Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford weighs in on new efforts to address police brutality in the wake of Tyre Nichols' death.
And what is the state of Nevada's institutions of higher education.
This week on Nevada Week .
♪♪♪ Support for Nevada Week is provided by Senator William H. Hernstadt.
-Welcome to Nevada Week .
I'm Maria Silva, in for Amber Renee Dixon while she is on maternity leave.
Thank you so much for joining us.
We'll sit down with the presidents of two of Southern Nevada's institutions of higher education to get their take on the state of higher ed.
That's in a moment.
But first, before taking her leave, Amber spoke with Congressman Steven Horsford, following President Biden's State of the Union address to get his take on renewed calls for Congress to enact police reform.
(Amber Renee Dixon) Congressman, at the State of the Union, you hosted the parents of Tyre Nichols, the man who died after being brutally beat by police.
What was that experience like for you, having his parents as your guests?
(Rep. Steven Horsford) Well, I had the responsibility as the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus to call the family to extend our condolences, to let them know that we stand with them for justice for their son.
And that's why now we are working to, as the President said, move our country forward around public safety and accountability so that all of our communities are safe throughout the country.
-And in an interview following the State of the Union, Tyre Nichols' mother said that she found President Biden's message to be very strong, she appreciated it, but that she needs action more than messaging.
-And I'm wondering though, after having witnessed firsthand some of the discord between President Biden and some members of Congress at that address, the heckling and booing, how much confidence does she have that Congress can get something done?
-Well, after the State of the Union, I actually went and escorted Mrs. Wells, the mother of Tyre Nichols, from the gallery.
And in the course of leaving the Capitol, several members from both sides of the aisle came up to her and said, you know, We're praying for you.
We're lifting you and your family up in prayer.
And she said, What I need more than your prayer is I need your action.
And Amber, you're right.
There may be discord and dysfunction with some members of Congress, but those members were never about solving problems.
The issue of public safety is not a Democrat or Republican issue.
It's not a Black, Brown or White issue.
It is a public safety and accountability issue that all of us should be working for.
And all of us should agree that bad policing shouldn't exist anywhere in America.
So yes, there are Republicans, I am meeting and talking with many of them in the Senate and the House, who were not part of the hecklers, who actually believe in public safety for all communities.
And we're going to work tirelessly to reach agreement so that we can move meaningful legislation ahead this Congress.
It's going to be hard, but we're going to work hard to get it done.
-What do you anticipate being most hard about it?
-Well, look, a lot of times people have tried to frame this issue as, if you are against bad policing, then somehow that means you're against all police.
I want to say without a doubt, I support law enforcement.
In fact, as the President said, The lion's share of law enforcement, the men and women who put on the uniform and go into our communities to protect and serve, are good people that work hard and do the right thing.
And they want to be able to come home to their families, as well.
But where there is bad policing--and again, none of us should want that anywhere in America--then we have to work to hold them accountable.
It's going to be hard to make sure that this doesn't become about rhetoric, that it doesn't become about a provision of law, but it becomes about the heart of what President Biden spoke to, which is that difficult talk that too many parents have to have with their children, particularly Black and Brown parents who are disproportionately affected by this.
And that's one of the most difficult things that we have to do as parents.
And that's what we're trying to say.
We want all communities to be safe, including the communities that we live in and come from.
-In the discussions that you've been having so far with the President and then, as you just mentioned, some other Republicans as well, what kind of legislation are you pursuing?
-Well, what we are doing at this moment is talking about the principles of public safety and accountability.
So for example, on transparency, that's about data collection.
In Memphis, for example, the use of force was used three times more on Black residents in Memphis than on White residents.
The only reason we know that is because they collect data.
Well, there's 18,000 police departments across the country.
We need that data for all of those departments.
Secondly, we need more accountability.
When there is wrongdoing, there needs to be a mechanism by which individuals are held accountable, or departments are held accountable.
And there needs to be teeth in those accountability provisions.
