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What Does Chancellor's Resignation Mean For Higher Ed's Future?

Dan Klaich, the top administrator in Nevada’s university system, is quitting.

After a series of gaffes uncovered, from accusations of plagiarism to emails mocking state lawmakers, Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, gave his resignation to a special meeting of the university’s Board of Regents Thursday.

But for a while, it seemed like he was going to stay.

Klaich fought back. He blamed the media, largely. And the regents seemed to agree with him.

Now that Klaich is gone, who will replace him? And will this mean a new direction for higher education in Nevada?

KNPR’s political analysts have been watching the entire Klaich saga unfold.

Steve Sebelius is a columnist with the Las Vegas Review Journal and host of “Politics Now” on KLAS-TV. Jon Ralston is a columnist at the Reno Gazette Journal and host of “Ralston Live” on Vegas PBS.

They joined KNPR's State of Nevada Friday to talk about Klaich and more.


During the regents meeting Thursday, it seemed as if the regents didn’t believe Dan Klaich did anything wrong. Do you believe he did nothing wrong?

Ralston: Did he doing anything wrong? That’s a subjective word I guess. Yes. I guess he would say yes.

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He essentially conspired with a consultant to phony up a summary of what the consultant was supposed to do and the consultant conspired with him to do so. In so doing, he exposed a culture that has existed for a long time in higher education which is they can do whatever they want that they’re a fourth branch of government and the arrogance, and by the way, the stupidity of putting this all in emails that Bethany Barnes of the R-J obtained through information request that was his undoing.

Was the regents support of Klaich ‘circling the wagons’?

Ralston: What they did essentially is they abdicated their responsibility. Why couldn’t they have struck a tougher deal with him? The deal that he got is: You must leave. We will not criticize you and you can have $300,000 on June 2. Who wouldn’t retire?

Why ultimately did the regents accept his resignation?

Sebelius: He couldn’t stay. There’s no way. After the first of Bethany’s stories came out I realized this was the end of Dan Klaich. Basically, what he did was not only counter to what the culture of a university should be which is research should be independent and accurate. But what he did was attempt to manipulate the system but he did so in an effort to amalgamate as many resources to the system of higher education as he could. This was something the regents wanted. So they may have felt that they were complicit in what he had done.

This resignation was absolutely inevitable, and as it turns out, essential for the reforms that obviously need to be made to this system going forward. There are serious problems with the Nevada System of Higher Education and if it’s ever going to get to Tier One status, they’ve got a lot of house cleaning to do. This is just the very beginning of what needs to happen.

The state Supreme Court made a decision that opened a wound that is still mending at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It ruled that lower courts made the right decision in not removing District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzales from a wrongful termination case filed against the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Sand’s CEO is Sheldon Adelson, whose family owns the Review-Journal. Sands hired Alan Dershowitz to handle the case, even with a legal mind of that caliber, why couldn’t they get Gonzales removed?

Ralston: Because there is no good reason to remove her apparently. That’s what the Supreme Court ruled. It was fairly blistering by the way. Here’s what I believe happened here. Is that that Adelson and Sands they have a lot at stake in this lawsuit from a former employee in Macau who essentially says he is owed a lot of money. It’s even a lot of money for Sheldon Adelson. They have gone to unusual lengths to try to discredit and disqualify Elizabeth Gonzalez. What they’ve done is try to create a situation, create a conflict by what they have done. She has no conflict. She has no bias. So there was nothing for the court to rule on to disqualify her.

The Washington Post published a column this week from Adelson explaining why he supports Donald Trump. Did you find anything telling in that column?

Ralston: Not really. I think it is funny that he published that in the Washington Post and not in his own newspaper. But it was basically: We’re all Republicans now. We have to stop a third term of the Obama Administration. I don’t like everything about Donald Trump but he’s one of us. So we need to support him to beat Hillary. He’s trying to create cover for other Republicans to do the same. Because some like Paul Ryan, the house speaker, have been hesitant to embrace Trump.

The state Supreme Court stopped efforts to repeal the state’s commerce tax. Why is that a big deal?

Sebelius: The commerce tax had it made the ballot would have two consequences that I think the business class in Nevada would not want. One, it could have erased the tax, which would have cost the state about $120 million, somewhere in the range, in each biennium. But if it had gone on the ballot and been defeated you couldn’t change anything about the commerce tax, even the smallest thing. It would have been enshrined in law forever. Unless you got another vote of the people. It is very difficult to get.




Jon Ralston, columnist, Reno Gazette-Journal; host, "Ralston Live", VegasPBS; Steve Sebelius, columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal, host, "Politics NOW", KLAS-TV

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KNPR's State of Nevada