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.

1 comment:

  1. It is an assault on reality to claim that UNLV has made much of an advance on becoming a Tier 1 university, let alone giving the very best universities in the world – Berkeley, USC, Stanford and UCLA (how did Utah get included?) – a run for their money. John White, the current UNLV provost sent out a memo in December that put the lie to President Smatresk’s insistence that UNLV was gaining ground on academic fame. He pointed out that UNLV would need about fifty percent more full time faculty to even begin to look like the next rung of universities such as Arizona State and the U of Utah. That memo in juxtaposition with Smatresk’s endlessly empty hype raises questions about ambitions in the executive suite. Aside from money, quality faculty, and community support, the highest officer in the state system, Chancellor Klaitch, seems oblivious to the core values of a university. In his January 23, 2014 memo announcing the process for seeking a UNLV president and the rationale for the acting appointment, he warms the university community not to criticize the great momentum the Smatresk has gifted to UNLV. He wrote, “No one should take advantage of this transition to slow the momentum of UNLV, to second guess its initiatives or to undermine the current trajectory. This is the time to move forward boldly and aggressively. To do or act otherwise would be a serious disservice to UNLV.” This is in fact what I seem to be doing. God knows what an enraged Chancellor is capable of. Please do not rat me out, Uncle Jimmy.
    Yet free expression is the core value of a university and includes discussion of university administration. That a chancellor would violate this sacred tenet in an attempt to censor criticism says much about the system’s problems and the need to appoint academically distinguished people to lead the university rather than questionably competent managers making very questionable sacrifices in pursuing their ambitions.
    If momentum implies palpable support for UNLV to become a distinguished university then where is the money? The budget cuts have not been restored. Local moguls have not put up sufficient funds to attract a core of distinguished professors who would provide leadership. The arena project does not appear to be a gift to anyone but the casino industry. Even Smatresk acknowledged on KNPR that it would not likely return much cash to UNLV. He saw the project as UNLV playing honest broker between the casinos. Yet the mission of UNLV is education and opening the university to commercial cannibalism seems unwise and inappropriate. Moreover, football is very dangerous, an American blood sport like boxing, dog fights and child foster care. A symbol of learning, not a symbol of misguided athletics, should be UNLV’s icon. Universities should limit their pandering.
    UNLV is not an intellectual Club Med that attracts outstanding academics. Indeed, its scholarly productivity is modest at best and has remained so for decades. Moreover, its top officers including Harter, Smatresk and the current panel of deputy provosts, assistant provosts, deputy assistant provosts, and aides to the deputy assistant provosts have not distinguished themselves as scholars. The antics of UNLV administrators as well as the lineage of chancellors argues forcefully that appointments to high university positions need to be distinguished scholars. The most compelling type of leadership is leadership by example. Does Chancellor Klaitch expect to be able to attract quality candidates by masking the problems of place? To act as though an underfunded university, cut deeply during the Great Recession, has broad community and political support and to persist in boosting weak candidates is simply to stoke the perpetual Fathead Follies of higher education in Southern Nevada.
    William M. Epstein, Professor