And finally, it's about professional standards.
And that goes to helping law enforcement with what they need.
I agree with the President that sometimes we ask law enforcement to do more than they even want to do.
We need to support them with community based intervention, mental health support, social workers so that they're not having to deal with all of societal issues, they are able to focus on ways to keep our community safe.
-And back to something you mentioned about this not being a Black, Brown, or White issue.
Yet also, you said that it disproportionately impacts Black and Brown families.
Is this an issue of race in your opinion?
-Well, what I-- I know this: As a Black man that was born and raised in Las Vegas, and as a father now of three children, two grown, soon to be grown young men, and a teenage daughter, it's important for people to understand what the President said: That there's a burden that Black and Brown families have, especially.
It's not to the exclusion of others.
And what I've tried to say for people to really understand is, it may have fear and anxiety for me today, but that doesn't mean it's to the exclusion of other people.
It may have been Tyre Nichols yesterday, but it could be anyone today or tomorrow.
And so all of us should be willing to come together for public safety and accountability in every community.
-And finally, from the local perspective, I wonder what you hear in terms of how prevalent police brutality is in the district you serve here in Nevada.
-Well, clearly, we've had our issues in Nevada and in Las Vegas.
I'm pleased with the progress that we've made over the years since the 21st Century Policing Commission was put into place back when President Obama was President.
I actually helped bring then Director Davis over the COPS program to work with local law enforcement.
I want to commend our local sheriff and local law enforcement agencies throughout our communities, including in North Las Vegas, for recognizing that, again, this is an issue that they have a responsibility, because it's their profession.
I've heard from a number of police officers about the difficulty to recruit people into the profession.
And part of that is because of this stigma right now.
And I want, again, to make it absolutely clear: We need and support our law enforcement.
I've worked to fund law enforcement in our local community, and I'll continue to do so.
And I believe that I can both work to fund law enforcement, while also making sure that bad policing has no place in any law enforcement agency in my district or anywhere else in America.
-Congressman Horsford, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, thank you so much for your time.
-Thank you, Amber.
-Along with public safety and police reform, President Biden also touched on other important topics during his State of the Union address, including higher education.
And joining us to talk about the state of higher education here in Nevada are Dr. Federico Zaragoza, President of the College of Southern Nevada, and Dr. DeRionne Pollard, President of Nevada State College.
Welcome both of you back to, here to Nevada Week .
You were both on Nevada Week In Person .
Now you're back.
Thanks for joining us.
(Dr. Rionne Pollard) Thank you.
(Dr. Federico Zaragoza) Thank you.
-Before we get going, we have important topics to talk about when it comes to higher education in Nevada, but I want to talk about your institutions.
I know you're celebrating a big milestone this year.
-Nevada State College is turning 20 years old this year.
And as I tell people, we are no longer an experiment.
We've come here.
we're serving-- serving 7,000 students this year over that.
More importantly, we're going deeper into the work.
So we are delighted to be an option for higher education in our region.
-And you, Dr. Federico Zaragoza, you guys just keep growing.
-Well, we keep growing.
But we've also celebrated 50 years of community engagement.
And every year, we obviously continue to be that bridge that's connecting people to higher education opportunities.
So we're just very honored to be part of the ecosystem here in Las Vegas.
-I love that both of you are on a mission to really get the word out about your institutions.
I know that you said during your convocation, you mentioned that you no longer want to be the best kept secret.
Thank you for that.
Well, talk a little bit about some exciting things happening.
Athletics Department, we'll talk about that in a little bit, now that we're a sports town.
Going back, we were talking about President Biden's State of the Union address, and he did mention preparing our students in high school, community college.
I feel like we're already ahead of the game when it comes to that, because we do have our dual-credit program, you do work with CCSD.
How are you working with CCSD?
-Well, I think both of our institutions work deeply with them in many different ways.
