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Breaking Down The Board Of Regents Races

Empty board room of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents

In this upcoming election, Nevadans will also get to vote on several policies and positions that will impact higher education throughout the state. KUNR’s Olivia Ali and Natalie Van Hoozer discuss what to look out for in the upcoming election.

Natalie Van Hoozer: Before we get into anything else, what exactly is the Board of Regents?

Olivia Ali: The Board of Regents is the board that oversees the Nevada System of Higher Education, more commonly known as NSHE. All higher education institutions in Nevada fall under NSHE, including the community colleges. The Regents vote on budgets and policies that affect all eight of their institutions.

Van Hoozer:  What’s at stake for the Board of Regents in this upcoming election?

Ali: This year, four districts are up for election. This includes District 10, which encompasses Reno and other parts of Washoe County. One of those candidates is Kevin Melcher, who was a Regent from 2011 to 2016. The other districts up for election are 2, 3 and 5, which are all in Clark County. There are no incumbents this time around.

Van Hoozer: What kind of challenges will the newly elected Regents be walking into?

Ali: Higher education is definitely going through a challenging time with the pandemic. Things seem to change almost daily at UNR’s campus, at least. A few weeks back, the gym closed with two days’ notice, they’re transitioning back to fully remote learning after Thanksgiving, spring break was removed from the calendar, stuff like that. They’re also set for next semester to be a mix of online and in-person classes like we’re doing now, which has definitely been hard for a lot of students.

Aside from that, multiple institutions have undergone leadership changes in the last year. UNR and UNLV recently got new presidents, and a new NSHE Chancellor was selected earlier this year.

On top of all of that, the biggest foreseeable challenge the new regents are going to face is going to be the budget. Back in April, the Regents approved a 4 percent cut for the 2020 fiscal year and proposals for cuts as high as 14 percent for 2021. A budget cut of any size is obviously hard, but just the sheer magnitude of these cuts is likely going to be a challenge.

Van Hoozer: Voters will also decide on Ballot Question 1 this election, which will certainly impact the regents. What can you tell us about that?

Ali: So with ballot question 1 — if it passes — would essentially remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution. It would give the Legislature the responsibility to govern the Board of Regents, rather than the Regents governing themselves like they do now.

Van Hoozer: So what are the arguments for and against the bill?

Ali: Jacob Solis, with our media partner The Nevada Independent, has been reporting on this issue for a while, and he says there's a lot of back and forth. 

Supporters say it would just provide more oversight and accountability for the regents. But, because it would be governed by the Legislature, the Legislature could essentially vote to change the Regents at any time. This could include how they’re elected, or even make them appointed officials instead. People against the amendment especially point this out, saying how easy it would be to politicize higher education.

As a note of disclosure, the Board of Regents to the Nevada System of Higher Education owns the license to this station.

Olivia Ali is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

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