By: Mark Fitzgerald State press association demands that interview for top university official be conducted in public sp.
THE NEVADA STATE Press Association is demanding that the officials in charge of finding a new chancellor for the state's university system hold job interviews in public. In June, the NSPA board vowed to take legal action if the Board of Regents held closed-door job interviews of candidates for the head of the University and Community College System of Nevada. The regents, who are elected, have scheduled several meetings during July and August with agendas that indicate closed sessions may be held. In a June 24 letter to the Nevada attorney general, NSPA attorney Evan Wallach said closed interviews would violate the state open meetings law. "The NSPA requests that your office advise the Board of Regents that when they want to meet to interview the finalist or finalists for this important public office, they do so openly and in public and not secretly behind closed doors," Wallach wrote. The letter was reported in a Las Vegas Review-Journal article by Natalie Patton. In April, the Society of Professional Journalists made a similar appeal. For their part, the regents say they are trying to be as open as possible, but that too much early publicity could deter high-quality candidates for the job. Regent Maddy Graves, who heads the search committee, told the Review-Journal's Patton that the names of at least five "semifinal" contenders will be made public at an open meeting in July. "At that point, the press and the public will have the names. To hold the interviews in open session after that would be a disaster," she said. The semifinal list would be whittled down to three finalists after closed interviews and regent discussions, Graves said. Then, Graves said, reporters and representatives of campus associations will be able to talk to these finalists before an appointment is made. Public access to the Nevada chancellor search has been something of a political football since last December, when the attorney general, Frankie Sue Del Papa, applied for the position herself ? and her office shortly thereafter issued an opinion that the names of all applicants had to be made public. Twenty of the 73 applicants promptly removed their name from consideration and the regents abandoned their search temporarily. Del Papa later withdrew her candidacy.