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No quit in Rogers

Maybe you’re fed up with your boss, or you’re sick of your co-workers or hours or you just think you can do better than the person who runs the company.

Most of us still drudge through our eight-hour-plus shifts like lemmings, marching toward an uncertain retirement, to put food on the table and pay down credit cards or student loans.

But the workaday monotony doesn’t apply to the ultra-rich.

If only Average Joe could utter “I quit” without being hauled into Human Resources for a separation meeting or watching so-called friends begin fighting for the plum hours of a now-vacant position.

Few among us can live without jobs, and despite the frequent frustration that might bring us to the cusp of jumping off the cliff with an “I quit,” we just hang on to the familiar edge of our safety zone.

But the rest of us haven’t built a media empire and don’t go through life with no one to answer to.

Jim Rogers isn’t used to being told no. But after an elected regent questioned one of his appointments, Rogers lashed out to show his independence.

After all, this is the leader of the university system that — when he took the job — still had to rely on some of the decisions made by the Board of Regents.

But once they handed him some of that power — the ability to fire university presidents, for example — Rogers became bigger than those we actually elect to govern the higher education system.

When Rogers lashed out at Regent James Dean Leavitt in a memo, he probably figured he’d find some allies. But board Chairman Bret Whipple came to Leavitt’s defense and had the temerity to suggest that if Rogers couldn’t support his elected board, then he should be the one to resign.

How dare he.

Rogers probably couldn’t accept the possibility that someone would have the audacity to do what he’s done to ex-University of Nevada, Reno President John Lilley and former UNLV boss Carol Harter.

So he took his time and his wealth and went to play elsewhere with a two-word separation memo worthy of men of his stature: “I quit.”

What else would we expect from a man who thought he could run the state but decided he was too good for the political process that decides who gets the seat? Where else would someone who can’t play nicely with others stomp off to but a skybox for an NFL playoff game? He marked the end of his service by taking in the Chargers-Patriots contest in San Diego.

But Rogers is also one of the few people in the state who is so committed to education that he puts his own money where his mouth is.

And so, for once, he thought a little harder about his elaborate two-word memo, offering five words to rescind his hasty resignation.

Part of what makes Rogers successful as a chancellor is his ability to shoot from the hip as an outsider unafraid to call things that aren’t working as he sees them.

When someone gives tens of millions of dollars to educational institutions, he’s not driven by the hope his name will be put on a building.

So perhaps it was the scary “legacy” word that crept into his mind when he ultimately flip-flopped back into his job to the delight of nearly everyone. The little power play could not possibly jeopardize his baby: the health sciences center.

When I talked to Rogers a while back about the possibility of running for governor as an independent, he always talked up the health sciences center idea over anything else.

And despite a purported $100 million commitment for the center in Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget, Rogers will still have a huge job selling it to a Legislature made even more skeptical by his appointment of unsuccessful Democratic congressional candidate Tessa Hafen as a lobbyist for the project. Legislative Republicans in both houses were already questioning the expense before Hafen got the job and before Rogers quit and then came back.

Rogers has tried to use the chancellor’s job not just as a bully pulpit, but also to bully other elected officials, from those running our local school district to those who sought the governor’s mansion.

He tried to pick the Clark County superintendent of schools, and upon failing, has decided to work with the guy those elected to govern the schools picked.

He tried to back a gubernatorial candidate committed to education, but he’s never really been a shepherd for policy the way he wants to be with the health sciences center.

Perhaps after the legislative session, when the center is on its way to fruition, Rogers will once again decide to leave the chancellor’s job.

But next time, his memo will have to be a bit longer.

“I quit — really.”

Erin Neff’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at 387-2906, or by e-mail ateneff@reviewjournal.com.