Obviously, dual credit is certainly a space where that, where we're trying to give early college access to high school students who can acquire college credit, but also become comfortable with the idea of going to college in a safe environment, which is what high school often provides.
But in addition to that, we do robust programming with CCSD to really help craft college consciousness.
We also are going to be building a high school on our campus, as it relates to that in the near future.
So I think we have a multidimensional set of relationships with CCSD, and I think it's important because our region needs this.
So while we are in many ways doing lots of powerful work, we still have to change the education perspective that higher ed is not just optional, it's necessary.
-And how about you, because during your convocation--we'll have those speeches, both of them on our website, as well--you brought up a student, first generation Mexican American student, and she really said, Had it not been for the programs that you offer through the dual program, that she might not have gone to college.
Maria, one of the challenges and opportunities in the higher education space is really to create those pathways from public education into the higher ed system.
And for too long, I think we've seen that as two separate systems.
And we're actually lagging behind the rest of the country when we talk about dual enrollment, because there's a lot happening in that space.
And it really needs to be driven by students.
And for example, we have students that can actually do college work, and we need to provide opportunities--we call that "early college"--so they can graduate from high school with a college diploma.
And we have over 100 individuals that were in the Early College programs in our CSN early colleges.
So that's an example.
We also have career and technology programs.
We can't wait for young people to connect to careers until after they graduate because in many cases, you know, we'll lose them to the labor market.
We know that.
But it would create these pathways earlier on and expose them to the possibilities that we have in this community, we'll be doing a service not only to the students, but to our economic development goals to diversify into these other areas.
So we need to have different types of experiences.
And then the third area, which is the one that everybody talks about, is basically the college transfer, where students take college credits.
And that's wonderful.
It's called "Jumpstart."
We have to do a better job, I think, of reaching out and aligning these opportunities to the students that are in the public school system.
One last point that I'll make is that we're, we're not in enough schools.
And we're not in the schools that are in underserved areas.
And we need to keep in mind that we have to be proactive to create opportunities, because some families, especially with the demographics that we have, some families don't understand the opportunities that we can bring to the table.
So this conversation is really, really important for us.
I think many of us, I for one, came to Nevada because I wanted to expand those pathways.
-And then let's talk about what's being done in Nevada State College, as well, when it comes to tracking the students.
And again, during both of your speeches, you did mention that you are working closely with CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara.
-Mm-hmm, we are.
What I think is really important-- I really want to amplify the points that my brother just made right here.
I adore this man for so many reasons.
And what's really-- and I'll also add to that, the other presidents that we really work closely with.
We are a team here.
We know that any particular ranking that you look at, Nevada is either 46th, 47th, or 48th in the number of adults who have attained a college credential.
So we have to change the narrative, the belief that you can graduate from high school and go and get a job and be able to provide a middle class or more existence for your family.
Those jobs don't exist that way.
And for many families, the idea of understanding how you navigate a system that was almost not designed for their participation.
So we're doing it in some very deep ways.
One, as you're describing, giving people exposure to college, through dual credit and other types of programming.
But for us, it's literally going in and trusting that we can be a trusted partner with other entities that are trusted.
So how do we go into various churches, synagogues, and other locations?
How do we go into community centers and say, How can we partner together in a very deliberate way so that if they know you and trust you, then maybe they can know us and trust us?
So we have to change this ecosystem around higher education.
-And let's talk about our "first generation," we've been hearing that a lot.
During your speeches, again, you talked about, "I'm a first generation."
You are, yourself.
And a lot of times they do fall through the cracks, because they do have to help their families.
Non traditional students as well.
They have to work full time, especially now, given our, you know, economic situation, here in Nevada and throughout the country.
What are we doing to help those students?
-I'm very pleased with the work that we're doing in both of our institutions.
And I would even offer-- UNLV recognizes this.
Over half of the students at Nevada State identify as first generation.
So that means the teaching the wayfinding in the institution.
But it starts, as you're describing.
