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Regent in firestorm over anti-trans comments refuses to resign, says he used ‘wrong words’

A regent’s comments about trans athletes triggered a firestorm of criticism this week, including a number of calls for his resignation.
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Higher Education

For nearly a week, the Board of Regents governing the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) has been thrust into national culture wars after one regent’s remarks about transgender athletes drew national media attention and spurred calls this week for his resignation. 

In multiple instances, one regent — Patrick Boylan — referred to female trans athletes as “men masquerading as women.” The remarks struck a chord among some members of the board, who took alternating turns during public comment to criticize the remarks. 

It’s not the first time comments from Boylan — elected to the board in 2020 for a six-year term — have drawn wide public scrutiny. In a January 2022 meeting, he referred to minority students as “colored,” and questioned whether NSHE was helping white students “Or do we just say, ‘screw them.’”

This week, the Nevada Faculty Alliance (NFA) and a Nevada Graduate Student Workers collective have called for Boylan’s resignation, calling his remarks a violation of the board’s anti-discrimination resolution passed in 2022. They have been joined by some progressive groups, including the pro-LGBTQ+ group Silver State Equality

And though not calling for his resignation, some of Boylan’s fellow regents and at least one institution president have sharply criticized him in the days since. 

In a joint statement, Board Chair Amy Carvalho and Vice Chair Jeffrey Downs said on Monday that “public derogatory remarks directed at an individual or a class of individuals is inconsistent with the core values of our NSHE institutions” — but stopped short of naming Boylan. 

“In reference to certain statements that were made during the Board of Regents’ most recent Quarterly Meeting, we offer our strong support to any individuals who felt excluded, offended, or disrespected by any comments made during the meeting,” the statement said. 

The latest rift comes after years of internal tension on the board, dating back two years and two chancellors ago after steep divisions about COVID policy rapidly escalated into the ouster of former Chancellor Melody Rose. 

But the new debate comes at a fraught time for LGBTQ+ students nationwide, and in particular for trans and nonbinary students. An analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union found more than 500 laws nationwide aimed at restricting LGBTQ+ rights were introduced in 2023, of which 75 became law. As a result, activists have warned of the ripple effects of such laws on students, especially after the death of gender-nonconforming teen Nex Benedict in Oklahoma last month. 

The regent at the center of the controversy — Boylan — told The Nevada Independent that he’s “done nothing wrong.” 

“They've misconstrued my words to use it for their own political agendas,” Boylan said in a Thursday interview. 

The circle of Boylan’s critics has widened beyond faculty and student groups to some of his fellow regents — including Michelee Cruz-Crawford, who called his comments a ploy for attention. 

“In a perfect world, no, I absolutely don't think anyone like him should be, or anyone that says hurtful things to the community should be in office,” Cruz-Crawford said Thursday. “Why are they in office? Because they want attention.”

A board meeting gone awry 

The controversy stems from a pair of moments from a near-nine-hour-long regents meeting March 1, when athletic directors from across Nevada came before the board to present dense annual review packets, filled mostly with information about student athlete achievement and budget spreadsheets. 

Then, Boylan asked a question. 

“My question is — it's all over the country, schools, colleges, universities — how many, or do we have any men masquerading as women playing in any of our teams and hurting any of the women?” Boylan asked, apparently referencing transgender women athletes. “Do we have that issue here? Anybody?”

Boylan’s question was quickly shut down by board counsel Michael Wixom, who told the assembled collegiate athletic directors not to answer, “because to the extent that they do, they would be in violation of federal [privacy] law.”

“And also I’m guessing they don't have that information,” Wixom said. “Because if they have the information, they would be in violation of federal law.”

For the moment, the meeting continued as if nothing was amiss. The next regent asked whether any Nevada athletes were competing in Olympic trials. 

But by the end of the meeting, tensions flared. 

Cruz-Crawford took to the public comment microphone under her role as the chair of the regents’ diversity committee. There, she mentioned Boylan’s comments without naming him, saying that “I know that individual statements don’t define a whole person, and I look forward to working with this institution to create a safe space for everybody to thrive.”  

Shortly after, Nevada State University student body president Kevin Osorio-Hernandez called Boylan’s comments “abhorrent,” and said he hoped Boylan would “expand and change [his] paradigm.”

In response, Boylan himself took to the public comment microphone to double down.

“There’s something known as the First Amendment, and it’s the freedom of speech,” Boylan said. “I see it as a man masquerading as a woman. If he has not had his you-know-what cut off or anything, he’s still a man.” 

‘I have done nothing wrong’

Responding to calls for his resignation, Boylan was unapologetic.

