I greatly respect Highlands University Regent Jesus Lopez, and I certainly understand his concerns about renting Highlands’ buildings to private parties. Liability and insurance costs are something that we all must consider when dealing with others inside the buildings of our businesses or organizations. And I think Mr. Lopez is right that Highlands should reconsider its policies about renting spaces to politicians and for private parties, especially those where alcohol may be consumed.
But I think the entire community would be impacted negatively if Highlands refused to rent its buildings to any and all who are not connected with the university. First I believe that being able to attend an event at the university makes the children of our community more comfortable with the idea of college and less intimidated about the possibility of attending college themselves. Making the university a friendly place to visit could encourage young children to set goals to become college students themselves.
I know that Big Brothers Big Sisters has rented Kennedy Hall twice to use for luncheon fundraisers, and that money goes directly toward impacting the lives of children in the community. Independent research shows that children are much more likely to be successful in school and thus become college students because they have had mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters programs.
NMHU also annually allows the Las Vegas Arts Council the use of Ilfeld Auditorium for the Missoula Children’s Theatre program, which gives the children of our community a chance to audition, rehearse and perform in a musical theater venue that would not be available in any other way. Since Ilfeld Auditorium is the only fully functional theater space in the community, it would be devastating to the children of our community to lose this one opportunity to work in a real theater. Many studies show that children involved in the arts and music are more successful in school and again thus more likely to become college students.
And then NMHU occasionally allows the Nat Gold Players to rent space for performances of live theater, often performing plays written by members of our own community. Again there are very few venues in Las Vegas that are suitable for any kind of theater production, and it would be a great loss to the community to lose our community theater because the players have no space to perform.
I know NMHU also rents buildings for music performances to nonprofits like the Las Vegas Arts Council. We all know that having live theater and musical performances available enhances the quality of life for our entire community, and a higher quality of life may make our young people more likely to stay in their home community rather than leave when they graduate from high school or college.
I don’t know about all the nonprofits who rent or use Highlands’ buildings, but I do know that all of them impact the community for good, which in turn impacts NMHU for good. And all of them offer free attendance to NMHU students when they are charging fees for their events. Free attendance at cultural events improves the college experience for Highlands’ students. Therefore, it only makes sense that the university should support the nonprofits of our community by offering them free or reduced rates of rental and access to Highlands spaces whenever it does not conflict with a university event.