LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The president of Nevada State College spoke in Carson City Monday, explaining the move to rename the school to Nevada State University.

Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Nevada State College told the Assembly Education Committee that it’s about boosting enrollment, and nothing else. Schools that change from “college” to “university” typically see an immediate 5% increase in enrollment, Pollard said.

It’s a bill with 10 primary sponsors and 21 cosponsors. Students and education advocates lined up to speak in support after the bill was introduced. It appears primed to sail through the Nevada Legislature.

Nevada State College President Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard.

But that doesn’t mean it’s had an easy path. During questions that followed Pollard’s presentation, Democratic Senator Dina Neal provided a glimpse at what she called “backroom” conversations about Pollard’s effort to change the school’s name. She began with a question:

“Why the anxiety?” over a name change.

Dale Erquiaga, acting Chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), responded to Neal’s question. “A lot of that anxiety is mine. I’ve been in this building a long time and just because the constitution says the sky is blue, some lawyer comes along and says the sky is actually azure. And then I’m in court.”

The use of “state university” is troubling to some, because most state universities are land-grant universities that have a role in research and academic publishing. Pollard wants the enrollment that goes with the name, but the school will remain a college by definition.

An amendment offered to specifically state that the school would not be a land-grant university was rejected as unnecessary, because existing law already makes that clear.

Neal said she became aware of talk that there would be a political price to be paid. She brought the gist of that conversation into the light:

“If president Pollard continued to push for this university name change, that somehow, punishment or retaliation or a behavior that we did not want to occur would somehow befall her,” Neal said.

“I’m very sorry for the rumors, I’m very sorry for that feeling,” Erquiaga said. “As the guy who was on the inside with President Pollard, this wasn’t about President Pollard. This was about us trying to do the right thing for a system which we are charged with. So I’m sorry that people felt differently on the outside. But I’m also a little bit offended by your statements, I have to say. We’re trying to do the right thing for faculty and staff, and we’re trying to do the right thing for taxpayers. So I’m sorry for how people feel, ma’am.”

Neal, who represents parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas in District 4, replied:

“This isn’t a personal attack on you. This is a comment that I’m bringing forward from a group of individuals who might not have addressed a statement to you, but it’s not about you. I need you to be absolutely clear, I’m not coming for Erquiaga. That’s not my issue. I’m just putting something on the record that was in the space. And so your offense is equal to my offense. And it’s not an indication that I dislike the process of what you have been doing, or you personally. Because this isn’t addressing you. This is addressing a culture that exists at the regent level.”

The conversation ended there, with no information on what regents might have intended to do to Pollard. Erquiaga, her supervisor in his role as NSHE, reassured Neal that absolutely nothing had been done against Pollard.