“I always say what I mean and I mean what I say,” Boylan said. “I have done nothing wrong. If I thought I'd done something wrong, yeah, I might think about resigning. But all I can say is, to the Nevada Faculty Alliance [president] and the others, gather your money and do a recall.” 

That echoed comments he made to KTNV Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Asked Thursday about his original comments during last week’s board meeting, Boylan said he had “no idea the word is transgender, I call them men masquerading as women.” He also insisted that the comments were not “against anybody.” 

“It wasn’t against a specific group, transgenders or anything,” Boylan said. “It was just the use of wrong words, that’s all.”

Instead, Boylan argued that he was more concerned about the safety of female athletes. In particular, he cited the case of North Carolina high schooler Payton McNabb, who began crusading against the inclusion of trans athletes in female sports after she was injured by a volleyball spiked by a transgender athlete on the opposing team in 2022.

“Anybody that knows me knows I have no racist bone in my body, or sexist or anything,” Boylan said. “I believe strongly in live-and-let-live, but not at the expense of other people's safety.”

Pressed on what he would say to a transgender student who took offense to his words, Boylan demurred and said instead that his “outburst” was actually directed at another regent, who he later identified as Cruz-Crawford, who is running for state Senate as a Democrat. 

“She went up to make a big deal out of it and make a statement out in the public, because she's trying to garner votes for her run for [state] Senate,” Boylan said. “She's been on the board only one year and she wants to run for Senate already. So are these people serious about education? I don't know. I don't think so.”

Similarly, he accused Board Chair Amy Carvalho and Regent Carol Del Carlo of using “false crocodile tears because they were running for regent again this year.”

“I never saw them shed those tears at the memorial for the three faculty members who were shot and killed at UNLV, or at any of the other discussions we had about the shootings,” Boylan said. “These regents took it upon themselves to shed crocodile tears and make a bigger issue out of it than it was.”

Boylan’s only apology: to the student speaking at public comment, Hernandez. 

“I feel really bad for that student that thought I was doing something wrong to him, or saying something wrong,” Boylan said. “I actually like that student, he’s very active, he's very outgoing, he does things correctly … It was not directed at him or anybody among the transgender group or LGBT, I don't even know all the numbers and things they have now. It's not part of my everyday vocabulary or life. And that's all. I would apologize to him.”

A ‘visceral’ reaction

Reached by phone Thursday, Cruz-Crawford — who is the Democratic-caucus-backed candidate in North Las Vegas’ Senate District 1 — said she was “proud” to stand up during the board meeting’s public comment section “and said something that helped, you know, other regents feel safe.”

She also dismissed Boylan’s charge that her comments were meant to shore up her nascent Senate campaign. 

“I just announced I was running for Senate a few months ago,” Cruz-Crawford said. “For the past 20 years, I've been an equity advocate … So if he thinks it was for votes, then he has no idea who I am as a person.”

In an emailed statement, Carvalho, the board chair, did not directly respond to Boylan’s claims. Instead, she said that “the words we chose can be so powerful and the way we speak to others can have a profound impact on their self-esteem and mental health.”

“I try to lead with caring, compassion, kindness, and respect in everything I do,” she wrote. “I understand words have the ability to divide, to hurt, to tear down or they can be used to lift up, to inspire, to create an environment where everyone feels valued and heard.”

Separately, Regent Del Carlo said in a written statement that “I believe we are better than this.” 

“Our meetings should be safe spaces where people feel welcome to engage without fear of exclusion or marginalization,” she said. “Everyone deserves the chance to feel valued and heard, even when we disagree with each other, especially when we disagree with each other.”

And in a lengthy statement posted to X, formerly Twitter, Thursday night, NSU President DeRionne Pollard defended the university’s student president, Hernandez, and slammed Boylan’s comments as “uninformed” and having become “far too common.” 

“There is a mutuality to our existence that must be defended as sacred,” Pollard said.”Good intentions, by themselves, are insufficient. Words have meaning, and it is incumbent on each and every one of us to take responsibility for their impact.”

As for Boylan’s challenge to the NFA for a recall, NFA President Jim New told The Nevada Independent that any such effort wasn’t currently under consideration and was “something I’d have to take to the faculty.” But, he added, that the faculty reaction to Boylan’s comments last week were “visceral,” and that “I’ve never seen anything like it.” 

“Regent Boylan is entitled to his opinions,” New said. “But we’re not calling for his resignation because of his opinions. We’re calling for his resignation because he violated the Board of Regents’ own anti-discrimination resolution.”


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