Public servants and civil debate

We had our quarterly Board of Regents meeting on December 1-2 in the Student Union on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The amazing part of the meeting was the civility in which the discourse took place. In this day and age of talking heads and political posturing, it is refreshing to watch an elected body discuss difficult issues with polite discussion and civil disagreement. In the most grueling issue of the meeting, the Regents had a two-hour debate on the issue of raising student fees for FY2013. The Board originally approved a 13% increase as part of its 4-Point plan for the spring of 2011. The Legislature adopted a 13% increase for FY2012, but not the one for FY2013. After much debate and several motions including deferring the decision, approving a 5% increase, and others, the Board finally settled on an 8% increase.  The Board further directed the presidents to meet with students and faculty to review their draft plans and submit plans on spending the income at a special Board meeting on January 20, 2012.

Another significant decision by the Board was to cease operations at the Fire Science Academy (FSA) in Carlin. This decision was made after nearly a decade of trying to make the operation work. The staff of the FSA and the University of Nevada, Reno worked diligently through the years to secure federal, state and private funds to keep the operation going and pay down the staggering operational and construction debt. In the end, it was just too much. The good news is that the continued operation allowed for the ability to sell the property to the Nevada National Guard and thus bring down the annual payments the students have been covering. Since the settlement with the original builders, every UNR student has been paying $6.50 per credit hour to pay down the debt. With the sale and restructured financing, that will decrease to $2.50 per credit hour. The remaining $4.00 can now be redirected to the campus to spend on facilities that will benefit the students, such as a new recreation and wellness center. I cannot wait to see what they decide to do and how it will improve the campus.

I am proud of the Board of Regents in how they handled these difficult issues. When I was first appointed to the Board, it had a reputation of being dysfunctional, though improving. I can say that this Board operates as well as any public body I have seen in carrying out its duty to improve education for the students of the System and to make Nevada a better place.

Jason Geddes
Nevada Board of Regents