I recently heard your presentation at a NAIOP breakfast meeting. And, while I do serve on the board of that organization, this letter is not written on their behalf as it reflects my personal observations, albeit the sentiments are likely reflective of Nevada’s business community.
By way of background, I’ve lived in Southern Nevada since 1977 and am a graduate of UNLV. And, while Arkansas is my home state, I never quite developed a taste for banjo music as you indicated in your speech is that state’s claim to fame. My husband and I have owned and published Nevada Business Magazine for 25 years and have researched and printed countless articles on education in our state. In addition, by the end of this year, four of our children will have graduated from either UNLV or UNR, with another four likely to enter the system over the next few years.
While there were a number of comments you made that I take issue with, my biggest concern is that the overall message was one of division and not collaboration.
Dr. Smatresk, I do understand the divide between the academic and business worlds, however your speech served only to widen that gap. We are not the enemy. Many of the commercial real estate professionals in that room were unemployed, some have lost their businesses, most have had to downsize and none have been unscathed by this economy. Yet, they continue to pay into an educational system that is clearly failing.
Your remark that Nevadans do not value education is untrue. We are simply tired of shouldering the burden so that tenured professors can encourage students to take drugs (did I mention that I have kids in the system?) act up in boardrooms (we also work with some of your department heads) and generally disrespect the institution without any fear of repercussion.
Please explain to taxpayers how you can justify paying former congresswoman Dina Titus a salary of $107,855 to teach one “conventional” class per semester while giving her the opportunity to host a talk show on UNLV’s radio station to restart her political campaign.
You may recall being copied on the somewhat defensive letter written by Dr. Michael Bowers, Executive Vice President & Provost of UNLV, addressing a Regent’s concern regarding Titus’ return to the university, where he stated. “Prior to going into LWOP (leave without pay) in 2008 Dr. Titus’ salary was $101,206. She received a merit pay increase effective July 1, 2008 for her exemplary work in 2007-2008 along with a 4 percent COLA given to all state employees that year.”
While this may seem like “business as usual” in the academic world, in 2008 few in Nevada’s private sector were given raises, in fact it was more likely they were asked to take a pay cut. Most were happy to do so and thankful they still had a job.
In the Governor’s State of the State address he expressed his frustration by saying the “only suggested answer for our educational woes is more and more money”. Clearly you believe that to be true. However, I’m convinced most taxpayers would disagree. The bigger problem at UNLV is the culture of entitlement, no accountability and an absolute lack of customer service.
Education has always been a hot topic in Nevada. For years, our politicians and business leaders have hesitated to criticize the system because of the back-lash and potential label that they “don’t support” education. However, business people, and even some politicians, now realize the success of education does not rest solely on funding. We finally have a governor with the political courage to deal with the real educational issues and propose reform. I’m hopeful the business community and legislators won’t allow him to be the sole voice of reason. We need our educational leaders to take a lesson from Nevada’s business community; do more with less, stop complaining and find the courage to make meaningful changes, many of which have little to do with budget issues.
For the future of our children, we must change the educational culture in Nevada. And those changes will not occur unless we all work together for the common good of the next generation.