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Ex-regent: Chancellor’s allegations ‘disappointing, disturbing … not surprising’

Updated October 11, 2021 - 12:35 pm

A former Nevada regent at the center of last year’s “child speak” controversy said Friday that Chancellor Melody Rose’s hostile work environment accusations against two board leaders “hit pretty close to home.”

Lisa Levine, who served on the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents from June 2020 until January, said it felt like déjà vu when she read a memorandum written by Rose outlining her hostile workplace allegations.

Most of the 21-page memo detailed accusations against Board of Regents Chairwoman Cathy McAdoo and Vice Chairman Patrick Carter, whom Rose said repeatedly attempted to undermine her authority and cut her out of policy-making decisions. Neither McAdoo nor Carter has responded to requests for comment from the Review-Journal.

But Rose also referred to systemic issues affecting women employees in the memo. She said she heard stories as soon as she began her job about NSHE’s “pervasive sexist culture,” and witnessed it even before she started, including during a face-off between Levine and a male staff member during a heated board hearing.

Those sections particularly resonated with Levine.

‘Disappointing, disturbing … not surprising’

“I found it disappointing, disturbing, but not surprising,” she said of the memo, which became public this week. “I hope that she’s believed. I hope that the allegations are fully investigated and I hope this brings change.”

Levine was appointed by Gov. Steve Sisolak to fill a short-term vacancy on the board following the death of Regent Sam Lieberman in April 2020. She did not seek election to the post last year.

She was thrust into the debate over what critics have long described as NSHE’s “men’s club” atmosphere when she was upbraided by then-Board of Regents Chief of Staff Dean Gould during a heated debate over changes to federal Title IX sexual misconduct regulations at a Board of Regents meeting in August 2020.

Levine, who later joined two other regents in voting against adopting the changes, said she thought they would make it harder for victims to obtain justice.

During discussion of the item, Gould interrupted her after her time limit expired and asked her to mute her line. She continued talking.

Gould then told Levine he didn’t want to “man speak,” but would have to if she continued to “child speak.”

The exchange quickly went viral on social media, and Sisolak and Attorney General Aaron Ford condemned Gould’s remarks, with the governor labeling them “patronizing and condescending.”

In a statement after the meeting, Gould said his reaction was in response to a July 2020 meeting, where he was attempting to prevent an open meeting law violation when Levine accused him of “mansplaining.”

Gould retired from NSHE at the end of December 2020, but it’s unclear whether his departure was connected to the incident involving Levine.

What the memo said

In her memo, Rose described Gould’s comments as “condescending and sexist” and noted that after ordering an investigation, “The board never publicly condemned Mr. Gould’s inappropriate, disrespectful remarks toward a female regent.”

She also wrote in the memo that she is paid less as chancellor than two of her male subordinates, UNLV President Keith Whitfield and University of Nevada, Reno, President Brian Sandoval, “despite having more experience than either of them in higher education executive-level service.”

Rose, who assumed the chancellor’s job in September 2020 to oversee eight campuses and more than 100,000 students, sent her memorandum outlining her hostile work environment accusations, which was dated Monday, to NSHE’s Chief General Counsel Joe Reynolds.

The Nevada attorney general’s office confirmed Thursday it received a copy of the memo.

It remains unclear whether Rose, who has not spoken publicly about the case, has filed or intends to file a formal complaint.

The attorney general’s office said Friday it hasn’t received a formal complaint.

“If our office does receive a complaint, or decide to take any action on the matter, Attorney General Ford will recuse himself due to the mention of his wife as a potential witness to some of the allegations in the complaint,” spokesman John Sadler said via email.

An NSHE spokesman declined again to comment Friday, saying the system can’t discuss personnel matters.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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