be asked to vote for a variety of candidates for election positions and measures. Question 1 addresses the important issue of higher education governance and seeks to remove the Council of Regents from the state constitution, thus making it subject to the same supervision and regulation as all other state agencies. This is a somewhat obscure topic for many, but first quarter supporters demonstrated an overwhelming case of voting “yes” to it.
I am an honorable third year student at UNLV, where I learned a lot about the value of hard work. I am very proud of my school and its achievements, but I recognize that these achievements are the result of students, teachers and staff. The same can be said about the success of seven other higher education institutions in Nevada. These are not achievements of conductors who historically alienated legislators, university donors and other constituents of higher education.
It discourages me that the opponents of Question 1, including some of the conductors, pretend that the successes of students, teachers and staff are “NSHE” achievements. This is not a public service brand and raises concerns about the credibility of our elected leaders.
In recent years, Nevada higher education institutions have seen improved graduation rates, including for underrepresented groups. This is an important achievement and worth celebrating, but we must be attentive and intentional when considering who deserves our praise. Proponents of the Nevada Higher Education System’s status quo argue that our current system is working well, but it is dangerous to tie the improved graduation rate to our governance. This achievement is possible through the tireless work of the students, the teachers who teach them and the guidance centers that guide them along the way.
In the midst of a global pandemic, we also saw local elected officials advocating the establishment and development of the UNLV School of Medicine. We are grateful for this important addition to our university and our state, but reaching this point has not always been perfect or student-centered.
When it came time for the Council of Regents to make decisions about budget cuts, one of the first things he removed was state funding for the development of the UNLV medical school. Times are tough and everyone has had to cut back, but it is ironic that the development of a medical school in a large metropolitan area has been abandoned in the midst of a pandemic – especially when a significant part of the budget goes to administrative costs and salaries that does not directly assist students. In defending this cut for lawmakers, an NSHE official described UNLV as “unlucky” for having lost that support.
It is phenomenal that both UNLV and UNR have moved up the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of colleges and achieved Carnegie R1 status. Regents can run to claim credit, but the momentum, vision and energy came from UNLV and UNR teachers and administrators. This is despite the fact that some conductors once claimed that UNLV would take another 10-15 years to achieve this status.
As a student researcher at Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute, I was able to research many important public policy topics related to the Las Vegas metropolitan area, the state and the Mountain West region. I became a better student and a better person because of my research. However, my growth and achievements are due to the tireless work and support of my mentors and colleagues – not the governance structure that oversees UNLV.
With all of these ideas in mind, it is painful for me to consistently see NSHE conductors and staff exchanging praise with each other that institution-level students, faculty and staff deserve. Nothing about it is student-centered. This would be the equivalent of the Legislative taking credit for the success of individual companies across the state.
The recent scientific breakthrough in the long-sought search for a superconductor at room temperature was in part due to the contributions of UNLV physics professor Ashkan Salamat, not NSHE or the conductors. The growing number of community members assisted with DACA renewal forms is due to the work of the Immigration Clinic at the Boyd School of Law, not the NSHE or the regents. The UNLV women’s tennis squad that won the designation of Academic Team of the Inter-College Tennis Association is due to the work of the players and coaches, not the NSHE or the conductors.
As we move forward in considering the future of Nevada’s higher education governance and administration, it is important to remember that the Nevada Higher Education System offices do not award degrees, have sports teams, teach classes, make progress in the classroom and in the classroom. laboratory, or serve as an accredited higher education institution. Everything that makes higher education in our state excellent is the result of our colleges and universities. It is time for the focus to return to where it belongs and for student-centered feelings and practices to become the reality of tomorrow.
Olivia Cheche is a third-year student in Political Science and Public Policy at Brookings at UNLV Honors College. She is a student researcher at Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute, as well as the Senate President for the CSUN student government.