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.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Is being a Provost a natural stepping stone to becoming a college president?  The answer is a resounding “NO”.  I say that because I want people to understand that the evolution of executive vice president and present Provost, John White, former Dean of the Boyd law school into the presidency of UNLV simply won’t work.  Let me explain.
John has all the intellectual qualifications necessary.  He is a graduate of Yale law school, the number one law school in the United States, which takes only the intellectual giants.  He’s been in academia for years as a professor in the most complicated, complex and sophisticated areas of the law.  There can be no question that he is intellectually capable of understanding all of higher education’s problems and solutions.  But John has one fatal flaw.  He is not aggressive, not a good communicator, does not handle himself socially very well and, from what I understand, he has done an absolutely horrible job in engaging the monied people of Southern Nevada to support The Boyd School of Law.
Business development, that is partnerships with the local business community, fundraising capabilities, high profile conduct are essential to the presidency of any university, especially UNLV which is desperately in need of money.
I’m discussing John White at this point in my Tweets because I hear rumblings that the road map has already been developed for Don Snyder to make ready the ascendency of White into the Presidency of UNLV.
I am a little tired of the “fix” being put in place in everything we do.  I’d like to see a legitimate horserace with the fastest and best horse winning.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

UNLV Presidency

I watched in utter disbelief as one Las Vegas businessman after another spoke at the Regents’ Meeting to support Don Snyder’s ascendency to the UNLV Presidency.  Not one of those business leaders has any idea about the governance of higher education.  What a staged embarrassment of the system’s way of handling its business.
But that fiasco aside, the Regents had better adopt a new script for choosing leaders of the System’s eight institutions.  The Regents have proved themselves in this one action to be totally without the skill and knowledge to govern.
For a donor looking for a place to put money to improve Nevada’s higher education system, I recommend the Nevada State College and/or The Black Mountain Institute.  My family is contributing  property valued at $6M to Nevada State College and $10M in cash to the Black Mountain Institute.   We have done so but have created safeguards with these institutions that will prohibit the Regents from interfering with these projects.
If there was ever any doubt about our fear of the Regents’ ability to govern, this single amateurish action in appointing Don Snyder as UNLV’s President has confirmed my belief of the Board’s incompetence.
The latest message from the Board of Regents to academia across this country is “We don’t know what we’re doing”.

Monday, January 27, 2014

To Kevin Page, Chairman Board of Regents and Daniel Klaich, Chancellor:

One rule I learned early on is that you may not owe anyone with whom you deal much, but the one unconditional obligation you have is to tell the truth.  And both of you failed miserably in telling the truth about the way you chose Don Snyder to be acting president.  I’d love to have both of you under oath to confirm that my suspicions were always correct; and that is that you had cut the deal with Don before Carol Harter expressed interest and before you had ever talked with her.  This is high school politics at its worst.

But not only is this amateurish, you have permanently damaged and insulted a great lady, an academician, and a person full of loyalty and dedication to this university by choosing Don Snyder.  With all of his talents, and I admit that he has many, Don’s resume is a blank sheet when compared to Carol Harter’s education, experience as a true academic leader, writer, philosopher and intellectual. You also sent a message to every faculty member at UNLV that intellectual endeavor is of no importance unless it produces a dollar.  That hasn’t been the purpose of education worldwide since the 5th century.  Every college president across this country must be howling at the thought that a man with a B. A. from Wyoming is now the academic leader at UNLV.

You owe Carol an apology and you owe the entire faculty of UNLV an apology.

Shame on you both.