Even before they think about going to college, talking about the admissions process, how to manage financial aid, how to be thoughtful about course selection, and planning out and balancing their lives.
But we were very fortunate to join an organization that's really recognizing this work that we're doing in first generation students.
And then the other thing for me that I love, we have a growing number of our faculty and staff at Nevada State, including the President, who are first generation themselves.
So we remember what it was like to be a first generation college student.
-And that is so important.
We talk about representation matters.
-To see themselves, to look up and say, Wow, they did it.
-I'm going to do this, too.
-So what efforts are you doing?
And a lot of times, it also starts at home.
Again, my parents were just happy with me graduating high school.
They were so proud that I'll never forget that look at my beautiful [in Spanish] face, on her face when she saw me graduate, the first in her family to graduate.
I will never forget that.
-Maria, and we all went through that.
I think that's what motivates a lot of us, I think, to be in this space and to do the work that we do.
And I think we're surrounded by individuals that feel the same way.
We're creating a culture, I think, at the College of Southern Nevada, the student-first culture, and that also acknowledges the changing profile of our students, both in terms of demographics-- You see gender elements, you see race elements, you know?
We are evolving.
But as long as we understand that we're student driven and that the students really is why we're there, I think that we're more effective.
Now, that's a mouthful, because if you're going to create a culture that's student driven, you're gonna have to do the kinds of thing that Dr. Pollard talked about.
We've got to really think about the students where they are in the community where they live.
We have to understand their culture, we have to create those bridges, and then more important, those support systems.
You know, the word "trust" is very important, and you build that over time with successes.
And I think that's the heart nature of this work.
It doesn't happen overnight, but I think that you're beginning to see it in Southern Nevada, especially with the leadership that we have.
We like one another.
I think we support and we learn from one another.
-I love that you're, the collaborative effort.
I love the love between the two of you and in all our institutions here.
And that it's so important, too, because it's like, again, we talk about, it takes a village.
And you can't just be, It's just me, it's just us.
It's just, we all have to come together, and that's so important.
-It's so funny you say that.
For me, I don't have any brothers.
I have one sister.
But I've got three brothers that I got here in Southern Las Vegas, the southern part of the state when I came.
Federico is just kind and generous, brilliant.
You add that with Keith and Kumud, who's at the Desert Research Institute.
We have a nice little family.
So I've got three big brothers, and I love it.
-Dr. Pollard is our little sister.
-Oh, I love that.
That is so important because, again, it translates to what you're doing to help our students.
Now you did mention UNLV and Dr.-- President Whitfield.
We did invite him to come on, but unfortunately, he's a busy guy.
So we do have-- He did mention something really interesting that I want both of you to listen in on when talking about the state of higher education.
So we're gonna go ahead and roll that clip from his State of the University address.
(Dr. Whitfield) There are a lot of headwinds that we face right now.
The value of education is being questioned by some, more states are decreasing their funding, and enrollment is down as much as 10% in some states.
These challenges are not new to our industry, but higher education has been too slow to respond.
If I had a crystal ball, I'd expect that there's going to be fewer colleges and universities by 2020-- by 2030, and those that survive will need to adapt and change their business and education models to be able to succeed.
They will need to be able to be more nimble, innovative, and student centric.
We're fortunate that UNLV is in a better situation than most institutions, but we still have work to do to strengthen our position.
Our enrollment is down only slightly this fall, less than 2%, compared to prepandemic levels.
But we also welcomed one of the largest first-time full-time freshmen classes in the history of the university.
And the preliminary numbers for spring are looking really strong.
-So what really struck me--and again, I had to rewind that and listen in again when he said that by 2030, he said, There are going to be fewer colleges and universities, and those that survive need to adapt and change their business and educational models to be able to succeed.
Your thoughts on that?
-Maria, it's already happening.
If you look at the data, we have less higher education institutions now than we did before the pandemic.
So the trend has already started.
And we're also beginning to see kind of different reactions to even those that are surviving.
