Faculty members on the advisory committee said they favored survivor David. B. Ashley, provost of the 8-month-old University of California, Merced, because they considered him least likely to tamper with an out-of-control UNLV “diversity” bureaucracy that ran Economics Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe through a months-long star chamber last year, after a gay student announced himself “offended” by a routine economics lecture in which the world-renowned scholar mentioned that gay couples -- because they’re more likely to be childless -- are among those who tend to invest with shorter time horizons.
The Regents’ first choice to take the university’s helm was Lt. Gen. William Lennox, superintendent of the military academy at West Point.
But David Corsun, an associate professor in UNLV’s school of Hotel Management and a member of the university’s planning council, said many on campus didn’t feel comfortable with General Lennox because of his background in the military with its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality.
General Lennox withdrew just days before he was due to be unanimously appointed. (One can picture him attending a reception for UNLV’s Nobel Prize winners, munching his cold chicken fingers in solitude as he waited in vain for the lone such laureate ever brought aboard at UNLV, Nigerian author Wole Soyinkam, who was exposed by third-year MFA student Sean Hooks last year in the Las Vegas Weekly as a “hood ornament, ... an example of academic deception” -- a “professor” who teaches no classes and in the past three years has “given exactly one public lecture, a supposedly annual ‘Nobel Laureate Address’.”)
Rather than reacting to Gen. Lennox’s sudden decampment by launching a new search, the regents opted to ask bridesmaid Ashley whether he’d like to fill in at the altar.
Many an effective leader has had a less auspicious beginning. Mr. Ashley deserves a fair chance and best wishes. But the challenges facing UNLV’s new president are considerable.
Many, including Chancellor Jim Rogers, speak of turning the school into a world-class research university. But as currently configured, UNLV is a day school for virtually anyone who can graduate from a Nevada high school -- thousands of entering freshmen are immediately remanded for remedial math and English.
Can top-notch grad schools be successfully stocked from such a talent pool? Is it politically feasible to tell the majority of Nevada parents that many of their underprepared children will no longer make the grade -- or would any such graduate schools operate in parallel but in effective isolation from an existing, bloated and underaccomplished student body?
The easy solution to this apparent conundrum, of course, would be for Mr. Ashley to continue a time-tested practice: mouth ambitious plans for academic excellence, while keeping the grass mowed and allowing the faculty to continue drawing their substantial pay for herding the young people through four years of not-very-challenging exercises in napkin-folding and the memorization of Earth Day slogans. Announce a five-year rebuilding plan, draw an astronomical $400,000 plus perks for attending three years of fund-raising cocktail parties where the local nouveaux riches are fed cheddar cheese on toothpicks and promised their names on the sides of buildings in really big letters. Then, pull up stakes and move on before the results are in, like the Duke and the Dauphin failing to show up for the third night’s performance of “The Royal Nonesuch.”
The incoming UNLV president has a choice. He can announce some dramatic goals and follow through with actual, concrete changes -- the kind of boat-rocking that’s bound to upset several of the vested interests who played midwife to this delivery.
Or, he can mumble some unobjectionable academic platitudes, concentrate on the proper allocation of parking places for his assistants (perhaps yellow stripes, instead of white), and thenceforth be seen and heard from about as frequently as the estimable Professor Soyinkam.
Las Vegas waits to see.