Complaints ignite investigation into NSHE regents

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The Nevada System of Higher Education Building located on Maryland Parkway and Rochelle Ave. Photo by Jimmy Romo

This past Friday, Nevada System of Higher Education Regents chair Cathy McAdoo and vice chair Patrick Carter signaled that they will temporarily step aside while an outside investigation is conducted on two hostile work complaint claims recently submitted. 

This temporary removal comes after growing public criticism from former NSHE leadership, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, and other officials in the state of Nevada. The latest complaint was submitted by Truckee Meadows Community College president, Karin Hilgersom, who has led the northern Nevada school since 2016. The five page document was titled a “hostile work environment complaint.”

This report comes after a previous complaint filed this past October by chancellor Melody Rose targeting two of her bosses: McAdoo and Carter. 

In the 21 page document submitted by Rose to the system’s general counsel, she stated that McAdoo and Carter undermined and micromanaged her, discriminated against her based on her gender, and committed a host of ethics breaches, code-of-conduct infractions, and possibly violations of Nevada’s open meetings law.

“It’s an embarrassment because these are elected officials who are in charge of governing the state’s universities,” said Peter Grema, UNLV student policy researcher. “They are not role models for ethical behavior towards what the meaning or goals of higher education are. To be quite honest, I don’t know if they consider the student body at all when they make their decisions. It’s a disheartening experience to see, but I’m hopeful for change.” 

Former regent Lisa Levine fell victim to the similar behavior. During a regents meeting in August of 2020, Board of Regents chief of staff Dean Gould delivered a sexist statement targeting Levine stating that he did not want to “man speak,” but would have to if she continued to “child speak.”

“I found it disappointing, disturbing, but not surprising,” Levine said. “You’re starting to see a theme: that there are women who are willing to speak up within the realm of higher education in Nevada and say enough is enough.”

While NSHE has its own full-time legal staff and council, the regents continue to hire outside lawyers to conduct internal investigations for reasons that are still unknown. This act of hiring outside lawyers has been viewed as problematic and a waste of taxpayer dollars by policy scholars. 

“An ongoing challenge for the state is the perpetuation of constitutionally-created institutions like the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada that were designed to serve a rurally-oriented and sparsely-populated state,” said interim executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute, David Damore. “Because Nevada clings to pioneer-era governance structures, such as a one of a kind unitary, popularly-elected board to govern all of higher education, it struggles to meet the needs of a fast-growing, rapidly-diversifying and urbanizing population.”

Although the Ballot Question 1 initiative failed, policy scholars argue that the recent passage of SJR7, a proposal to remove the constitutional provisions governing the election and duties of the Regents, is paving the path towards instituting a modern governance structure.

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