You've got consolidation, for example.
Some of it is budget driven; some of it is market driven.
And for us, the element of change is so important.
For community colleges, you know, the workforce has to reimagine ourselves in this post-COVID environment.
And it can't be just to reboot; we have to reimagine and, again, be more student focused.
But also we're externally driven.
Our employers-- This community wants to diversify, and we need to understand what that means to us.
Then you've got incumbent workers, people that are already working, and they're going to require very unique types of learning experiences and programs.
We have to provide them at their time.
Business time, not higher ed time.
All of these are real challenges for us.
And I think that President Whitfield is absolutely on, that if we do not react to the environment that we're in, we're going to be jeopardizing our ability to be responsive.
And therefore, many of us might just not be in business in 20 years out.
So you will definitely be, because I know both of you are working hard to make sure that doesn't happen.
Evolution isn't optional if you want to exist.
So you're going to have to think about what you will look like in any environment.
So for us, we're being very deep in that conversation, whether it be about the delivery of courses, how we partner, who are-- and I'm actually tired of the word "partner."
I really-- how do we align ourselves?
How do we work strategically in ways that can lead to a different future for our community?
Those are things that are really essential for that.
And then constantly being deliberate about how we advocate for the work that we do within the higher ed space.
-And let's talk about funding.
I know Governor Lombardo, he talked about his proposed budget.
And that's actually restoring $76 million in budget cuts.
How many-- how much of that would you get, and where are those funds going when you do get it?
-Well, those funds will allow us to be where we were funded prior to the pandemic.
And obviously, I came here after the pandemic.
So I was not here when we had to make some of the hard decisions regarding those cuts.
But that impacted delivery.
And I'm seeing that now, whether it be through the hiring of employees, programs that we had to stop or considerably consolidate.
So those are challenges in that space.
What I would offer is that that's a phenomenal first step.
What we know for sure right now is that higher education, if we're going to diversify the economy as my colleague mentioned here, we're going to have to think deeply about program delivery, program outreach, and the support services that are going to be needed to support students who have not traditionally been seen in higher education.
That's going to be the work that's going to be necessary at this point.
-And what about you?
-And I want to commend, obviously, the Governor, but also the anchient leadership, I think, and the Board of Regents for getting us to this point where we all are focusing on budget restoration, going back to the, before the pre-COVID levels, because the funding formulas that we have adversely impact us.
And as enrollment kind of fluctuated, it created a scenario for many of us.
For the College of Southern Nevada, it's about $20 million a year that would be kind of restored, if you will, by the Governor's budget.
So we're very appreciative.
We're also kind of in a situation where there are other opportunities within that budget that I'm excited about in the workforce area, for example.
I think there's opportunities for us to work together.
A lot of incentives, if you will, also to work as a system.
So there's a lot of parts to this budget that I really like.
-Oh, I love that.
Now we only have about a minute.
So real quick, I know you have some exciting news when it comes to adding athletics.
-Well, we are definitely exploring that right now.
We know that the Board of Regents handbook talks about the power and potency of athletics.
So we know that brings students and builds energy and brand.
So we are going to be launching some work to figure out how we can move in that direction.
-We are definitely a sports town now.
What about you, Dr. Federico Zaragoza?
-In cutting projects?
-Oh, exciting projects for us?
A new Center of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing with the City of Henderson, that'll be starting this fall.
In fact, we'll be using the summer to basically boot up that center.
And that's going to allow us to provide the world class technicians that are needed, you know, for us to go into the manufacturing industry here in Southern Nevada.
So we're very excited about that.
-I have a big smile on my face.
I'm really excited for the future.
Thank you both so much for joining us.
I wish we had more time to talk.
But you can go to our website, because we do have your In Person .
You were here on Nevada Week In Person .
Both of you did a wonderful job with that.
We also have their speeches on our website as well.
So just go to vegaspbs.org/nevadaweek.
And thank you so much for joining us.