The recent news reports appearing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal regarding the Nevada System of Higher Education’s alleged suppression of a draft consultant’s report regarding our community colleges requires a thoughtful and timely response.
First and foremost, all concerned should be assured the matter will be investigated thoroughly. The results will be fully disclosed. Nevada taxpayers deserve nothing less. Further, the due process, legal and contractual rights of all concerned will be respected.
There appears to be four issues arising from the facts surrounding this matter:
1. Should the draft report have been made public?
2. Have the important issues regarding NSHE oversight of our community colleges raised in the report been addressed by the Regents?
3. What did the Nevada taxpayers eventually receive from the report for which they paid?
4. Was there any malfeasance by the chancellor?
Immediately after the first article, as chairman, after consultation with Vice Chairman Michael Wixom, I directed NSHE staff counsel to retrieve all documents, including all emails related to this matter. Second, the Regents’ staff counsel was directed to analyze the first draft report together with intermediary and final reports. I also directed counsel to identify those original observations and recommendations from the consultant that were eventually adopted or are still in the process of being adopted by the Board of Regents. The results of this study have been presented to the Regents and are available to the public on the NSHE website.
Finally, I have retained a national expert in higher education governance and administration. That expert will conduct a thorough investigation into this matter, and perform such additional research deemed necessary to let the Regents know whether the actions taken violated any ethical or governance standards. The Board of Regents will fully address the report findings, whether the draft report should have been made public and the chancellor’s handling of this matter at a properly noticed public meeting of the Board. The objective is to understand what happened and to take appropriate action.
Certainly, the consultant’s observations and recommendations have merit and are important for the governance of our community colleges. As outlined in the study prepared by the Regents’ counsel, almost all of the observations and all of the recommendations outlined in the original draft report have been discussed by the Regents in Board meetings and have either been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. These include the “system within the system” for our community colleges.
As recommended by the original National Center for Higher Education Management Systems draft report we now have a new standing committee of the Board of Regents overseeing our community colleges that reports to the full Board. This committee, in essence, is the Board of Regents’ governance for the community colleges. The Regents are also anticipating the hiring of a vice-chancellor for the community colleges. Further, each of our community colleges now have at least one citizens’ advisory committee the membership of which has been approved by the Regents to provide the necessary guidance for workforce development in each of the communities served by our four community colleges.
In focusing on our community colleges specifically I believe that Nevada is best served by having an integrated system of governance for our colleges and universities. The Board of Regents will continue to work diligently to improve community college governance in Nevada.
John Kuhlman is manager of public information for Nevada System of Higher Education.
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