College Republicans take spending issue to voters
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President’s office receives hundreds of calls, forwards some
The UNLV College Republicans have taken the fight against what they see as wasteful spending at the university to local voters.
In automated calls set up by the campus organization and placed last week, around 16,000 voters in Southern Nevada were informed about the conservative group’s objections to perceived fiscal irresponsibility on the part of university administration.
“Furious? Outraged?” the call asked voters. “Press ‘1′ to be connected directly with UNLV to discuss [this] issue.”
The call focused on what the College Republicans said are hypocritical statements by UNLV President Neal Smatresk and the groups long-standing claim that the campus administration gives special treatment to former Congresswoman Dina Titus, who is a current professor and researcher in the political science department.
UNLV Media Relations Specialist Afsha Bawany said that the staff in the Office of the President was not aware that the calls would begin.
The office received approximately 300 calls as a result of the initiative, she said.
But the effort did not go wholly according to plan.
On Thursday, UNLVCR President Mark Ciavola began receiving phone calls forwarded from the president’s office.
He received 10 calls over the course of two days from people who had initially called Smatresk’s office.
“The calls that were forwarded were from callers who were interested in speaking with the College Republicans or wanted to get more information … on how their names got on the call list,” Bawany said, explaining that “some were unaware they were calling the president’s office.”
The contents of every call fielded by Smatresk’s staff was noted regardless of the caller’s stance on the university issues, she said.
“The employees in the president’s office took those calls, listened to those calls and related the comments to the president,” Bawany said.
Some comments made by voters in voicemails left in forwarded calls to Ciavola’s cellphone seem to indicate confusion over having calls redirected.
“I’m not sure if I should be forwarded to you, but I did call the [UNLV] president’s office and they did [forward my call],” said one woman, who gave her full name and phone number.
Other callers went straight into criticism of UNLV and its leadership, claiming that they were outraged by the university’s decision to hire Titus with an annual salary of $107,855.
“Use that money for education, not for [Titus],” one caller said.
The UNLV College Republicans have taken issue with Titus’ role at UNLV as a professor who teaches one course, “Women in Politics,” and who heads her own radio show in addition to her work as a researcher.
UNLVCR has argued that the amount she receives annually is higher than is warranted by her actual contributions to the university and that this amounts to hypocrisy on the part of an administration that says it is doing its best to put students first.
“I’m just calling to object to the payment that Dina Titus is getting for that radio show [at UNLV],” one voter said in a voicemail forwarded to Ciavola’s number. “I didn’t know she was paid anything for that.”
Ciavola said that of the 10 callers who were forwarded to his cellphone number, eight left voicemails and nine were placed during the same period in the morning on April 8, when there was a special meeting of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, which Ciavola attended.
“I’m outraged about [Titus' radio show],” said a caller who identified themselves as someone with experience as a faculty member with knowledge of university politics. “If UNLV doesn’t cease and desist, I’m really going to create a problem.”
Ciavola said that the College Republicans feel that university administration, student organizations and even student government have focused too much on pressuring the Legislature to reject budget cuts to higher education, while ignoring ways to save money and cut costs on campus.
“We feel that how UNLV spends its money is a relevant issue in the overall debate about higher education cuts,” Ciavola said. “Clearly, if UNLV is issuing course waivers to its faculty and paying one professor $18,000 a semester to hold a radio show, then things are not as financially bleak as we are being told.”
He said that he felt the media have not done their job in examining spending within higher education institutions like UNLV, opting instead to focus on student rallies and protests against the threat of budget cuts from Gov. Brian Sandoval and the state Legislature.
“While there has been a plethora of coverage [on student protests],” Ciavola said, “the media is very slow to cover how UNLV spends the money it already has.”
Ciavola said that he believes the UNLV College Republicans are taking critical matters into their own hands by contacting voters.
“Since the media, student organizations and education officials refuse to include this in the discussion,” he said, “we are going to the voters directly.”
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