Friday, February 7, 2014

UNLV Donor

A newspaper reporter called to ask me if Beverly and I would withdraw our financial support of UNLV because Don Snyder was chosen to be the acting president.  I told the reporter that we would not withdraw financial support because we had insulated our donations from the overall use by UNLV and by the Nevada Higher Education System by directing that the funds would be used only to support the Black Mountain Institute, an international center that supports creative writers and scholars.

Fortunately, many, if not all of the departments or areas of specialization within UNLV can be isolated from the overall inadequacy of the board of regents and the school’s leadership so that these “pockets of excellence” can flourish regardless of the incompetence that surrounds them.  I would urge that any donor carefully earmark and control his or her money to keep it out of the mainstream controlled by UNLV leadership and management.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A New President

How do you look for and find a new president for UNLV between now and July 1 of 2014?  If an employment contract for a new UNLV president is to be put in place, it must be done so before July 1, not before September first when the school year begins.

How do you persuade a present sitting president at another university to leave that job and come to a school that has all the problems UNLV has when merely applying for this job may cost that president his or her present job, or may result in that president taking this job and killing his or her career?  Maybe Don Snyder, Dan Klaich, and Kevin Page have the answer to this question.  I hope they do, but I seriously doubt it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Board Of Regents

In one stroke of idiocy the board of regents proved what Nevadans had thought for fifty years; that is, that the board of regents should be disbanded and sent home and that a new governing system should be developed, that is, one that appoints the members of the board of regents.  Picking Snyder to be the president of UNLV, albeit only for a short time, is the most outrageously incompetent decision the board has ever made.  During my tenure as chancellor I was privileged to serve under Mike Wixom, whom I considered to be the best board chairman I had ever known, and I have served on more than thirty major boards.  Although I’ve never served under present Chairman Kevin Page, I’ve observed his tenure through act after act that proved him to be inadequate, incompetent and totally over his head in every issue the board faces.  I realize that Page did not by himself put Snyder in office, but Page’s lack of leadership certainly allowed for Snyder to sneak through and assume a position that now will have no substance at all.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tier I

Being a Tier I university is the most significant and yet short description of what every leading university in the United States strives to be.  From the beginning of time, Carol Harter spoke of UNLV becoming a Tier I university so that it could stand alongside Berkeley, Stanford, USC, Utah and the University of Washington.  It is a phrase known to every academic in the world.  It is a phrase that needs no explanation to anyone who has any understanding of the goals of higher education.  And yet, as common as the term is, Snyder, your new president of UNLV, when asked by a faculty member of his knowledge of being a “Tier I” university, answered, “I don’t know.  Other people will handle that.”  Are the regents and the overall administration of the system so out of touch with leadership qualities necessary to be a competent university president that they missed this rather fundamental point?  The answer is yes.  Every one of them should be shown the door and asked to leave and instructed never to come back.

Monday, February 3, 2014

“Pockets of Excellence”

UNLV will never compete with the major universities, that is Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, UCLA and Arizona for two reasons:  number one, it wasn’t formed until 1956, so it started 75 years late, and number two, whereas cash was aplenty in starting and supporting the growth of the other schools, UNLV has never had any money.

But that doesn’t mean that UNLV cannot pick specialized and limited areas to concentrate its efforts and finances to be the best in the world.  Harvard isn’t number one in every education category; nor is Berkeley, Stanford, Yale, or Michigan.  All of the “great” schools have picked “pockets of excellence” in which to specialize and become world leaders.

The Boyd School of Law at UNLV is world-class, and the Black Mountain Institute, already a leading international center for creative writers and scholars, has the potential to become a one-of-a-kind institution. Beverly and I don’t give our money to spread among all of UNLV’s endeavors.  We’ve given our money to Black Mountain Institute because we believe that with relative limited resources, it can become the best in the world in what it offers.

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to point out various “pockets of excellence” at UNLV.  You may find it very comforting and gratifying to know that if you invest in one of these “pockets,” that you will drive UNLV into world leadership in those limited areas.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Don Snyder

I know that Don Snyder doesn’t need any advice from me nor does he want any.  But I give this to him in any case.  If you’re going to make a phone call from the Phoenix airport to Las Vegas, screaming and yelling, that someone ought to get control of me and shut my mouth or there would be serious consequences, then you’d be wise to understand the legal implication of those threats.  

How does someone who has been the president of a major bank and a major gaming company and seemingly doesn’t have to work because of his high net worth, have the gall to ask the higher education system of Nevada to pay him $300,000 a year?  It seems to me he should volunteer his time for nothing and pay his own expenses.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hiring A College President

Let me describe the difficulties in hiring a college president. 

Number 1 – You must look for a president who has been a president before as nothing qualifies a president to be a president more than being a president.  Too often systems hire provosts from other systems to move into a president’s job and it simply doesn’t work. 

Number 2 – UNLV needs its new president to have been a former college president.  Other than Carol Harter, UNLV has never hired a college president who was a president of some other university.  That creates a big risk.

Number 3 – You don’t want to hire a president who doesn’t presently have a job.  Those presidents who are out of work are out of work for a good reason and you don’t want them.

Number 4 – The field of candidates for president is at most 50.  Because all those 50 are presently employed, it’s difficult to get them to apply. 

Number 5 – If you can get a presently-sitting president interested in the job, these are the risks they run.  If they apply for the job at your school, they’ll be terminated at the end of the year at their school even if they don’t get your job.  Therefore, few sitting presidents want to take the risk of applying for the job unless they are guaranteed the job at the time they apply and that can’t happen.

Number 6 – Hiring a college president is a very difficult and very public affair.  Everyone associated with the institution wants to be able to interview that person, express an opinion of that person’s competence and see if that candidate is compatible with the environment of the university. 

Number 7 - How then do you simply look for a president without prejudicing that president’s present job?  Simply hire a company that is a headhunter to seek out the candidates.

Number 8 - When I was the Chancellor, I found headhunters were very competent in what they do.  They know every president of every major university in the United States.  That number is between 100 and 150 presidents.  When retained, the headhunter will then talk to the presidents they believe might want a new job. 

Number 9 - Headhunters are not required to inform the university seeking the new president of those presidents with whom they are speaking.  If they did so, the information would be leaked and the president would find his or her job prejudiced. 

Number 10 – The institution will probably have the headhunter reduce the potential candidates to three or five, and with the permission of the candidates, the names will be released to the Board of Regents who will pursue the hiring of the new president.

Number 11- Applying for a job of a new president of a university is taking your life and career into your hands.  One false move and you end up with no job. 

I have been involved in at least 15 presidential searches at various universities.  It is the most ticklish position to be involved in.  One of the primary representations you must make to the applicant is that there has been no decision already made by the governing board and that the search is merely a cover for supporting a prior in-house candidate for the job. 

UNLV is mature enough to be able to recruit a first-class president who has served as a president of a first-class university.  I don’t want to see this Board of Regents screw this search up like it did in the hiring of Don Snyder as the acting president.

If I were the president at a major university and saw how the selection of Don Snyder was made, I would never prejudice my present position as a college president by becoming involved in a selection process that is at least suspect.