Monday, April 4, 2011

Top strip executive, behind closed doors, tells UNLV "endure the pain"

According to a story in the Las Vegas Sun, a "top strip executive" in a recent "behind closed doors" meeting, told President Smatresk

UNLV should endure the pain during the current legislative session, then he should reach out for a communitywide commitment to rebuild the university during upcoming sessions.

This is obnoxious on so many levels. First of all, when was the last time a Strip gaming executive endured any pain?

Secondly, how does this wise sage propose that students who lose their major "rebuild" in the future? Or faculty or staff who are laid off and, facing an economy ruined by local business leaders, won't be able to even sell their homes and will likely have to declare bankruptcy? Why would one expect to see "communitywide investment" in the future, when the Strip in particular has paid little to no attention to supporting UNLV for decades?

And wasn't it only months ago that the largest entity on the Strip, perhaps the one that this "top executive" runs, had to rely on intervention from the Senate Majority Leader to keep the banks from pushing it into bankruptcy? What if the advice then had been "endure the pain" now and "rebuild" later?

Finally what kind of coward says this "behind closed doors"? Come on down to UNLV, Mr. Strip executive, and tell the students and faculty yourself that you think we should "endure the pain" -- after tuition has been just about doubled in 3 years, 15% of state-funded positions cut, 6 academic programs closed and faculty reassigned or laid off, workloads increased across campus, salaries and benefits cut, and now a plan moving inexorably forward to cut another 350 positions more than 2/3 of them currently occupied and thus requiring layoffs.

What kind of "executive" responds to that with "endure the pain"? Is this what passes for vision and leadership in the Nevada business community these days? Moreover, this is an executive who clearly can only think in terms of a privileged industry that has no real competitors in neighboring states and which does not depend on the cultivation of a highly specialized staff whose members devote their careers to developing new ideas and imparting them to the next generation. To destroy a university and then "rebuild" is not a plan for educational attainment; its the response of someone who is used to considering only shareholders' dividends not the public good and so views slashing staff and cutting corners on service as appropriate responses to an economic downturn.

We in the "ivory tower" have a little better sense of how to think for the long term and know that short-term thinking rarely if ever yields a balanced basis for a more secure solution in the future.

Obviously, if you're a "top strip executive," the last thing you do is think long term. And if you do think long term, the last thing you want is a diversified economy and a trained workforce, because after all, if you've got 20% unemployment in town, that certainly makes it easy to shift more and more of your workforce to part-time and force dealers to share tips with their supervisors.

Didn't Jeremy Arguero at the same meeting described in this article report that Nevada ranked dead last in the educational attainment level of its citizens, decry our "dismal" economy and call for a "new Nevada" based on a highly trained workforce and a diversified economy?

Why isn't this story about how some "top Strip executive" didn't get the message that other business leaders are making, that our state needs to invest in innovation if it is to compete in the future?

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