During the second week of the 82nd Nevada legislative session, rebels were proactively engaged in the policy-making process to further university initiatives and efforts. After week two, the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) leadership delivered presentations and university administrators spoke on statewide policies.
Topics that took center stage during much of the second week were making Juneteenth a state holiday and the state of the system presentation for NSHE along with conversations relating to UNLV capital improvement projects. During all of these events, UNLV often played a large role in the display and deliberations of the items.
When it came to the discussion of establishing Juneteenth as a state holiday, several leaders across Nevada testified in support of AB140. During the period of public comment, President Whitfield delivered a statement in support of the bill.
“I am NSHE’s first African American president,” said Whitfield. “As the newest Nevadan I have appreciated and enjoyed the many community celebrations and efforts to highlight the significance of Juneteenth.”
Whitfield continued forward in his testimony by citing how he first learned about Juneteenth in graduate school. “The greatest learning experience I had was learning about Juneteenth,” said Whitfield. “Our university is the second most diverse institution in the country. This legislative proposal is aligned with our values because the purpose of Juneteenth is not only about freedom but it’s about education and progress.” After Whitfield concluded his remarks, two other students, Taylor Duffy and Theodore Milk, from the Boyd School of Law, also testified in their support of AB140.
Relating to NSHE operations, Acting Chancellor Dale Erquiaga delivered a state of the system presentation. This presentation highlighted the governing structure of NSHE, broke down NSHE employee demographics, and outlined the leadership relationship between university presidents and the Board of Regents. During the presentation, Erquiaga dissected demographics for NSHE institutions, graduation rates, along with the statewide weighted student credit hour funding formula. A hot topic for much of the presentation was discussing the struggles that the NSHE system currently faces.
After the completion of the presentation, Whitfield was called upon by members of the committee to discuss college affordability and its impact on completion rates. When asked about a lower graduation rate, Whitfield identified that financial aid plays a large role in fixing the graduation gap. “We have observed a pattern which is being witnessed by all of the nation,” said Whitfield. “We are seeing a lower graduation rate from Pell Grant students.” Whitfield continued forward by identifying the unique placement of UNLV in comparison to the nation.
“We have a fascinating combination of being the second most diverse campus in the country,” said Whitfield. “While that diversity does provide an outstanding educational opportunity, it also often means that those students are first generation, which might require more resources.”
Upcoming events of particular interest to the university community are the Feb. 21 NSHE Budget Hearing along with a variety of recurring follow-up presentations from Erquiaga on the state of the system.